by Dr. Thor Bergersen
If Superman had ADHD, boredom would be his kryptonite. On the flip side, interest would make him fly. As I’m prone to do, I looked up synonyms for boredom, which in itself is a boring word. I found the following: tedium, monotony, dullness, ennui and world-weariness. All of these terms evoke a strong sense that they should be avoided.
When we lack interest, a sense of emptiness envelopes us, leaving us directionless and adrift. We are drawn to handheld devices, web surfing, video games and other relatively mindless pursuits to occupy our minds, to feed the voracious beast that is our quest for constant stimulation. For people with ADHD, boredom is more than just a bummer. It often results in negative self analysis-paralysis, an inability to decide what to do next, even if there are plenty of things to be done. This state, if occupied too long, can result in depression. Perhaps that’s why people with ADHD have an 80% chance of experiencing a depressive episode at some point in their lives, well above the 20% for the population at large.
The problem is, life is boring sometimes. Ask any student, worker, commuter or person waiting in line. Temporary limbo, that state in which we find ourselves alone with our thoughts or lack thereof, afflicts every one of us practically every day. How to cope with tedium is a skill, and must be practiced. Sometimes imagination fills the void with fantasy or humor. Communication with the person next to you, texting, emailing or, failing that, actually talking on the phone with someone may also do the trick. Engaging in some productive activity, like getting work done, writing creatively, or exercising will make you feel even better.
In my opinion, however, the best antidote to boredom is not intuitive. In fact, our society does not seem to condone it. Rather, we tend to view those practicing it as somewhat strange, which is too bad, because it is completely natural. It is called - drum roll please - being in the moment. That’s it, just being. Observe your surroundings. Appreciate that which is. Be content to exist in the here and now. Let your thoughts wander. Observe how you feel about just being.
According to the Buddha, “Desire is the cause of all suffering.” When you feel bored, you are dissatisfied with your situation. You desire a different state of mind, one in which you are stimulated by something, anything. In fact, the thought “I’m bored” implies powerlessness. It assumes passivity, like you are the victim of circumstances beyond your control. It says, “I am unhappy with my current situation, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” The state of boredom is therefore irrational, as there is always something to be done about it.
Interest is the antidote to boredom. Accept, observe, or move on. That’s what Superman would have done, I don’t think he was ever bored for long.