Bored? Here's Exactly What to Do
Make the most out of boredom
With the onset of the pandemic and the imposing of lockdowns worldwide, we had to bid goodbye to our fellow Homo sapiens and retire to our humble abodes for what seemed like a few weeks at first but turned out to be close to a year.
“In fact, it didn’t take long for me to even become bored with being bored.”
One of the first things I became aware of while stuck at home was boredom. In fact, it didn’t take long for me to even become bored with being bored.
Scrolling through social media feeds and mindlessly binging YouTube became the norm.
But after the first few weeks, things changed. Well, I decided to change things to be more exact. Change doesn’t happen of its own accord.
It’s been more than 7 months since then and I can say that they have been one of the best months of my life.
“Well, I decided to change things to be more exact. Change doesn’t happen of its own accord.”
So what did I do? One of the primary things was learning to make the most out of boredom. I want to share my thoughts and ideas on how to milk boredom dry.
Bear Hug It
We are all “boredom allergic”, we despise boredom with fervor and live in mortal fear of it.
We don’t like boring people, boring jobs, boring hobbies, boring parties, boring games, and anything even remotely associated with boring.
“In fact, studies show that people are even willing to self-administer shocks when bored.”
In the beginning days, I did things that I didn’t even like doing just to relieve boredom. Just about anything was better than nothing for me. It is for most of us. In fact, studies show that people are even willing to self-administer shocks when bored.
“But why?”, I asked myself and got silence as an answer. Most of us have no answer either. We don’t want to be bored but we don’t know why.
The Art of Doing Nothing
Doing nothing and being at peace with it is an art and a skill that can be developed. We are plagued by this constant itch to do something all the time but the funny thing as the Dalai Lama said,
“We are human beings, not human doings.”
“Heck! We have entire shows inside our heads that put Netflix to shame.”
It was by chance that I found that it was fun to just sit back, let my thoughts flow freely, and examine them. Heck! We have entire shows inside our heads that put Netflix to shame.
Unlike my friend Shivendra Misra, meditation is simply not my thing. I have tried it and failed miserably quite a few times. Staring at a wall is more my thing.
Find your thing. It can be looking at the night sky, staring at the cityscape, or even something boring such as staring at a wall.
“Staring at a wall is more my thing.”
See what I did there? On a side note, when you do nothing, you are still doing something. A (not so) funny conundrum isn’t it?
It’s Like Being Struck by Lightning
Sometimes the best of ideas occur while doing the most mundane of things. Remember how Archimedes discovered the Archimedes principle? — When he saw the bathwater rise as he got into his bath, he ran out naked, screaming “Eureka!”.
“Sometimes the best of ideas occur while doing the most mundane of things.”
One day in early April, I was bored and randomly scrolling the internet when something caught my eye — an article about how the stock market had crashed. An idea hit me at the same time. It was like struck by lightning.
Despite being a complete beginner, I dove in, bought a few stocks, held them, and as the market started recovering, made more than 60% in profits.
This unexpected adventure paved the way to building stock trading into a profitable side hustle.
“Boredom can make you think and as to what thinking can do, there truly isn’t any limit.”
Similarly, the idea which led to one of my best-performing articles was conceived while taking a mondo duke in the toilet. In fact, my first article on Medium was written after a random moment of inspiration. I wrote one more and one more and here we are now.
As I like to say, “Boredom can make you think and as to what thinking can do, there truly isn’t any limit.”
The One Thing You Can Always Do
Speaking of thinking, I am reminded of what the genius Genius Turner likes to say, “Great minds think the same”. Well, he’s right but first and foremost — great minds think.
“Well, he’s right but first and foremost — great minds think.”
The mind is something we always have with us and as a result, thinking is something you can always do, even when you have nothing else to do. But sadly thinking is a rarity as Thomas Alva Edison rightly says,
“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think.”
Unleash Your Creative Genius
I have never been much of a creative so when I started writing on Medium, I had this fear of running out of ideas after the first few weeks. In fact, I almost did by the end of my second month.
“I started and the more ideas I got, the more ideas I got.”
Out of ideas and frustrated, I didn’t write for a few days. One of those evenings, boredom happened to sting me. I sat it out for a while then decided to grab a book and jot down a few ideas. I started and the more ideas I got, the more ideas I got.
Less than an hour in, I had close to thirty ideas and around ten viable ones. I was honestly surprised. Since then, I have made it a point to grab a book and brainstorm for ideas whenever I am at leisure and have nothing to do.
That’s the thing with boredom — you tend to have a clear mind without any stress and this is the perfect setting to unleash your creative genius.
Look Into the Mental Mirror
The first time I discovered introspection, it completely changed my life. I changed so much as a person that my past self felt like a stranger. Its power is simply astounding.
Since then, introspection has become an integral part of my life. When I am alone and bored, I sit and think about my actions, thoughts, and events. There’s always something to glean from them, thanks to the power of hindsight.
“We think simple things are easy but in fact, the simplest things are often the hardest.”
Introspection is simple but hard. We think simple things are easy but in fact, the simplest things are often the hardest too. All you have to do is:
Think about your past actions, thoughts, events, and the like.
