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To Do List: Be Bored

Boredom. The dreaded affair. The frustration of having no task to engage yourself in, nothing to look forward to, the restlessness in your limbs that are begging for stimulation.When was the last time you felt bored? When did you last stare at your ceiling, chalk up bizarre future plans, listen to your internal monologue? Come to think of it, boredom is a bane that we discarded long ago.


We are so afraid of boredom that we keep sidestepping any opportunities to be alone with our thoughts. Instead, we bombard ourselves with stimuli. A vexing alarm clock is our first greeting for the day, followed by a music album that is the soundtrack to our drab lives. No meal goes without television, no commute goes without a life-changing podcast.


It is impossible to be bored in a world where people mint money by exploiting your time.


You might ask, what’s wrong with that? Our lives are taxing as it is. Drained from assignments, meetings, household chores, you expect people to come home and…sit? That’s not the life you envisioned. Your free time is assigned for everything that you truly wanted had you escaped life’s endless rigmarole. So you come home, binge on Netflix till your minds are numb and your limbs are glued to the couch. If society hasn’t drained your enthusiasm yet, you pick more engaging pursuits. Going to the mall, going to the gym, playing video games, socialising, maybe working on the novel that you wanted to write when you were younger. In essence, just more tasks on your to-do list. To put it like this: You keep changing the channel, but never turn off the TV.


Ignoring that sub-par metaphor, I’ll get to the point. We keep substituting unpleasant stimuli with pleasant ones, but our brain never truly gets to rest.


Now, the purpose of this post isn’t to give a condescending commentary on your hobbies. There’s nothing wrong with watching Netflix or playing video games. Yet, when Monday dawns and we’re welcomed by a state of exhaustion, we have no option but to look back on our weekend and think: Where did we go wrong? Instead of being recharged, we feel more drained. Weekend after weekend, our energy keeps dwindling and we fall into an even deeper state of misery.


Let’s zoom out a little. Do you remember 5-star’s iconic ad campaign? A masterstroke in advertising, it managed to capture everyone’s attention by alluding to an unusual experience: “Eat  5-Star, Do Nothing”


Do nothing. The simple delight of doing nothing. The ad was refreshing because it didn’t enforce the usual productivity narrative we’re so tired of hearing. It reassured us that we are in fact allowed to do nothing, simply exist, without being reprimanded. In a world where multitasking is the pinnacle of efficiency and to-do lists are your best-friends, it struck a chord.


Maybe that is what we really need after a tiring day: Absolutely no stimuli.


Why is it that we’re unable to fulfil this fundamental need? If boredom and stillness is what we truly need to function, why doesn’t it come naturally to us? The truth is, with the development of modern technology it has become increasingly difficult to achieve the sense of peace our heart desires. Our brains naturally look for a quick dopamine-inducer after a stressful day, hoping to achieve a high that never arrives.


An even more alarming theory: Maybe we are so afraid of facing our thoughts that we steer clear of any chances to be alone with them. Because paying attention to your thoughts requires actively processing the complexities of life. Dissecting every distressing comment, every unpleasant emotion, rationalising every fear and failure requires much more effort than we realise. What’s even worse is that we have internalised the guilt of doing nothing. Every second that’s not spent towards progress is a second wasted. You immerse yourself in endless work and use your free time to maximise potential happiness.


What I’m trying to say in an elaborate way is that we need boredom to survive. We need to sit with our thoughts and process them in order to move on. We need to allow ourselves time to just be, without chasing a goal or following a plan. We need to pause.


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Yes, we often tend to think ‘Every second that’s not spent towards progress is a second wasted’ which is absolutely not true. Love how this article comforts you that it is okay to do nothing, infact it is necessary sometimes!

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this is one of the best articles I’ve read and it addresses the truth of our lives in a way that we are afraid to accept. I do agree with you on how boredom could be a cure but my personal experience also states that boredom is the problem which pushes me to go to the couch and sit in front of the TV and binge for endless hours…how do we get motivated if boredom is the reason for our lack of productivity?

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