54) A New Take on an Old "Problem"
If you have been attempting to avoid boredom like I have pretty much been doing my entire life, you don’t want to miss this blog post. I am going to first define what boredom actually is, and then I will argue my case why it really is not a problem to be solved. I will also explain why we should actually embrace boredom and how doing that can be beneficial to us. I am going to present the information around four bullet points.
· Boredom and Why it is Not a Problem
· Benefits of Processing Uncomfortable Emotions
· Accessing Our Inner GPS to Find Our True Purpose
· Bringing It All Together
Boredom is Not a Problem
Clearly boredom can be defined in a variety of ways and can be perceived differently by every human. When I looked it up for a previous blog post, I came across a million definitions of how it can be perceived. My take on it is that it is a little more complex than we have been led to believe and more than just feeling like we have nothing to do. As I write this, it brings to mind childhood memories of complaining about being bored and my parents telling me they could find something for me to do! We have been conditioned to believe that boredom is a problem that can be solved by distractions. But before we get into that, let’s define boredom. Since there is not one universally accepted definition, we will use Annie Grace’s definition for the purpose of this post: "boredom is an uncomfortable state of being, where I simply don’t know what to do with myself." I like this one because it is general, and I think we can all relate to it.
Okay, let me begin by suggesting that boredom is not a problem at all. I say this as a person who is not totally sold on this concept and currently working on making this my new mindset. (FYI: When we are trying to teach somebody else something, it is something that we most likely need to be learning or reinforcing to ourselves too!) I mean I have been relying on social media, shopping, working, alcohol, and food to help me avoid boredom for the majority of my life, so it is not that easy to reprogram my subconscious just like that. I intellectually know that there are many gifts in boredom, but my brain is holding tight to the idea that it is problematic to experience this emotion. The reason for that is my brain has been rewarded over and over again with external hits of dopamine when I permit it to avoid being bored. Why the heck would it want to change? Brains like repetition and pleasure to make them feel safe and comfy.
While the brain might not see the value of permitting boredom and wants to make that emotion a problem, our higher selves understand that habitual patterns just reinforce our desire for external rewards to make us feel better. Translated, that could look like a higher number on the scale, lower number in our bank account, and/ or health issues related to the habit. We overlook that we have brains that are equipped to help us deal with all of our needs in life, including how to manage boredom. If we can just get still, not make it a problem, and not get distracted, our brain can do its job. When we stop avoiding boredom, our brains knock down all the barriers we have put up to rationalize our habits and all those emotions we have been squashing down for years can come to the surface. This is called healing. Now it does not always feel great at first, but it is crucial that we reprogram the subconscious and the only way to do that is by digging up the stored emotions, feeling them, and then releasing them. Boredom permits us to do that. So when we look at it that way, boredom is a solution way more than it is a problem.
Benefits of Processing Uncomfortable Emotions
Learning to process uncomfortable emotions, including urges, is probably the single most important skill we can acquire as humans with a brain. Think about it. Every single action we want to take in life or try to avoid, is based on the feeling associated with it. If we can learn how to permit uncomfortable emotions to be there, not respond to them, and not resist them, or make them a problem, we would not avoid challenges because of the way they might make us feel.
For example, I decided a couple years ago to take off a few pounds by doing intermittent fasting (IF). This means I have a window of time where I eat and drink, and then I fast for a long period of time (this includes sleep time). For me, that means I stop eating by 8 pm at the latest, and do not eat again until 10 am the next morning. It also means no snacking, minimal flour and sugar, and eating two reasonably sized meals. This means there is a lot of time without distractions and many opportunities to experience urges. Not responding to the urges can create the emotion of what I might perceive to be boredom; no external rewards or dopamine hits for a minimum of a 14-hour period every day, Looking back, mornings were the worst by far when I first changed the way I was eating,
Here is why…when I first started doing IF, I had to give up these delicious cookies that I had every single morning with my coffee for years! Aussie Bites from Costco…OMG I loved those things. It was soooooooo painful to give those up and the urge to have one with my coffee was intense. I did not realize it at the time, but I was resisting the urge instead of letting it be there, which made the cravings even worse. The point is, if I am willing to feel anything and not make it a problem, I can do the hard things and not make them a big deal. If I just sit with the urge for the Aussie Bite, breathe into it, and then wait for it to dissipate, it eventually does. Changing the way I thought about them and where I wanted to focus my thoughts, led to me no longer desiring them. I decided to focus on liking the way I felt and looked as a result of IF, instead of missing the superficial pleasure of the cookie. I lost the weight and my clothes fit better because I was willing to feel uncomfortable feelings and experience boredom and not give into the urges.
If on the other hand, I choose to give in to the desire to eat the cookie because it permitted me to avoid an uncomfortable emotion, I would have intensified the desire and made it harder to eliminate. I would also continue to eat the cookies, avoid IF, and most likely gain weight and my clothes would continue to be snug and uncomfortable. The result of that would rob me of my personal power, intensify the dependency for external rewards, and keep me from achieving or even attempting to achieve a challenging goal again. My subconscious would be totally in charge and that part of me that wanted to continue the habit would win.
My point here is that if we can embrace boredom and not make it a big deal, we can put up with all the emotions that come with trying to make changes and to evolve into the next best version of ourselves. This is a much better option than giving into our subconscious programming and continuing to participate in mindless habits that do not serve us. When we come to rely on food, beverage, shopping, gambling, or whatever for superficial pleasures and fun, our immediate reactions is going to be that we feel bored when we take them away. It is not going to feel good at first and that’s okay. We have to understand that boredom is our gateway to creating new relationships with old habits. We must be willing to experience it and not make it a problem if we want to grow, evolve, and reprogram our subconscious.
Accessing our Inner