The science of boredom

No matter who you are and what you were doing during the lockdown, at some point or another, you must have felt this weird and pretty obnoxious feeling that we all know so well, boredom. Of course, boredom is not a feeling exclusive to the lockdown, but the limitations in term of movement and activities available greatly enhances the probability of it occurring. But why, why is our brain « torturing »us in such a way,  wouldn’t life be less boring  if « boring » didn’t exist ?

The face you make when you are bored

Boredom is by definition the feeling of ininterest in an activity we may be partaking in or just the lack of said activity. In other words, we get bored when we are left alone with ourselves and our thoughts, when whatever we are doing at that point in time is not stimulating enough to make us use our brains. When we think about it from this perspective, we notice that it means that our natural state of being is a state of boredom, and we get out of it whenever we start doing something stimulating enough. So does that mean that living in itself is boring ? Just « being » is not enough for our brains ?

Life is boring:

Animals get bored too, they need a certain amount of stimulus to stay healthy, but the amount and kind of stimulus they need if what makes us different. We are always looking for new ways to stimulate ourselves. Unlike a dog,for example, just going out to walk once every day is far from being enough for us. We could say that life is boring by default to force us to be creative with ourselves. On top of that, the part of the brain that controls boredom is the frontal cortex, the same part that helps with self-control and self-regulation. So in a way, boredom is a way for us to control our lack of activity. This begs the question, if we have a part of the brain specifically designated to force us to do more, does that mean that not doing anything is dangerous?

Our addiction to excitement :

A lack of activity is dangerous for us both mentally and physically, physically in the sense that the body is gonna be less developed and more prone to get sick, and mentally through different mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Our brains have thaasophobia, the fear of getting bored, if exposed to a total lack of activity, our brains can go as far as finding stimulation out of self-mutilation or from hallucinations.  Another negative effect of too much boredom is addiction, a lack of stimuli can trick our brains into getting addicted to harmful substances/activities to get some excitement out of it.           Why do we get bored even when partaking in activities then ? Well the chart down below explains to a certain extent, an activity is considered boring if our skill level in said activity is high enough to be able to execute it without using any considerable amount of energy.

Flow model from the book « Finding                           F low », 1997 by Csikszentmihalyi, M.

Boredom is anything but boring :

In the wheel of emotions shown down below, we can see that boredom is a subcategory of disgust,  an emotion that keeps us away from harmful things, it protects us the same way boredom protects us from monotony and sameness, it allows us to go out of our way to try new things. Boredom is a state of mind in which you are left alone to think about how to be more productive, It’sa feeling that keeps us going forward and It’swhat made us become what we are today as a species.

Robert Plutchik’s « Wheel of emotions »

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