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Boredom – a necessary evil for a better life?

Richard 002

I was in my late thirties and having a relaxed chat with one of my wisest and friendliest neighbours when he suddenly declared:

“Richard, what you will find is that, as you get older, you will become more eccentric.”

To which I probably replied:

“Oh, OK, thanks for that Stephen” and thought nothing more of it.

But, do you know, he was absolutely right!!

Because my latest blog post is on BOREDOM!

In my travels and rummaging through the shelves of my local library, I stumbled upon this book:

Boredom – a lively history by Peter Toohey

Toohey is a professor of classics at the University of Calgary. Perhaps, a bored professor of classics at the University of Calgary?

There are two remarkable things here:

  1. A book on boredom has actually been written; and
  1. I was interested enough in boredom to read a book about it – a true paradox indeed!

Curiosity clearly got the better of me.

Toohey states that boredom isn’t trivial. It’s one of the most common of all human emotions and shouldn’t be ignored.

So, this thing boredom. What is it?

Well, according to Toohey, it’s a form of disgust. Not the type of physical disgust experienced when most of us look at pictures of human or animal suffering, but a type of disgust associated with our situation and surroundings.

The good news is that, if properly recognised, boredom is an adaptive emotion and therefore, is designed to help us flourish.

To quote:

“Boredom may protect us from infectious social situations. Those situations that are confining, predictable or too samey for our own sanity……boredom is good for us.”

Contrast our bored state with our state when we are totally absorbed in an enthralling task – time almost ceases – we are in a state of flow.

This is all very well but what are the cures?

The consensus seems to be that the best cure for boredom is to walk away from the situation. Agreed, that is a little tricky if you are stuck on a boring, long haul economy flight with no parachute!

Avoid seeking a cure from the medical profession. Instead, seek a cure through variety in experience. Try to keep as many interests on the go as possible.

Enriched environments strengthen the brain. Variety and stimulation encourage neurogenesis – not a Phil Collins tribute act – but the actual regrowth of brain cells.

Monotony literally shrinks the brain by reducing the number and lifespan of its neurons.

So, what do we do to introduce some variety?

  1. Music is a brilliant tonic. Classical is best. Heavy metal is not so good.
  1. Aerobic exercise promotes new brain cell growth by increasing blood flow. This improves memory.
  1. Importantly for us busy business-owners who network actively, social interaction keeps the brain healthy. So keep networking.

This is a lot I hear you say. How do we fit it all into our lives?

  1. Organise your time well. Eat regularly, get plenty of sleep and go out!
  1. Manage empty time well by turning it into enjoyable free time.
  1. Use boredom to encourage creativity in your spare time – challenge the accepted and search for change.

If I may sum up by paraphrasing one of my favourite sayings:

“Industry is the enemy of melancholy”……..and presumably of boredom too!

I encourage you to read Toohey’s book. You won’t be disappointed. You will be enlightened.

Thank you for reading.

Best wishes and keep your lives full and varied!



Boredom – a lively history by Peter Toohey


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