As much as I foolishly thought that it wasn’t going to happen, our boys recently discovered the phrase “I’m bored”. When I heard it from the eldest the first time, I was slightly amused, wondering where he got it from. The situation to which he applied the phrase didn’t surprise much, since we recently reduced their daily screen time by a big chunk. Horrible, I know. So I saw it coming. But what I didn’t have at hand was the management tools to combat my own eventual feelings of irritation around the 7th time I was faced with the lament.
Ironically, this happened during a time in which I too found myself a little stuck in a rut. I lost my running mojo. Perhaps it was an extended bout of post-race blues after the Otter African Trail Run, or perhaps it was the far-off future date of the next planned race in February (crossing fingers), but suddenly the urge to keep up my running fitness levels just wasn’t there. Add to that the fact that the Hubs was away on a work trip, which usually leaves me in a bit of a whack when it comes to fitting in a run, and you’ll see why I wasn’t churning out the miles.
But back to the kids. Why does it really drive us up the wall when our kids whines about the excruciating sufferings of being bored? Is it because it triggers a fear reaction in us? Fear that they aren’t grateful for all that they have? Fear that all the effort you have made to provide them with entertainment wasn’t enough? Or worse, that they requir you, already stretched to the max, to give more, do more, be more? Panic!
Obviously, reprimanding our son about the wrongfulness of being grouchy about “having nothing to do” amidst a sea of toys and hectares of veld outside would be the easiest and commonly accepted way to go. Would it be truthful parenting, considering my own feelings at that point? I don’t think so. For many times in life we will encounter feelings of restlessness and disconnectedness. These are part of life and quite normal, as they are naturally on the opposite pole of but also on the turning point back to contentedness and fulfillment. The one can’t exist without the other. But if you are accustomed to “ledigheid is die duiwel se oorkussing” (idle hands are the devil’s workshop), it is hard to embrace boredom, let alone encourage your kids to be bored!
If some the above rings true for you, you may be in for a surprise today. Much like I was the first time I got to know about it. Science say that boredom is a good thing. Yes, you better believe it! And that boredom should be embraced and encouraged in ourselves and in our children.
According to research, boredom has loads of benefits in a crazy busy world with so many responsibilities and distractions. Benefits of boredom include:
- It can boost creativity
- It can free you up to find new interests and hobbies
- It can help you cultivate mindfulness when you do nothing
- It can relieve stress when you unplug and unwind
- It can trigger a warning that you are in an unfulfilling situation and that you should perhaps change goals
- It can make you more goal-orientated through daydreaming and envisioning
- It can make you more productive (research found that daydreaming doesn’t harm one’s ability to succeed at an appointed task, but rather helps it)
- It may be essential for a happy life (According to philosopher Bertrand Russel, too much excitement creates exhaustion, too little excitement can create morbid cravings. “A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.”
So, armed with the knowledge of the benefits of boredom and the hope of addressing and creating more awareness in myself too, when faced with “I am boooooooored” I try to change my approach and word choices (no, the irritation/fears are still very much there, but we are working on a mind shift!). I now tell them that “being bored” calls for a celebration, for who knows what good things will come of it! Has it worked so far? Well, usually I can tell my kids are truly bored when they start picking petty fights with each other. This is then my queue to put them to work (works every time). Is the fighting less? Don’t be ridiculous. But without the desired outcome of the expression of “I am bored” (i.e. mom succumbs and offer screen time), the lamenting is less frequent! Win-win, right?!
As for that lost running mojo? Who knew that there can be something else to (temporarily) take the place (and mind off) of running! By being more mindful (hello boredome-benefit!) I realised that there can be fulfillment and satisfaction in focusing on the benefits of my short 20-min daily Tabata yoga sessions. I usually combine the two, with the yoga perfectly complementing the running, but taking the focus off running for a minute showed me that there can be (shorts bursts of) life without running. Full knowing that the next opportunity I get for a long, carefree run I’ll grab it with both arms and legs.
And at the same token I was lacking inspiration to write, something I know can happen only with discipline during times when you just feel bleh. Not that I don’t have plenty to share! But the excitement just wasn’t there. But now look what else boredom has brought me? Something to share that may hopefully mean something to someone else too.
Please share your thoughts!
I would love to know what you think about being bored yourself, and how you handle it when your kids confront you with being bored?