There is nothing to do.
It’s too hot outside.
There’s nothing to watch on TV.
The days seem to drag on forever.
Maybe it’s because of these lazy days of summer that the month of July was designated as National Anti-Boredom Month. Established nearly 40 years ago, the goal of National Anti-Boredom Month is to encourage people to identify what makes them bored and to try to find ways to combat boredom.
“Being simply present with ourselves is actually a very good thing,” says Swickert.
Smart phones, social media and other technologies, says Swickert, have caused people not to be present with themselves anymore. Instead of standing in line at the grocery store alone in your thoughts, people tend to automatically whip out their smartphone and start scrolling.
“This could be an opportunity to strike up a conversation,” she says. “But that is not what we do anymore. Not only does this cut us off from dwelling within ourselves, but it also cuts us out of potential social interaction with other people.”
Swickert says a lot of good can happen when you’re bored.
“To be present and not being actively engaged allows for some interesting insights to perk up from the subconscious mind,” she says. “But if we are always engaged in activities, there is really no opportunity for that to happen and that could potentially stifle our creativity.”
For many people, time alone quickly changes into time spent swiping, clicking and binging. According to the market-research group Nielsen, American adults spend more than 11 hours per day watching, reading, listening to or simply interacting with media. People check email an average of 74 times a day and switch tasks on their computer or smartphone 566 times a day.
Not to bore you, but there is even a phobia for that: Thaasophobia is the fear of sitting still, of being idle, of being bored.
It seems that many people are going to great lengths to avoid boredom. But Swickert says rather than avoid boredom, we should think about embracing it.
“The opportunity to be grateful, to notice what you have in your life: there is no opportunity to do that if we are constantly finding something to capture our attention,” she says.
Don’t worry, Swickert isn’t advocating that you need to dump your smartphone forever, but she thinks that it would be a good idea to give it a break every once in a while and experience a few moments of quiet boredom.
“It is important for some downtime and allowing the mind not to be occupied 24/7,” she says. “There is something to be said about turning the devices off, leaving them behind and seeing what it is like to be present with ourselves and the people we care about.”