The power of boredom

Lockdown boredom is something lots of people say they’re experiencing, but it’s not necessarily a negative emotion as Fiona Wright, of our Young People’s Service counselling team, suggests:

Due to the current circumstances, it’s likely that there will be times when many of us fall into being bored. Whilst boredom can be negative, it can also have some surprising benefits – boredom can lead us to do altruistic things. Research has shown it can make us more likely to engage in prosocial behaviours like donating to charity or signing up for blood donations to help re-establish feelings of self-meaning.

Boredom can help us become more goal-orientated. Researcher, Andreas Elpidorou states that:

“In the absence of boredom, one would remain trapped in unfulfilling situations and miss out on many emotionally, cognitively and socially rewarding experiences. Boredom is both a warning that we are not doing what we want to be doing and a ‘push’ that motivates us to switch goals and projects.”

Boredom can also lead us to become more creative.

UK psychologist Sandi Mann’s research involved asking people to do various boring tasks, then asking them to use their creative thinking. Those subjects who had the most boring task – reading the phone book – actually came up with the most interesting uses for plastic cups (their creative task and a standard test for divergent thinking).

So whilst we may feel we haven’t made the most of the time we have at the moment, the daydreams, ideas and reflections you may be experiencing now could be the beginnings of a process of change that can lead you to a happier and more fulfilled reality in the future.

Tips to beat the boredom

Each time you think of something you would like to do, but can’t at the moment because of lockdown, such as going to the cinema with a friend, write it on a piece of paper and put it into an empty jar (you could use your creativity to decorate the jar). When social distancing is lifted, you’ll have lots of ideas for things to do in your Hopes and Wishes jar!

Or why not try keeping a record of this time? One of our counsellors, Paul Hedley says:

“Imagine it’s the year 2045 and you are with the people most important to you. They are curious about the Great Pandemic of 2020. You go to an old wooden trunk (other storage methods are available), blow the dust off, fiddle with the lock and produce an ancient looking piece of paper and read your own version of this historic time.

Your loved ones hang on your every word because they have never heard anything like it. Perhaps it tells them what your days were like, what coping methods you used, what your greatest fears were, how other people reacted to the situation or even what you had for dinner each day! Whatever you choose to write will be your unique personal version of a historical event. The opportunity to create history is not something that happens often so make sure you don’t miss the chance.