Think about this when you are bored
What would be one of, if not the most difficult thing you could ever experience if you were training to go to Mars? This was the question that was asked of the 6-member NASA crew last year when they came out from a year-long training in a special structure located in Hawaii. The structure they lived in for an entire year was only 11 meters in diameter and over 3 meters in height. Apart from the isolation and the lack of fresh air and food, they said that “boredom” was the most difficult challenge they had to contend with.
A limited number of crew within a limited space seems like the standard set-up for space travel but the implication for the naturally restless human under that situation is profound. Boredom is not a trifle matter in situations like these. On top of the equipment and mission activities that a space team would have to train with and for, they have to train their minds to deal with monotony – not just with of their surroundings but of the same people they have to live with for an extended amount of time. They have to be prepared to be bored and know what to do when that happens because their lives depend on it.
Boredom is one of those many-splintered things. It is not just about lack of anything to do. It is the sense that there is nothing worthwhile you can do. Looking at studies trying to extract the science of boredom, there is a range, both in terms of the how susceptible you are to being bored (proneness to boredom) and the experience of boredom itself (state of boredom).
Studies so far have shown that people who have had traumatic brain injury are more prone to boredom. These people seem to have more difficulty finding a sense of satisfaction with general situations which is something that needs to be addressed because it may hamper recovery. Boredom also seems to be significantly linked in people with depression or those who engage in risky behavior, particularly gambling or reckless driving. This is evident even in observation. People who consistently find their days and nights unstimulating will seek sensations based on their own impulses. And we all know that acting on impulse carries a lot of risks.
But as boredom is a many-splintered thing when it comes to being associated with harm, it is also a many-splendored thing. There are also studies who have found that the state of boredom could be a path to creativity. This could happen if your boredom leads to daydreaming – which is the default mode of the brain when it is not pressed to focus on a task. Then your mind becomes busy even without you consciously driving it.
A study found that those who were allowed time for their minds to wander were a lot more creative in the task given to them right after than those who did not have time for this kind of daydreaming. Writers, whether you think they are creative or not, need to daydream. Without the necessary daydreaming that comes with a state of boredom, there would be no impetus to change the status quo in one’s head and move things by writing things down, to make sense of how one sees things and share it. This “splendid” face of boredom allows us to see a movie at the end of what could be disconnected points of light. This “splendor”, scientists fear, is what many digital citizens, may be missing if they take to their tablets and smartphones every time there is so much as a minute-long lull in their day.
When we were kids, summers stretched like bubble gum. My parents’ budget usually did not allow for summer vacations elsewhere so we had to re-imagine our house and our yard and the neighboring nooks and crannies. Having to experience our house the way we always have bored us to our wits so we thought of new ways, year after year, to be in our environment. We invented a new form of hide and seek. We explored new anthills and made countries out of them. We dressed up in different costumes depending on the leanings to the blockbuster movie or cartoon at that time. When we ran out of ideas to play, my brother and sister would climb our roof and stay there eating guava. I, the clumsy one, would just lay on the sofa and stare at the book shelves. I have read all the books in our shelves, even the racy ones by Harrold Robbins that my parents had (which they did not know about until I told them when I already had a job). So I read them again, and again. One summer, I even decided for reasons I could not remember, copy the dictionary, by hand. I reached only up to “C”. That was how I dealt with boredom – I discovered myself – and my love for words and the power they had over how one can live.
Being bored is not a simple matter, despite the fact that all of us experience it in different degrees. You have to contend with yourself and what you feel is worthy of your own engagement with the world. You may have to weigh and calibrate when something really needs to change or when you are just seeking a sensation at any cost. Sometimes, it is tied to a mental condition for which you have to seek professional help. “Boredom” as a subject of study is not boring at all. – Rappler.com