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Why do you get bored?

Do you ever get bored? Most everyone does. It seems to be extremely prevalent at work or school for the majority people. Even I have uttered that old saying, “Only boring people get bored.” But it isn’t true. And, here’s a big secret, I get bored too.

In fact, being bored in a recent meeting led me to do this blog post. As I zoned in and out at the utterance of repeated phrases I had heard in thirty identical get-togethers, my mind began to wonder. I wonder what would have happened if Neo had taken both pills? Why do so many people in front of me refuse to use their turn-signals? Who would win in a fight–Spiderman or Wolverine? I was bored. I knew I was. And I wondered about that too.

So, why do we get bored? I mean, what’s the purpose? People ask the same thing about pain, but the purpose of that is more obvious. Pain alerts us to something that can or is harming us. It is for survival. Boredom … well … that doesn’t help us survive, does it? Maybe it does. Maybe it helps us advance; helps us thrive. Boredom also has its ugly side, though.

It has been studied and concluded that people that are easily bored have a much grater risk of developing severe anxiety, depression, and an overall addictive personality. These things can easily lead to aggressive behaviors, poor performance at work or school, and even drug or alcohol abuse. The brain needs stimulation. If it isn’t provided this through natural means, it can make you crave these things in order to get it. An un-stimulated mind can be dangerous … destructive … but it may also be the spark of greatness.

There was a survey conducted in which participants were asked that, if they could, would they want to live forever. And if they answered no, they were asked why not. There were two major answers. The first was losing the people around them; a close second was the fear of growing incurably bored. That means, for the majority of people surveyed, a long boring life was worse than death.

But that’s enough of the dark side of boredom. What about that good stuff I keep hinting at? I mean, if I get bored a lot am I destined to be some angry meth using slacker who wants to die? Of course not. As I said before, being bored just means that your brain needs stimulation. It craves something new. Boredom can drive people to look for new, inspiring things to do. It pushes us to create and to imagine. It even urges us to interact with others. The scanning and mapping of a brain while bored has shown that the sections used for recalling memories of one’s self, empathy for others, and creating hypothetical events all display increased activity when bored. It is as if the very fibers of our being are genetically pushing us to create, explore, and socialize.

How many extraordinary people from history started something out of boredom one day and changed the world forever? Maybe Socrates was bored to sh** in ancient Greece and started contemplating life and philosophy. Take Thomas Edison for example. He started school late in life compared with modern day kids and later admitted that right from the start his mind would often wander off into contemplation as the teacher droned on. One of his teachers even referred to him as ‘addled’ … right before he dropped out and started inventing things that would change the world and make him a multimillionaire. Thanks for the light-bulbs, Tom! Sounds the exact same as boredom to me.

Boredom has definitely shaped the history of humankind, and it will no doubt have a hand in our future. Although it has led many down dark paths, it has caused some to illuminate the world, literally. So the next time you’re a little bored, be proud. Thank your ancestors for the genes that cause us all to experience such a seemingly mundane but obviously powerful emotion. You are experiencing an ancient, life-improving drive that pushes us toward new and better things. Take advantage. Get bored. Use that spark to create. To learn. To try new things. Well … aside from drugs.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Why do you get bored?