How to ‘solve’ boredom?

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From ‘Viral Footprints‘ funded by the Wellcome Trust – inspiring people in hospital with the surprising beauty of viruses to spark conversation, thought and making

Is boredom a problem? If you could take a pill to cure boredom – would you take it?

Normally boredom is healthy and helps guide us, maybe unaware – to get up, do something else, change job or find something more interesting to do. We are all curious creatures wanting to interact with the world, and find things,  people and ideas that engage and inspire us. We sink into boredom when we’re somewhere we don’t want to be and constrained so we can’t make changes, and this becomes unhealthy.  The setting could be school, or hospital when you may find yourself no longer surrounded with the things you normally do or being able to get up.

Within a hospital children’s wards are rightly colourful, and playful. There are schools, activity coordinators, charities, colourful images, parents and toys. A child can play with anything and will soon speak up when bored.

But what about for adults in hospital?   How many people speak up about boredom? Wards lack the colour given to children, and there are a lack of activities, people and objects to interact with. TV is usually privatised and expensive, while few can focus on reading books. What about the mind?

What can be done to help?  Over a decade ago there was research into whether pills (an anti-depressant) could help with boredom in hospitals.  It did not.  We need imagination, thought and discussion as to what could make a difference.

It’s unlikely a ‘toolbox’ or single approach to tackling boredom is possible, as it ultimately comes from constraint, and we all like different things. But by recognising boredom and encouraging discussion and thought as to what can help this at least gets everyone thinking.  Boredom comes from a lack of variety.  How can we bring surprise, interest and inspiration to calm and inspire the mind? What would have helped you if you’ve had time in hospital?  There needs to be a wide variety of thoughts and ideas how to turn difficult times into opportunities for some positive and uplifting moments to help the mind in hospital.

All thoughts very welcome!

Spontaneous words capture the boredom in hospital, and joy brought by beautiful images from science and making with a current project ‘Viral Footprints’…

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“kept me entertained”

“had felt bored – learnt something new about viruses”

“felt engaged and cheerful”

“felt a bit worried before”

“anything that occupies the mind to stimulate positive thinking and feeling”

“felt intrigued and learnt something new”

“young men get bored”

“if not happy and spontaneous – not healing”

“no one talks anymore – it’s sad”

“go in hospital and we get lazy – naturally lazy and otherwise we sit there and do nothing”

“feel down if bored”

“it is boredom – a lot of people just sit there – this would be good in the wards”

“gets people together and makes patients talk – everyone just get on phone”

“cheered us up – would otherwise be sleeping”

“there’s a beauty in everything – it’s everywhere, you have to look for it”

“really gets to you – couldn’t believe it – I think it’s extraordinary” (looking at images of viruses)


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