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Erin C. Westgate does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. More and more of us are staying home in an attempt to slow down the spreading coronavirus.
But being stuck at home can lead to boredom. We can feel bored even with jobs and activities that appear to be meaningful. For example, researchers have found anesthesiologists and air traffic controllers find themselves bored on the job.
And even meaningful work can be boring if the person performing it finds it too hard or too easy. Once that happens, individuals might struggle to stay focused. Reducing boredom requires that individuals solve the problems that produced it — not having sufficient activities that are both meaningful and optimally challenging.
For instance, studies have shown that people are willing to self-administer electric shocks when bored. Other behaviors linked to greater susceptibility to boredom include increased alcohol intake and marijuana use. Boredom is also tied to unhealthy snacking and online pornography. While these may feel good in the moment, they provide only temporary relief from boredom. To prevent boredom and keep it away, we need to find solutions at home that provide lasting meaning and challenge.
People generally prefer doing something to doing nothing.
As staying home is the most effective way to prevent the further transmission of the coronavirus, it is meaningful to socially isolate. However, it may not always feel that way. For instance, in studies, when students were prompted to reflect on why their schoolwork mattered to them personally, researchers found that their interest in learning increased.
Routines structure our days, and provide a sense of coherence that bolsters our meaning in life. We lose those routines when we give up going to the office, or when we are laid off. Even retirees or stay-at-home parents are disrupted by closures to cities, restaurants and schools.
This loss of routine can foster feelings of boredom. Figuring out what to do when faced by long days unstructured by work or school can be hard. A recent study of people in quarantine in Italy found that boredom was the second most common issueafter loss of freedom. One thing that makes such situations hard is that it can be tricky to find activities that are just challenging enough to keep one occupied, without being too demanding.
This situation can leave people bored and frustrated. It helps to keep in mind that what counts as too challenging, or not challenging enough, will shift throughout the day. Boredom urges many of us towards the novel. Embrace that urge, judiciously.
If you have the energy, try a new recipe, experiment with home repairs, learn a new dance on TikTok. Doing new things not only relieves boredom, it helps acquire new skills and knowledge that may relieve boredom in the long run. For instance, we feel a surge of interest when we read an interesting novel or go through complex experiences, but only if we have the capacity to understand them.
Evidence shows that embracing new experiences, can help us lead not only a happy or meaningful life, but a psychologically richer one. We sometimes paint ourselves into a box where our most meaningful hobbies are also mentally taxing or effortful. Similarly, well-intentioned suggestions for how to cope at home, such as hosting a virtual wine-and-de night, may be simply too exhausting to be pleasurable at a time when many of us are already struggling. Give yourself permission to enjoy your guilty pleasures.
If need be, reframe those moments as much-needed mental refreshment, nourishing and recharging you for a later date. Luckily one good option is open to us all: connecting with otherswhether virtually or for those lucky enough not to be quarantined alone — in-person. One does not need a reason to call up a friend — our best socializing is the kind that happens casuallyin the unstructured time between scheduled activities.
Make dinner together. Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. Being at home at a time of social distancing can set in a feeling of boredom. WestgateUniversity of Florida.
Author Erin C. About boredom We can feel bored even with jobs and activities that appear to be meaningful.Bored throughout the day chat with me
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