Boredom: Causes and cures
"I am bored!"
I think most parents with school-age children have heard these three words many times in the last three months over summer break.
Boredom is not a word in my vocabulary. I rarely feel bored. The only time I might feel bored, or to use a more appropriate phrase, "out of place," is when I am among people who talk about something I am not interested in at all.
That's why whenever I hear my 10-year-old son Andy saying: "I am bored," I don't have any sympathy for him. For me, there are always enough things to do to not feel bored.
On Labor Day afternoon, I was cutting Andy's hair to make him a little more groomed for the new school year. I had barely started, it was only a couple of minutes into the process, when I heard him complaining: "I am bored. Can we be done now?"
I was irritated and asked, "What's wrong with you?"
Certainly, I knew there is nothing wrong with my son. He has no ADHD or any other health or mental problems.
Andy is just a normal, active boy with lots of energy. He likes to run around, bike and play with other kids or toy guns.
But he can also be quiet for a long time when he has an interesting book to read or when he plays with Legos.
I think the widespread boredom phenomenon in our society is the result of our entertainment and consumer culture.
Boredom is usually caused by a lack of variety. When our need for changes of stimulation is not met, when there is too much sameness, we feel bored.
However, that's not the cause of boredom in our society today. Quite the opposite, the main causes are affluence, over-stimulation, and excessive and constant entertainment.
Too much affluence and convenience
When our lives are too good too easy, when we have too much too soon, when we "had it all" or "seen it all," when everything is too convenient to obtain and little effort is required to do anything, we lack motivation and become bored.
Too much TV and screen time
Research suggests that children under 2 years old should not watch TV. But in reality, many babies spend hours in front of the tube. We have a whole generation growing up in front of TV and with video games.
The visual over-stimulation have caused short attention span and ADHD in many children.
Too much stimulation and entertainment
We are bored, not because we don't have enough stimulation and entertain, but because we have too much stimulation and entertainment.
Our consumer culture has trained us to always move onto the next target. We are always on the go for the next bigger, better and nicer thing,
The entertainment industry not only targets adults, but also children. We don't need to go to Las Vegas to gamble and play games.
Kids can have birthday parties at Chuck E. Cheese. All they do is playing games.
When we were at Wisconsin Dells, a family friendly vacation destination, I saw kids playing games.
They need less than a minute to play a game on a machine. They constantly go from one machine to another.
I was struck by how hyper kids are when they play games in these entertainment places.
When we rely on external mean, such as popular entertainments such as TV, gambling, games to entertain us, when we are accustomed to the over stimulation, we can easily become bored when we have nothing to do or nothing to entertain us, because we don't know how to entertain ourselves through our own initiation and creativity.
Too little purpose and passion
We have too much stuff in our house, but not enough purpose and passion in our life. When life becomes meaningless, when "whatever" becomes our answer to all questions, boredom sets in.
Boredom is the "disease of our time." It is the "deadness of soul."
Boredom leads to all kinds of addiction, increased aggression, and risk taking.
In his book "Still Bored in a Culture of Entertainment: Rediscovering Passion and Wonder," author Richard Winter offers several ideas to tackle boredom.
The include: remember the big picture, delight in the simple and ordinary, cultivate wonder, develop strong interests, actively engage instead of passively expecting others to initiate, turn to God who can transform lives and provide a passion for living.
I agree, the ultimate way to avoid boredom is to live a meaningful, purposeful and passionate life, whatever that meaning, purpose and passion is for you.