In today’s advanced modern science, boredom seems to have become a historical term. WeChat, Douyin and various information apps flood our free time. But in fact, are we really “boring”? In this “A Brief History of Boring”, let’s explore the changes of “boring” together.

In the special year of 2020, a pandemic has allowed many people to establish new relationships with boredom.

People are asked to stay at home, travel less, and get together with relatives and friends. Even if there is a vaccine, “boring life” will still be an important armor to protect public health.

People don’t like boredom. But some scientists and critics said: Boring is not useless.

01 Boredom: an old proposition

In the 1930s, Joseph Barmack, a psychology professor at the City College of New York, conducted a series of “boring” psychological experiments. He wants to understand how factory workers deal with monotonous labor and how to prevent the fatigue that comes with it.

He took some college students to the Applied Psychology Lab at Columbia University and asked them to do a monotonous and repetitive task while measuring variables such as blood pressure and attention. Before the experiment, these students had taken amphetamine, a central nervous stimulant used to treat hyperactivity caused by insufficient attention, as well as narcolepsy and obesity.

This experiment found that after taking these drugs, people’s negative emotions and attitudes were reduced even when they were doing extremely boring things; and in another experiment, money would bring similar effects to drugs.

Professor Barmack is thinking about an ancient problem in human society. As early as the first century AD, the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca captured the uneasiness brought about by boredom: “How long will the same thing last? People will definitely yawn, sleep, eat, they will also be thirsty, cold, and hot. . Is there no end to this?”

In the Middle Ages, boredom was called acedia, and it was considered by theologians to be a vice—”because boredom represents neglect of religious duties.” Department of Philosophy and Sociology, Complutense University, Madrid, Spain Postdoctoral fellow Josefa Ros Velasco said that in the 19th and 20th centuries, boredom was again considered a product of industrialization or capitalism, and a disease of the upper class.

“This year is a boring year.” Recently, she established the first International Boredness Research Association to conduct research on boredom in the current society.

If you turn your attention to literature or philosophy, you will find that boredom is often regarded as a personal, moral, or social failure. The philosopher Schopenhauer wrote in “On the Vanity of Existence” that boredom “is like a bird of prey, hovering above every worry-free life.”

People’s evaluation of boredom has been changing from the Roman Empire to the Middle Ages and to today.

Many modern studies have shown that long-term boredom is related to some bad consequences, such as depression, anxiety, gambling, dropping out, and risk-taking and impulsive behavior.

Recently, the American journalist Kendra Pierre-Louis wrote on the new media project “Elements” that people who tend to get bored are more inclined to break the rules of social isolation, and they are more likely to have held social gatherings. , Or do not follow the social frequency recommended by the public health department.

During the SARS outbreak in 2003, an investigation also found that boredom is the biggest obstacle for people to comply with the epidemic prevention regulations.

Those with “boring tendencies” may also adopt some unhealthy strategies to deal with boredom, such as alcoholism, drug use, or excessive dependence on electronic products, such as games or social media.

These arguments all imply that boredom can lead people to bad, dark and even destructive places. However, today when more and more people complain about boredom, people’s perception of boredom has become more complicated and multifaceted.

02 Boredom as a protection and reminder mechanism

Looking at this year’s English report, we will find that many authors and editors hope to dig out the positive aspects of boredom in this “boring year”. They try to reshape the moment of boredom into a state of releasing creativity and productivity.

For example, an article in The Guardian entitled “Why Boredom is a Good Thing” described this year as a “boring boom”; the BBC also published an article in May on “How boredom stimulates creativity” ; “Harvard Business Review” also published an article supporting the “boring creative advantage.”

So, is it a spark that ignites the spirit of innovation, or is it a bad mental pressure?

The latest research understands boredom as a signal, it shows that what you are doing right now is meaningless to you and does not grab your attention-this is a neutral signal, boredom does not directly lead to good Or something bad happens.

The contemporary American philosopher Andreas Elpidorou compares boredom to physical pain: it feels bad, but it is a warning signal that allows us to better protect ourselves . The response to pain is up to you-either continue to do things that make you hurt, or find different ways to make the pain go away.

Rich creative practice may provide you with positive tools to fight boredom. If you like art, writing or music and make time for these hobbies, they will be available to you when you are bored.

For this reason, some people can use boredom as a source of creativity. The American journalist Manoush Zomorodi wrote a book in 2017 about how boredom becomes his own creative tool. The title of this book is “Boredness and Brilliance: How to Use Shorting to Unlock the Best Productivity and creativity of the self.

But the state of boredom itself has nothing inherent to trigger creativity.

Although boredom may be good, it is not the result of a state where people want to wander or seek. “This is something that needs to be overcome, like a borderline state.” John Eastwood, an associate professor of clinical psychology and clinical psychologist at York University in Canada, said that if you have the ability to deal with boredom, it Will bring us benefits.

A study found that those who claim that their lives are more meaningful because of their religious beliefs experience fewer boring moments. “We think this shows that giving life a sense of meaning can prevent people from getting bored.” said Wijnand AP van Tilburg, a social psychologist at the University of Exeter, UK.

In addition to sense of meaninglessness, lack of attention may also be one of the reasons for boredom. “Simply put, when we can’t concentrate or find meaning in what we do, we will feel bored…Insufficiency in either of these two aspects will cause boredom.” University of Florida Psychology Said Erin Westgate, assistant professor in the department.

