zenhabits : breathe

6 Effective Ways to Combat Boredom

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Todd Goldfarb of the We The Change blog.

Recently I published an article on my site which posed the following question: WHY is the vast majority of content which becomes “popular” on social networking platforms (like Digg, Stumble and Propeller) inherently negative, fear-inducing and purpose-less in nature?

The article certainly stimulated some conversation, and in my opinion a major reason so much senseless content gets popular boils down to one thing: boredom. Why else would 4,000+ Digg users vote positively for a comparison between Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s wardrobes?

And this reality is unfortunate because there is SO much positive content circling this great “web of interconnectedness”—information that can generate transcending change in the world—yet most of it gets buried beneath nonsense.

From the 10,000 foot level, boredom not only dominates our online culture but also acts as a silent black hole among humanity draining excitement and motivation from our lives. With this said, here are 6 excellent practices for effectively dealing with boredom when it comes up in your life:

1. Recognize it and sit with it. The first thing you need to do when boredom surfaces is to become aware of it. How often do your actions mindlessly drift in the direction of pointless and non-productive activity (like reading and promoting the Paris Hilton/Nicole Richie article)? Instead of contributing to the problem, become part of the solution and sit in silence with your boredom. Instead of taking negligent action, take NO action. Eventually you will start acting again, but with greater consciousness…and that is a good thing!

2. Surround yourself with “Do-ers”. Boredom is addictive, and when we surround ourselves with people who are continuously ensconced in unconscious (boring) activity we tend to get pulled in. Recognize who you hang out with, and who you are connecting with via your online activities. Again, there are so many people out there doing meaningful, beneficial work, people who are part of the “solution”, and it can become just as addictive to surround yourself with people like this.

3. Alternate between reading and writing. A lot of people read when they are bored. Although this is certainly effective, it can also become a compulsive remedy from escaping the real world. Creating the habit of alternating between reading and writing is an even more effective means for transmuting your boredom. Start keeping a journal and write about your experiences, or be ultra-creative and start writing some fiction. It does not really matter, the point is that the synergistic actions of reading and writing generate the yin and yang—the pull and push—and get the brain juices flowing in a more ”excited” manner.

4. Be irrational. A main reason why boredom has become so pervasive in our culture is that people have become too “rational”. So much planning, thinking, contemplating, etc…becomes, well, boring. Make it a goal to act irrationally at least once a week. So long as you are not hurting others with your irrational actions, this exercise can transform your life by leaps and bounds. Remember, boredom is the black hole for excitement and takes away that feeling of “being alive”. Each moment realize that you have the ability to transform boredom into exhilaration– acting irrationally is a wonderful step in the right direction.

5. Connect with an old friend. There is nothing more inspiring then hearing news of an old friend that you have not talked to in some time. The “catching up” conversation is usually lengthy, gets the mind working in a different manner, and rarely boring. This exercise also helps you remember that there exists a very sacred connection between all human beings…something that is so easily forgotten amid times of boredom. Additionally, you will almost assuredly attain a few nuggets of motivation during this conversation…and may find that simply being there with someone else can be a transcending experience.

6. Get Out and Play. I had to end with this one, as there is absolutely nothing boring about the every day occurrences that transpire in nature. Feeling bored? Go outside and observe a bird in a tree, or pick up a handful of grass and spend a few moments looking at the earth in your hands. How can we possible be bored when there is so much natural beauty around us? We talk a lot about nature, and have an intellectual understanding of it, but I think most of us still take it for granted. Yes, the internet can be very exciting…but it will never replace the experience of the planet that exists all around us, all the time.

OK, that’s it for this piece…I hope you enjoyed it. Now I am off to Central Park (in New York) so I can take my own advice. :)

For more from Todd Goldfarb, check out his blog, We The Change (or subscribe).



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