Nathalie Jonsson

Science Writer 

How To Survive When Boredom Strikes


Some days you don’t want to go to work. If you are lucky, you only feel this on days you know you don’t have much to do. In periods of little work you get in, talk to people and make many cups of tea. You are bored! All day. And at the end of it, when you finally get to leave, you have another full day of boredom ahead.

Boredom is hard to define. It is almost philosophical. It is something so deeply rooted in us that we have a problem actually noticing it. In general, boredom revolves around such profound things as ‘our perceived meaning of life’ and ‘the meaningfulness of our actions’. When our lives and actions lack meaning or purpose we get bored, but boredom also often motivates us to escape it.

Since boredom is so hard to define most research has been done on the likelihood of specific individuals getting bored (measured by the Boredom Proneness Scale). From this we have learned that boredom comes with a lot of negative feelings.

Of course, boredom has been studied in both school and office settings. It has found ‘monotonous environment’ and ‘constraint’ to be the main reasons for office boredom. These two factors are thought to make individuals lose focus and therefore fall into boredom. Some research shows that ‘mindfulness’ (focusing on the present) can help put the focus back on work and escape boredom.

But until all office employees practice the art of mindfulness, we can learn some boredom coping strategies from school kids (because they are the experts at fighting boredom, right). You can act in one of three ways when faced with a very long day with nothing to do: either you use the dead time to doing something more valuable (why not start a blog!) or you will loudly express frustration over your current situation in hope of changing it. Finally, you can also choose to just passively spend your time talking to others or making tea.

Who knew that was actually a valid coping strategy!

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