BMJ article 0203017

The Anti-boredom Campaign became public with an article in the BMJ in March 2017 followed by a large piece in The Times on p3.  Since then we have been invited to speak and advisory panel member, Jeremy Smith, has collaborated with the Empathy Museum.


Friday 9th June – Humanists Annual Conference in Cambridge.  Lizzie will talk about the Anti-boredom Campaign as part of a Professionals Conference.

Saturday 6th May – Oxford Medfest 2017 on ‘Eros & Thanatos: Matters of Life and Death’  in Oriel College sponsored by The Royal College of Psychiatrists.  Lizzie spoke about the Campaign as part of a discussions panel.

Friday 28th April – Celebrating Oliver Sacks in Queen’s College, University of Oxford. Lizzie was invited to speak as part of a special day celebrating Oliver Sacks and spoke about ‘Leonard’s Medicine for the Mind’.

In the words of Oliver Sacks, “animals get diseases, but only man falls radically into sickness”


Empathy Museum – journalist, blogger and Advisory Panel member of the Anti-boredom Campaign, Jeremy Smith, shared his experiences.  Jeremy shared his memories of an accident, being in hospital and suffering from boredom, and how writing helped bring him back to remembering who he was and seeing a future again.  Our thanks to the Empathy Museum with an opportunity at ‘Celebrating Oliver Sacks’ day,  for participants to listen to Jeremy’s story as part of the ‘A mile in my shoes’ project while trying out a wheelchair.


BBC Radio Wales –  7th March 2017 – Interview with Lizzie about the Anti-boredom Campaign (18.30-19.10; 21.30-26.50)

The Times – p3 on 7th March 2017 ‘Origami would beat hospital tedium’ – Science writer, Tom Whipple

The Times p3 070317

The British Medical Journal – Opinions 2nd March 2017 – ‘Pass me an anti-boredom pill doctor‘ – Dr Lizzie Burns

The Hippocratic Post – 29th October 2016 – ‘Medicine for the mind‘ – Dr Lizzie Burns

Other relevant articles…

Wales NHS – 22nd December 2016 – ‘Older people in community hospitals: Avoiding boredom and loneliness

BBC News – 4th December 2016 – ‘Bored to death’ pensioner Joe Bartley starts job

“‘I was bored to death sat here doing nothing not seeing anyone’. He described living alone as ‘solitary confinement'”

Evening Standard – 21st September 2016 ‘Why art critic Brian Sewell  has written his first children’s book at the age of 83

“I needed something to occupy my mind while I was enduring radiotherapy since illness is exceedingly boring”

“I need to write that’s my problem.  I don’t feel alive unless I’m writing something”

The Daily Telegraph – 16th January 2016 – ‘It was only a tiny garden, but it helped me smile again‘ – Jeremy Smith spent months in hospital after a devastating fall.  But it was the boredom that nearly did it for him.

“with nothing else to alleviate the monotony of hospital routine, the past is where I sought sanctuary”

“Boredom is, as many patients will attest, as close to torture as any Dark Ages tormentor could inflict.  The pain of the operations, the stripping away of dignity necessitated by weak non-existent bathroom functions and worry over pressure sores doesn’t come close to matching the horror of a mind able to feed only on itself.”

“My biggest challenge was motivating myself – everything felt like a chore”

“The tiny courtyard (a garden) quickly became my “other life”.  I stopped reliving the past and, buoyed by the sudden sense of calm sweeping over me, began to plan the future.”

“Focusing on the garden helped me to overcome my feelings of detachment, orientate my emotions and fight the terrifying lethargy brought on by mundane hospital life. It saved me.”

BMJ – 9th January 2016  – ‘Colouring books for adults on the ward‘ – Miriam Rigby, palliative care speciality doctor

“Patients tell us that colouring can make the hours go faster during the long days and nights of an inpatient stay.”

“It relaxes the mind and the body”

“While you are doing it, you concentrate only on that one task”

The Daily Telegraph magazine – 4th October 2014 –  ‘Can life in a nursing home be made uplifting and purposeful? ‘ – Atul Gawande

“the Three Plagues of nursing home existence: boredom, loneliness and helplessness.”

“To attack the Three Plagues they needed to bring in life. They would put green plants in every room.  They would tear up the lawn and create a vegetable and flower garden. And they would bring in animals.”

“Gradually people started to accept that filling Chase with life was everyone’s task. They did not do so because of any rational set of arguments or compromises but because of the effect on the residents soon became impossible to ignore: the residents began to wake up and come to life.”

“People who had been completely withdrawn and non-ambulatory started coming to the nurses’ station and saying ‘I’ll take the dog for a walk'”

“the number of prescriptions required per resident fell to half that of the control nursing home… The total drug costs fell to only 38 per cent of the comparison study.  Deaths fell 15 per cent.”

“I believe that the difference in death rates could be traced to the fundamental human need for a reason to life.”

“..what living things provide. In place of boredom, they offer spontaneity. In place of loneliness, they offer companionship.  In place of helplessness, they offer a chance to take care of another being.”

The Guardian – 9th January 2011 – ‘NHS hospitals are told to offer patients bingo sessions to beat boredom

“When a patient’s needs are not met it may affect their emotional state”

“When people are in hospital for a while they get used to lying in bed and looking at the walls of their room or the ward. Patients can become depressed with a lack of stimulation.”- Dr Kay Jenkins, clinical psychologist

“Depression among participants has fallen, patient satisfaction has risen and length of stay on the two wards has dropped by 25%.”

“A lot of it is about changing the culture in hospitals, getting people to realise that you don’t have to have pyjamas on and stay in bed all day. Your brain is a muscle like any other; you use it or lose it.”

BBC News – 15th June 2006 – ‘The trick of solving boredom on wards’ – Dr Daniel K Sokol

“When I first started on the ’rounds’, I was struck by the stultifying sense of boredom that pervaded the wards”

“for a few brief  minutes, I strive to pull off my greatest trick of all: to make them forget they are ill”

“I wonder why the NHS, ostensibly so patient-centered, does not do more to improve the patient experience in hospitals?”

“Perhaps it is a deliberate choice: if patients are bored and have a rotten time, they will want to leave at the earliest opportunity, thus saving money for the cash-strapped NHS.  On the other hand, changing the decor and encouraging magicians and other artists to volunteer may well increase patient and staff satisfaction and reduce the number of complaints”

Arts Council England – ‘Create: Perspectives on the value of art and culture‘ – Andrew Marr

“we all feel the difference between passive dullness and the energetic thrill of actually doing something”

“If art is essential to the human experience, does it not follow that it is likely to reinvigorate those who make it?  And if they are – well, to put it simply, feeling a bit better as a result – aren’t they more likely to want to continue to live and therefore to behave in a way that promotes rather than degrades physical health?

Many major hospitals thinks so. This doesn’t mean that everybody coming round from a major heart operation is forces to turn out freshly made pots, but it does mean that everyone who’d like to feel the world around them anew gets help, crayons and photography – and encouragement.  One of the worst aspects of the hospital experience is the enforced passivity.”

“Picking up a pencil becomes a way of fighting back – an assertion that you are an active, thinking presence.”