Snuffing Out Boredom

Boredom is the feeling that everything is a waste of time; serenity, that nothing is.  Thomas Szasz

Not that I speak regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. Philippians 4:11

Is boredom an issue for you? Do you find yourself getting bored with the daily routines in your life?

Boredom is defined by “dullness” or “weariness” or “tedium.” Sometimes it manifests itself by a restless spirit; other times by complacency. Bored individuals long for anything except what they currently have or are currently doing:

  • They long for the future which never arrives.
  • They long for something different and merely endure the present reality.
  • They long for ease.
  • They long for excitement and entertainment.

Boredom often has to do with a lack of purpose: a missing “why factor” – the underlying vibrancy that keeps us going and enables us to attend to what we are doing. A job becomes boring when it lacks true value or meaning.  Even a day gets boring when it lacks authentic purpose, whether the purpose be for rest and solitude, for building relationships, or for accomplishing a necessary task.  Purpose enables us to establish priorities for the wise use of our time and resources. Purpose keeps us motivated and snuffs out boredom. We need the “why factor” when we enter the classroom or office;  in our marriages and in our parenting; when we exercise or pray; and even when we rest.  Otherwise we meander from one hour to the next, from one day to the next, from one month to the next, from one year to the next, always searching but never finding contentment – which remains just around the next corner, always just out of sight and just out of reach.

Victor Frankle said, “A man who becomes conscious of his responsibility to a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the “why” for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any “how”. Frankle refers to the person who is alive and enthusiastic as compared to one who roams through life, always desiring more but never fully engaging in what is at hand.  One is dynamic the other is boring.  “I am bored” generally means “I am boring.”

So why do we allow kids to be bored and even foster it? Parents and teachers alike assume they are responsible to entertain kids. We mistakenly view boredom as a problem to fix rather than an issue of the heart and mind to overcome.

I used to tell parents to not allow kids to say “I’m bored” – and to assign them work to do when the phrase was uttered. I am changing my tune however to an approach that expects kids to actually enjoy simplicity and to learn to rely on their own imaginations for entertainment.   Kids in 3rd world countries can sit for hours waiting to see a doctor; they play with their fingers and toes, without becoming restless or making a sound.  Could it be that boredom is far less of an issue for the child who has a simple life?

By contrast, kids in our fast paced, entertainment laded society quickly grow bored. They want something better, something more, and something different. They are unable to be at rest in the midst of simple experiences.  Kids who get everything they want grow bored because there’s always something new to long for. Kids get bored with chores or homework because they want to be doing something different.

In addition, they are conditioned to expect entertainment.  If kids learn to respond to being bored with doing “something” fun that will remove the boredom, they will never grow satisfied with simplicity.  Learning to enjoy simplicity will fulfill them far more than binging on self- indulgent activities which keep them looking and looking and never able to find satisfaction.

Snuff out boredom in your own life by:

1.      Developing the “why factor” in all that you do.

2.      Being enthusiastically engaged in what you are doing NOW – whether it be play or rest, work or prayer.

3.      Wanting what you now have instead of longing for what you want: Want the marriage you have.  Raise the kids you have. Love the home you are living in. Enjoy the toys you have. New and better is always tempting and always available to strive for.

TIPS for snuffing out boredom in your kids:

  1. Establish regular times during the day during which your kids are expected to entertain themselves in simple ways: reading, writing, drawing, imaginative play, etc.
  2. When they grow bored, expect your kids to resolve it themselves.  The more you try to entertain them and address the issue of contentment by giving them more, the less content they may become.  Contentment is an inner condition – so is discontentment. But sometimes kids need to enjoy the simple things they find boring.
  3. Expect them to do chores and things they don’t feel like doing and to find pleasure in doing them.
  4. Get them started in getting something done.  Taking small steps towards a goal can give one a sense of accomplishment that will beat boredom.
  5. Beware of an addiction to multitasking media.  This “toggling” by youth today is of great concern to professionals because of its harmful effects on their brains.  In addition, it creates a condition called anhedonia– the inability to find pleasure in anything.  (A MUST READ:  Thrilled to Death by Dr. Archibald Hart.)

5 Comments

  1. Fantastic. Wonderful. So helpful. Thank you! This is why we have chosen to avoid all hand-held gaming devices for our kids. I want them to know how to sit and wait patiently and enjoy the experiences and places we go.

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  2. Thank you Carrie for posting this link. Thank you Ellen for sharing your wisdom regarding this issue. I do battle with this both with myself and my children, so thank you for your tips.

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  3. This is great! My hubby and I both recently read the book you recommended (Thrilled to Death) and it was awesome. I highly recommend it as well!

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  4. We will refer to this one again and again this summer! Our culture is too quick to entertain, indeed. What did families do before they had in car video entertainment for long trips? They played games using their minds, enjoyed the scenery, and oh yes, they talked with each other! My brother and I played, “count the windmills” on our road trips through New Mexico, when we were young. Now, if my son ever comes close to saying he is bored, I tell him, that as long as he has a working brain and can think, boredom should not be a consideration. Thanks, Ellen, for continuing to remind us that creativity and imagination are the greatest “entertainment” we have. Peace to you!!

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  5. It is ironic, that my children do better together and with the simple things in life when we are not busy. It takes so much to unwind from the busy to get in the simple frame of mind.

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