Ask yourself questions like, “Why did I do that”, “How could I have done it better.”, “Why did I act that way?”, “What made me blurt that?”, “Why did I feel like that?”, “Why did I react that way?”, etc.
Be brutally honest with yourself. Bare yourself naked in the mental mirror. It will be uncomfortable, even extremely uncomfortable sometimes but it’s worth it. Throw aside your biases, opinions, preconceived notions, etc., and objectively answer yourself.
“Bare yourself naked in the mental mirror. It will be uncomfortable, even extremely uncomfortable sometimes but it’s worth it.”
Think Away Your Problems
I felt my frustration building up, my brain heating up and a headache forming as I stared at the screen. “What the hell do I do?”, I thought as I shut the laptop lid and walked away.
A day later, I was sitting jobless in the evening. I thought back to the problem at hand. My stock portfolio had dipped into quite a big loss as the market had crashed the earlier day.
“When we are faced with a problem, stress and anxiety build-up which cloud our judgment.”
Funnily, the problem seemed easy now. In just ten minutes of thinking, I arrived at a solution. When we are faced with a problem, stress and anxiety build up which cloud our judgment.
But when bored, you are calm and can hence think better. So use boredom to think away your problems.
Burn Yourself and Howl in Pain
As I stood watching my mom cook, I looked with interest at the way she flipped the chapatis with her bare hand.
With an unusual surge of interest, I insisted on trying. As I was gloating after the first two flips, a sudden bullet of steam burned my fingers making me howl in pain and plunge them into my mouth.
Try New Things
So much for my cooking adventure but that rather traumatic incident didn’t dissuade me from learning cooking and other things.
I explored quite a lot during the lockdown period. I explored new book genres especially classics which led to exploring psychology and philosophy, dove into finance, started learning the guitar, started writing on Medium, etc.
“Funny isn’t it? How I went from trying to kill time to gasping for time.”
Soon, I found that I didn’t have enough time for everything and had to plan my time and even cut out a few things. Funny isn’t it? How I went from trying to kill time to gasping for time.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Take up online courses on new things that pique your interest. With platforms such as Coursera, edX, Udemy, Khan Academy, etc. this has never been easier.
Start reading books and if you already do, explore new genres. As someone that always read mostly mystery and fantasy fiction, I got into classics and nonfiction genres such as psychology, philosophy, finance, and history.
Get into finance. No matter what you do in life, personal finance is something you will need to be familiar with. A few good books to get you started are Rich Dad Poor Dad, Think And Grow Rich, and The Richest Man In Babylon.
Explore new hobbies. Hobbies are a great way to spend your leisure time. Sketching, playing a musical instrument, painting, writing, gardening, cooking,
Harness the power of YouTube. YouTube is home to some truly excellent content creators. You can find stuff on almost everything and anything. 3B1B, Kurzgesagt, Ted-Ed, Sentdex, The Slowmo Guys, 2 Minute Papers, Big Think, Vsauce, Veritasium, Vice, AsapScience, The Infographics Show, minutePhysics, NumberPhile, Mark Rober, ComputerPhile, and ElectroBoom are some of my favorites.
Get into fitness and if you are already in, try different disciplines. As a gym rat that loved lifting weights, I was forced by the lockdown to try bodyweight options. A whole new world opened up to me.
Rekindle Old Things
As kids, we have a lot more time and a lot less on our plates.
As a result, we try a lot of things and pick up hobbies that we drop as we go through life with reasons like “I don’t have enough time.”, “I have better things to do.”, “I have grown out of them.”
For as long as I can remember, I have been a voracious reader. But when I joined college, reading became sporadic and soon came to an almost standstill.
“ Maybe a sketchbook with dog eared pages, maybe a guitar that has been catching dust. Bring back relics and habits of the past to life.”
The lockdown gave me an opportunity to get back to it and I did just that. I devoured books and was surprised at how I had almost forgotten how fun it was to read.
Rekindle your old habits. Maybe a sketchbook with dog-eared pages, maybe a guitar that has been catching dust, maybe a creaky skateboard with squeaky wheels. Bring back relics and habits of the past to life.
I hope that wasn’t a boring read. Well, I really need to stop these “boring” references. Boredom happens to the best of us but we can choose to be “not bored”. Here is how you can do that,
Embrace it. Don’t try to fight boredom, rather embrace it. Sit back and let your thoughts flow freely. You might even get struck by lightning and have a “Eureka!” moment like Archimedes did.
Think. Thinking is something you can always do. Introspect and reflect to improve yourself and become more self-aware. Unleash your creative genius. Solve your problems. Boredom provides a calm stress-free setting that is perfect for clear thinking.
Try new things. Take up online courses. Explore new hobbies. Read books and explore different genres. Get into fitness and explore different disciplines. Check out amazing YouTube channels.
Rekindle old things. As kids, we don’t have much on our plates and hence try a lot of things, picking up a lot of hobbies. But life happens and we lose most of them. When you are bored, use the time to rekindle your old habits.