Have you ever experienced a day in which you weren’t somewhat bored? Until recently, boredom wasn’t really challenged but rather just accepted as part of one’s day. Most people accept some boredom as long as it is offset with experiences of joy and excitement.
Presently, boredom is receiving more attention as a source of health and emotional concerns. New studies are finding that boredom is pervasive throughout society and can encourage unhealthy attitudes and poor lifestyle choices. Marc Learner, who successfully fought a chronic illness for over 29 years, describes boredom as: “… getting stuck in your mind with nothing to do and lacking the courage to explore the unknown.”
With the high incidence of boredom found in society, Thomas Goetz, a professor of empirical educational research at the University of Konstanz in Germany, and colleagues studied the effects of boredom on high school and college students. This study, published in Motivation and Emotion, points out that boredom is common among high school students and it can be quite dangerous. This study found that high school students were more impacted by boredom than college students, perhaps because college students have more freedom to walk away from a boring situation. Boredom encourages the likelihood of smoking, drinking, and using drugs. Kids who are bored are also more likely to drop out of school. Not only are these boredom-spurred lifestyle choices unhealthy, but studies have also linked boredom with stress and other health problems.
In his study, Goetz started with the understanding that there were four forms of boredom: indifferent, calibrating, searching, and reactant. Reactant boredom was considered the most serious as it takes the form of depression. However, during the study a new form of boredom was found – apathetic, which takes the form of aggression. When apathetic boredom and reactant boredom are experienced together, they are found to be very damaging to health if not treated.
Researchers Mark Fenske and John Eastwood found that boredom can be a sign of more serious problems. Drug and alcohol abuse counselors know that patients relapse when faced with boredom, and boredom is related to addiction, gambling, eating problems, and other chronic problems. Because boredom is an underlying cause of many of society’s ills, understanding the link between the mind and the body is imperative.
One way to combat boredom is through spiritual cultivation. Jesus’ command to take heed – or stay awake – is an important reminder that spiritual attentiveness resists the slide into boredom. This “staying awake” can be found through meditation, prayer, or mindfulness.
Writer Lonnette Harrell agreed with this idea when she stated, “when people don’t have time alone with their thoughts, they often lack spirituality as well. If we are going to take time to meditate on why we are here, and what our purpose in life is, then we must have time alone, with our thoughts, to do so. God speaks to us in a still, small voice, and that voice is at peril of being completely drowned out by ring-tones, YouTube, TV, DVDs. CDs, iPods, computer games, etc. The Bible says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ Not many of us even know what it means to be still anymore.”
Enjoying life without boredom is unquestionably a challenge. But there are steps that can be taken to reduce boredom and its resultant chronic problems. Practice starting the day with a quiet time to help cultivate a more spiritual and meaningful day. Meditation and prayer calm the mind and can lead to a more balanced scheduling of activities, which allows for the inclusion of gratitude, child-like wonder, and other health-giving qualities. There are probably many ways to prevent boredom, but as I see it, it is the result of prayer and meditation, words that describe, at least in this instance, a conscious effort to identify with the transformative presence of God-given good.The use of prayer and meditation in this situation is not so much for God to do something special for me but more the recognition of what God has already done and continues to do.
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