03 Some people are more boring than others

If we can realize the value of boredom to mental health, it might help people find meaning in some behaviors, and perhaps they can treat boredom more tolerantly.

In modern life, people have a familiar feeling: they are always surrounded by books, movies, Netflix, cooking or the Internet, and they are often in a state of “want to find something to do”, but no activity can persist.

Provide a list for a boring person, list all the things they can do, can it solve the problem? “It’s like telling a drowning person to swim ashore quickly.” Eastwood said, “boring people know that there is something to do, but that’s not the problem. The problem is that they don’t want to do those’can do things’. ”

In other words, boring people always want to do something, but they don’t have a certain definite thing to do. The writer Leo Tolstoy once used “the desire for desires) to describe this feeling brilliantly.

In the 1930s, the philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a chapter about boring content in “Conquering Happiness.” He believes that boredom has not become more common in modern society, but people are increasingly afraid of boredom-because of fear, it has become more and more a threat.

This still applies today.

When we are afraid of an uncomfortable feeling, we are more likely to proceed from this feeling to a behavior that will cause problems. The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said that boredom is the root of all evil. But Eastwood believes that Kierkegaard means that it is evil because we cannot tolerate it.

People who are prone to boredom tend to think more often, or let the negative emotions brought about by boredom circulate wildly in their heads. When they first get bored, they wonder how bored and annoying they are, and they cannot get rid of these thoughts.

In other words: people who are afraid of being bored are more likely to be bored.

Perfectionists may also be more prone to boredom because they try to find the “best” or “right” thing, and they try to find a perfect way to solve boredom.

The underlying motivation behind people’s behavior can also affect boredom. Eastwood divides people into two types: those who are motivated by maximizing happiness, and those who are motivated by minimizing pain.

People who try to minimize the pain will always imagine something that might cause them harm, which will make them physically or psychologically uncomfortable. People who want to maximize their happiness are constantly looking for opportunities to make themselves happy, but they are not so concerned about any potential pain.

Eastwood pointed out that if you are extreme in both of these traits, you may be more likely to experience boring moments.

“For those who maximize happiness, this world just won’t have enough happiness or excitement.” Eastwood said, the chores that we must do in daily life, such as laundry, paying taxes, washing dishes, social isolation Wait, in the life of such a person, it will become extremely boring.

For those who seek to minimize their suffering, they will avoid many potentially uncomfortable encounters, delay in taking action or change, and fall into a single and lack of change environment.

04 Boredom is also a product of the environment

People have a myth that boredom is attributed to the individual-there is a saying that only bored people will be bored. However, individual personality differences are not enough to explain how boredom responds to different people.

In an experiment designed by Westgate, some people would rather shock themselves than just sit in a room and think. If boredom is a kind of motivation for action, when facing boredom, people will choose positive or negative behavior, which is also related to the environment in which they are in. In that experiment, the only thing that subjects can resolve boredom is The way is to shock yourself.

This makes people think about the impact of the environment on the feeling of boredom. In an unpublished study in Westgate’s laboratory, she and her colleagues examined the boredom of people in different states in the United States, and conducted research on regional boredom.

They found that in states with lower levels of social ecological diversity, people are more likely to get bored. These states have higher rates of alcohol and drug use, and higher drug-related death rates.

“There is no causal explanation for this. But it implies that boredom is not just the result of individual differences. Especially in the United States, the mainstream voice of our society requires you to be strong and able to withstand bad emotions, so that you do not give in. Boredom.” Westgate said, this kind of social expectation will make people not realize that if you change the environment, boredom will become easier to confront.

Because of the “efficiency is king” mentality in modern society, we are accustomed to filling our time. When we are bored, we turn to entertainment methods such as social media, television or the Internet.

Under normal circumstances, these are all successful solutions to boredom, but maybe not anymore-our time is filled so much that we don’t think about which ones we really like and really let us Feel fulfilling.

When we withdraw from frenzied activities, if we have a long time to do nothing, it is a healthy response. “But now people often equate inactivity with boredom. To me, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of boredom.” Eastwood said.

05 Opportunity to reinvent yourself

“I don’t think boredom makes us creative. We must cultivate and focus on creative activities independently, regardless of whether we are bored or not.” James Danckert, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, often speaks I saw a list of suggestions on the Internet that try to solve the boredom, but these approaches are very personal, because they depend on your personal interests, personality, and environment.

However, he still gives some general suggestions: calm down and try not to let the bored state arouse anxiety and anxiety; mentality can be a tool to fight against boredom, and when the moment of boredom comes, it will make you less sensitive to yourself. Some judgments, one less panic.

Boredom can also be used as an opportunity to understand yourself and reshape your habits.

Consider your home environment and give yourself more creative options for activities-even when you are not boring, try to make time to complete them. This may prepare you for boredom.

Of course, during the new crown, if one observes strict social distancing guidelines, all this may still be far from enough. You may still be bored. Eastwood and Dankert suggest that in these situations, boredom can at least provide some time to reflect on the most important things.

Van Tilberg and his colleagues also found that reminiscing about the past can provide some people with an antidote to boredom. Reflect on your past and the moments and people you value. “These memories will give life a sense of meaning. This seems to really solve the boredom at that moment.” Tilberg said.

There are always boring moments in life.

Right now, what people may want to learn is to live with it and deal with it, rather than naively “advocating” or “avoiding” boredom.

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