How many times have you listened to a completely dull university or college lecture? How often do you have to communicate with people who were not interesting to you? Do you have to do something that makes you fall asleep any time you think of it? If yes, then you might think you know everything about boredom, as this is the feeling you experience in the cases similar to those mentioned above. But what if you were told that boredom is not that simple and dull as it seems at the first glance? Boredom is a curious emotion, which can manifest itself in multiple ways, and affects a person either in a constructive way, or can be devastating when completing activities.
Though everybody thinks they know what boredom is, giving a definition of it can be a challenging task. Russian classic writer Leo Tolstoy called boredom “a desire for desires,” which is rather close but not scientific. For a more precise definition, we can refer to the research led by York University professor John Eastwood, who defined boredom as “an aversive state of wanting, but being unable to engage in satisfying activity” (Health24). According to his study, there are three basic components of this feeling, and all of them are related to attention. To feel bored, you must experience difficulties in paying attention to internal (your feelings, thoughts) or external information; if you are aware of your inability to focus, and blame the environment for this—claiming, for instance, that your work is boring, or that a person you talk to is dull—then boredom is guaranteed.
Boredom occurs when you have to perform monotonous or repeated actions; after a while, you usually turn on your inner “auto-pilot,” which frees your mind from contemplation, thinking, and other mental activities. This is why sportsmen, for example, never feel bored while performing their activities—they are consumed by their tasks, focused entirely on what they do every single moment. They do not have a choice; otherwise, they will receive trauma or even die. Or, can you imagine a soldier who would feel bored during gunfire? Or a businessmen who would feel bored while persuading his potential partners to make an agreement with his company?
Surprisingly, boredom can be diverse. Research conducted by Thomas Goetz of the University of Konstanz, and the Thurgau University of Teacher Education in Konstanz, proved that people can feel different types of boredom. In his study, Goetz examined students who often experienced the feeling of boredom; in result, Goetz distinguished five types of boredom: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic (National Geographic).
Indifferent boredom is what Goetz also called “a pleasant form” of boredom; the brightest example of it would be relaxing on a couch watching a not very interesting baseball game. Calibrating boredom means having your mind opened to new ideas, but without any motivation to implement them; searching boredom, on the contrary, makes a person highly motivated to find a more exciting activity than the one they are involved in the current moment. Reactant boredom rises within you when you cannot change the circumstances causing it—be it a lecture or a dull task at work. Finally, apathetic boredom, which is characterized by the absence of motivation and new ideas, is rather close to depression, and may have far more negative consequences than other types.
As for the ways of coping with boredom, it is rather transparent. Finding new interests and hobbies, physical activities, and extreme sports, as well as physical exercise and mindfulness are still considered some of the most effective means of reducing boredom (HowStuffWorks).
The latest research shows that boredom is to a significant extent connected to attention; while being defined as a state of wanting, it is also being unable to engage in a satisfying activity. Boredom is considered to have three conditions of development: an inability to focus, being aware of this inability, and blaming the environment on it. At the same time, researchers distinguish five types of boredom, which can have either constructive or negative effects on an individual: indifferent, calibrating, searching, reactant, and apathetic. The latter is close to depression, and is a rather dangerous phenomenon.
“The Root Cause of Boredom.” Health24. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://www.health24.com/Mental-Health/News/The-root-cause-of-boredom-20130210>.
Andreassi, Katia. “The Most Boring Article You’ll Read Today.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 21 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/11/131121-boredom-personality-psychology-students-science/?utm_source=Facebook>.
“Can You Die of Boredom?” HowStuffWorks. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2013. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/bored-to-death1.htm>.
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