What’s the problem with boredom?
It’s important to get bored at times to guide us to do something more meaningful. How many of us have left a job because it’s got boring?
In normal life we find ways to relieve boredom but for those who are trapped in a situation now for many of us in lock-down, and for those in hospitals and care homes this can be really challenging and many can get profoundly bored.
Boredom is a negative emotional state associated with a lack of energy, lack of focus, time slowing, frustration, lack of hope and is even correlated with higher mortality rates. The Anti-boredom Campaign aims to raise awareness and acknowledge that prolonged boredom is a suffering. We want to encourage research into the cost of boredom, together with ideas and resources to spark the imagination of those in isolation. In hospital, reports suggest over half of adults struggle with boredom in hospital, and for many this can be last experiences of life. By providing opportunities for combating boredom you can bring joy!
Now we are all having to deal with less variety and interaction, and loss of work where boredom can encourage us to take risks which can raise rates for transmission of COVID-19.
Interacting with the world…
We are born curious and wanting to interact with the world. Our lives are normally busy and full of variety. For those suddenly confined through illness, following the shock and upheaval in this situation you could find yourself sitting in bed, and waiting with time on your mind to worry about an uncertain future. Boredom urges us onto more meaningful activity but hospitals lack options for what to do. In these circumstances many find it hard to focus on reading and TV in hospital can be costly and uninspiring during the day especially. Despite smartphones many of us need more, and can still feel bored in hospital, and the same for us at home. As adults we are so very aware of our situation and particularly during times of uncertainty brings understandable worry. Wouldn’t it be a kindness to offer some ‘food for the mind’ to relieve boredom and anxiety, and find focus elsewhere? For those in hospital while care is excellent for the body, what about the mind?
Challenging boredom as a taboo for adults…
Children tell us when they are bored but as adults we are expected to be silent and get on with it. For children there are toys, colourful surroundings, schools, play specialists, parents and charities, and already have the ability to play. For adults in hospital options are limited. We may all need a helping hand to acknowledge boredom and find ways to overcome. It takes courage to admit boredom, and something as simple as a pencil and paper, and encouragement and inspiration to overcome. A seed of an idea or maybe a beautiful piece to colour-in can be enough to bring someone during difficult times on a ‘holiday for the mind‘.
We are currently seeking funding for the Anti-boredom Campaign. This new idea has been inspired by Lizzie’s long-term interest in engagement, creativity and the brain, as well as experience through projects in hospitals with adults, as well as with children and adults with dementia.
With great thanks to the following for funding ongoing projects which continue to inspire this work, and for the immense interest and care of so many people involved in these projects:
Viral Footprints – in collaboration with Dr Philippa Matthews funded by the Wellcome Trust. This project is supported by Ruth Charity from artlink within Oxford University Hospitals.
UCH Cancer Fund – Lizzie works once a week in UCH London with adults as a Creative Specialist within the support and information service in oncology and haematology.
More to come…
Ideas from the past
“boredom has probably been the biggest problem and enemy”
Articles on the Anti-boredom Campaign
- The Daily Telegraph – ‘Doctor’s Diary: Bored to Death‘ – Dr James Le Fanu
- The Times – ‘Origami would beat hospital tedium’ – Tom Whipple
- The British Medical Journal – ‘Pass me an anti-boredom pill doctor‘ – Dr Lizzie Burns
- The Hippocratic Post – ‘Medicine for the Mind‘ – Dr Lizzie Burns
Some other interesting links…
- BBC R4 – ‘Being Bored: the Importance of Doing Nothing‘ – Phill Jupitus
- The School of Life – ‘How to be Bored‘ – Eva Hoffman
- BBC R4 – ‘The Anatomy of Rest: Does the brain rest?‘ – Claudia Hammond
Look under News for more articles..