Gabrielle Walters has been on my list of blogs I check regularly since I started writing, and the other day she shared the lessons that embracing boredum has given to her during this pandemic. I relate strongly to her experience of constantly being consumed with things during the day, and usually LOVING not having a moment of “nothingness”. I thought I would share her post and weigh in on this from a personal and professional lens.
Between work, hanging out with friends, exercising, and checking social media, I often find myself constantly consumed with something. There’s rarely…What I Learned From Embracing Boredom
In the past months of quarantine, I too discovered the power in boredum and slowing down. Anyone that knows me knows that I am CONSTANTLY doing something, whether I am working, volunteering, seeing family and friends, exercising etc. Even as I was completing my masters’ degree, my roommate would be stressed that she was missing a homework assignment because on my spare time I would be furiously typing out an email to connect with various therapists and people in the community.
Before the disruption in our “normal” lives, being not busy was not an option for me. I had to fill every single moment of the day with something (whether it was a useful something or something that just filled time) before I could feel like I was “allowed” to rest. Throughout quarantine, I fought with myself to feel like it was okay to just watch television for an afternoon. I cried about not being “busy enough” and not being as productive as my other friends – even though they had jobs and I did not. We were in the midst of a pandemic, forced to stay home, and yet I couldn’t let myself embrace this time that I called boredum.
As an occupational therapist, I know that boredum can be detrimental to your health. A colleague of mine does research on the experience of boredum among the homeless community, with results showing negative results on mental wellbeing and contributing to substance use. But this is not the kind of boredum that the average individual complains about. The boredum that society makes out to seem like a terrible experience, is actually just downtime – just time that we don’t have anything specific to do. And anytime that we don’t have something on our schedule that society deems as productive, we almost feel guilty about relaxing. Or at least that’s what I’ve learned from embracing boredum. Now that I’ve realized I shame myself into not being able to enjoy quiet moments, I have realized all the amazing things that I can do with my time that don’t fall into the category of productive activities. I haven’t had a solid job since March due to COVID, yet as I came to realize how I’ve been stealing precious time from myself because I guilt myself for not being busy, I have felt like the most productive and happy version of myself. Yes, I am applying for jobs, and yes I will eventually be working full time again, but in the meantime I am busy in the best kind of ways.
Here are some things I’ve experienced during this time:
Changing the definition of productivity
Being productive doesn’t have to mean doing work and getting paid. As I explored with some friends and colleagues in my post about redefining productivity (read here), our definition of productivity that society has pushed on us involves contributing to something bigger than you, and often involves a transfer of money. In the past I needed to constantly be bettering myself even if I wasn’t getting paid for it, and even if it was more me scrolling Instagram and Facebook under the guise of being productive. After this time with endless amount of free time at home, I’ve realized that I can be more intentional with that time so that I can enjoy other activities. I have done so much painting, reading (for fun and not for self growth/education!), cooking, walking and just relaxing. I feel productive finishing a painting and going for a walk now, instead of having to learn something or do paid work. It is a blessing.
Take a walk/bike ride/roller blade without a specific place to go
Everyone is different, maybe you’re not into walking or being outdoors, but if that’s something that interests you, try going for an adventure without a specific end point! Don’t worry about leaving your phone at home, about unplugging or making it meditative – just go! I’ve found myself wandering for hours in some very cute neighbourhoods in my city by popping in a good podcast and heading out. If you feel like you need to disconnect and let your mind wander, or clarify some thoughts, turn off your phone and just walk. Regardless of what you have been taught to believe, the world will go on without you answering a phone call or text message for a couple hours (of course answer if you need to!) Whether you enjoy window shopping in the city or walking through nature, take some time to move your body and explore – you never know what you’ll discover. Just remember to bring water, don’t get stuck dehydrated like I have !
Try something new, you might be good at it!
As a science student, I always believed that I was good at logic and research, but not good at writing. With all this time off, all the walks I was going on, the podcasts and books I was consuming and the conversations I was having about stuff in the media, my brain was FULL and needed somewhere to express all the stuff inside. So after months (literally) of researching and debating on whether I was good enough, I started writing a blog. My first post was just a little bit about me, but the next post I shared, I had people messaging me saying they loved my post and that I should keep writing! I never would have tried writing a blog for fun before – and now I can’t wait to write more!
I don’t know what that means to you – it means something different for everyone. But learn to relax your body, your mind, your soul. I have learned to appreciate sitting outside and just being, to taking a nap when I am too anxious or feeling sluggish, to watching tv without trying to multitask, and to colouring/drawing just to have some quiet time and not to make a perfect masterpiece. Allow those moments that we see as being bored, be appreciated as just moments that are quiet, that are not filled with #bossbabe mentality where you have to hustle and work every waking moment. Take some deep breaths, allow yourself to rest or do something enjoyable without guilt of being unproductive.
Feel free to share your experiences from this pandemic, your feelings about boredum, or your favourite relaxation activities below in the comments. How have you been embracing “boredum” during this time?