On boredom.

Here’s a radical question for all of us:

Do you need to feel more bored?

So many of us are chronically busy or stressed. I started to notice that even though my life isn’t crazy-busy — which I’m grateful for — I didn’t have that open, relaxed, spacious feeling as much as I’d like. It often felt like my life was going by fast, and I wondered if that was what I really wanted.  

I’ve started to wonder whether boredom is part of the solution. For me, boredom feels like the opposite of busy-ness. When you’re busy, your life is too full. When you’re bored, your life is too empty.

And do we need that feeling of “too empty” regularly, to balance out the frequent times when our lives feel “too full”?

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Like any good life coach, I experimented on myself.  

One  recent Saturday, my husband was gone for the afternoon and I had nothing to do. I could feel myself being pulled to watch episodes of Sex and the City (which I’m watching for the first time; please send your opinions). But I’d also been feeling a bit overstimulated recently — and have been curious about how I relate to technology — so I decided I would try stay off screens all afternoon.   

I’ll read, I thought. That’s a pleasant way to pass the time. But I’d been reading a lot lately and didn’t feel like reading more.

I could feel myself starting to worry: Wait, what am I going to do all afternoon? That’s a lot of time!  

I genuinely didn’t know what I was going to do all afternoon. I felt bored. But I also noticed that within the boredom was a some anxiety. I wasn’t used to this feeling of under-stimulation and feelings were coming up.

And yet, after lying on the couch and worrying that this afternoon would kill me with boredom and last forever, I did eventually find some things to do:

  • I journaled about some things that were on my mind.

  • I made a daydreaming list of all the furniture I’d get to decorate my house if I had an unlimited budget.

  • I paged through cookbooks, looking at pictures and thinking about recipes to make.

  • I cut blooms off our rosebushes, filling five tiny jars with roses and putting them all around my home.

  • I sat on my front stoop and looked out at the street, watching people walk by with their dogs.

Once a few hours had passed, I realized the initial anxiety was long gone. In fact, I felt more relaxed than I had in a long time.

Even more surprisingly, my life felt slow. While I don’t have a crazy stressful life, my life doesn’t usually feel slow. It felt like I lived in a small town on a 1950’s sitcom.

Truthfully, I didn’t have “fun” in the way I would have had fun binge watching episodes of Sex and the City. It was an under-stimulating and sometimes boring afternoon, even though I eventually found some pleasant things to do. But in other ways, I felt extremely rejuvenated from just a couple of hours. I literally thought to myself, it feels like I’ve been to a spa.

I can’t remember ever thinking to myself that a random weekend afternoon felt like a trip to a spa.  

So I’d like to ask you, again: Do you need to be more bored?

I bet that most people reading this email can relate to life feeling too full. But how often, for hours at a time, has your life felt too empty? Would you be willing to explore it?

If so, let me know how it goes!