THEN THIS IS A BORING LIFE
Boredom can be experienced both at work and during leisure time. Those who then always reach for their cell phones are threatened with a boring life, warns a sociologist. How to deal with this feeling of powerlessness and not being bored while you can play blackjack online.
People who are bored like to reach for their cell phones to distract themselves. Sociologist Silke Ohlmeier advises against this in an interview with Der Spiegel. Boredom leads to a feeling of helplessness – and anyone who fights this too often with mobile games will lead a “boring life” in the long term. Ohlmeier has written a book on the subject of boredom and is a member of the International Society of Boredom Studies, which promotes multidisciplinary research on boredom.
THE RISKS OF BOREDOM
Stress usually occurs when tasks demand more energy than one can give, Ohlmeier explains. But the opposite, being underchallenged for long periods of time, is also problematic, she says. “Then at some point my body doesn’t produce enough energy at all, so everything becomes too much for me and every task feels like stress,” the expert warns. Often, declining concentration also plays a role. Boredom leads to a feeling of powerlessness and is a form of stress.
But people don’t just feel bored at work. Ohlmeier also cites examples of so-called “leisure boredom” in conversation. “It’s Sunday, I could theoretically do anything, but I don’t feel like doing anything.” That happens, for example, because you no longer have the energy to do anything. The expert herself then finds it helpful to go for a walk, take a bath or listen to music. “But just not: cell phone out, more input, more, more, more.”
Because that keeps you from doing things that satisfy you in the long run. Playing on your phone just kills time, he said. “If I come home exhausted every night and only have enough energy to piddle around on my phone, and later look back on the week and realize that’s how I spent every evening, then that’s just a boring life.”
At the same time, it’s also true that “you have to risk boredom.” People who don’t want to play on their cell phones like to take on a lot. But a full schedule isn’t the answer either, if Ohlmeier’s comments are anything to go by. Keeping yourself busy prevents you from discovering levers for long-term change. If you plan everything fully, you are externally determined – leisure, on the other hand, is a self-determined time. “You have to risk boredom to be able to experience leisure,” the expert finds. “And to even perceive a break.”
Others try to combat boredom through consumption. According to the expert, this only succeeds if you have a relationship with the things you buy. She warns, “Accumulating things and not using them sometimes masks chronic boredom.” She also sees a connection to addictive behaviors: Boredom pushes people to change the situation, she says. “In that respect, it’s natural to reach for alcohol or food, according to the motto: It doesn’t matter what I do, the main thing is to get out of boredom.”
One way to deal with boredom is to give it meaning, the expert confirms. A boring job can feed a family, she says, and even playing with children can be worth enduring boredom.
BOREDOM HAS AN IMPORTANT FUNCTION
There is still no universally valid definition of boredom, says Ohlmeier. She likes the definition of psychologist and boredom researcher John Eastwood best: Boredom is the unpleasant experience of wanting to pursue a satisfying activity, but not being able to. The result is an “unpleasant emotional cocktail of fatigue, stress, restlessness, and the feeling that a moment is taking forever.”
But boredom is by no means useless, Ohlmeier emphasizes. Like any negative emotion, boredom has a function, he says. “Boredom makes us aware that our environment is not in tune with our abilities. It has the evolutionary function of making us explore and develop in the process. It motivates us to change our circumstances to better suit us.” However, if unpleasant feelings become a permanent condition, they no longer fulfill their function. So it depends on the type of boredom.