I’m Bored

   Written by on July 6, 2017 at 9:35 am
Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

Cheryl Gowin and Dennis Gowin.  Call us at our counseling practice with your feedback, comments, issues, or questions at 434-808-2637.

How many times have you heard “I’m bored” this summer?  Think back to when you were a kid, what level of effort did your parents put into making sure you had things to do all summer?  What level of defined activities do you think you have to program for your children?  Do your plans for your kids include several summer Bible schools, summer camp, dance program, baseball camp, or football camp?  Is your goal to make sure your kids never say the words I’m bored?

What defines boredom?  Psychology Today defines boredom as a state with lack of stimulation resulting in unpleasant feelings.  The next question is: is boredom bad?  What do the “experts” say?

“Your role as a parent is to prepare children to take their place in society.  Being an adult means occupying yourself and filling up your leisure time in a way that will make you happy,” says child psychologist Lyn Fry.  “If parents spend all their time filling up their child’s spare time, then the child never learns to do this for themselves.”

Dr. Teresa Belton interviewed a group of authors, artists, and scientists as a means of exploring the effects of boredom.  Dr. Belton found that the lack of things to do spurred these people to try activities they would not have experienced, without boredom spurring them to new activities.  One author credited boredom as her impetus to write.  The author described how she kept a diary from a young age, filling it with observations, short stories, and poems.  The author attributed these early beginnings to becoming a writer late in life.  Grayson Perry, an English artist, also voiced the positive effect of boredom: “As I get older, I appreciate reflection and boredom.  Boredom is a very creative state.”  Dr. Belton interviewed neuroscientist Dr. Susan Greenfield.  Dr. Greenfield recalled a childhood happily spent entertaining herself by drawing and going to the library.  She recommends, “For the sake of creativity, we need to slow down and stay offline from time to time.”

The idea that boredom may be helpful is not a new concept.  In 1993, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips wrote that the capacity to be bored is a childhood developmental achievement.  Phillips points out, “It is one of the most oppressive demands of adults that the child should be interested, rather than take time to find what interests him.  Boredom is integral to the process of taking one’s time.  Boredom is a chance to reflect on life, not just rush through life.”

Let’s go all the way back to the 1930s.  Long before the internet, cable TV, and iPads, Bertrand Russell expressed the same theory.  In his book, ‘The Conquest of Happiness,’ he spends an entire chapter on the value and potential benefits of boredom.  He presents the idea that imagination and capacity to cope with boredom must be learnt as a child.  “A child develops best when, like a young plant, he is left undisturbed in the same soil.  Too much travel, too much variety of impressions, are not good for the young, and cause them as they grow up to become incapable of enduring fruitful monotony.”

Have you heard Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Be Still and Know”?  From his lyrics, one gets the feeling that he agrees that being still is very beneficial.  Be still and know that He is God.  Be still and know that He is holy.  Be still Oh restless heart of mine.  Bow before the Prince of Peace.  Let the noise and clamor cease.

This summer, as your kids whine they are bored, remember Dr. Fry’s advice.  “There’s no problem with being bored.  It’s not a sin, is it?  I think children need to learn how to be bored in order to motivate themselves to get things done.  Being bored is a way to make children self-reliant.”  You can also try my grandmother’s solution.  When I complained about being bored, she would look at me in her loving, sweet way and say oh so compassionately, “Oh, that is too bad, do you want me to find a chore for you to do?”

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10

About Cheryl & Dennis Gowin

Cheryl Gowin, Counselor and Dennis Gowin, Director of Discovery Counseling Center. Contact us with your feedback, comments, issues or questions at 434-808-2426 or dgowin@discoverycounseling.org.

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