Video: How to be bored

We're too busy to experience our experience.

How to be bored

7 years ago
Duration 1:31
How to be bored

When was the last time you let yourself be bored?

Not in a "the repeat of this home renovation TV show is really boooorrrring" way, but in an "I'm just going to sit here and stare out the window" way?

Sometimes our lives are so busy, it feels like there's no space for daydreaming, or for the kind of thinking that's not focused on a task.

It's not just the demands of jobs, chores, and socializing that crowd up our lives.

It's the way many of us - myself included - fill up our time with stimulation: window shopping, streaming the latest 'must-see' tv, trawling our Instagram feed.

Even standing at a stop light is an opportunity to pull out the phone and Fill. Up. The. Empty. Space.

We begin to lose our ability to experience our experience

In her new book, with the tongue-in-cheek title, How to be Bored, Eva Hoffman argues that our constant level of activity has real consequences.

"We can become very disoriented as we move from one activity to another. We become emotionally depleted, paradoxically. We begin to experience not more but less," she argues.

"We begin to lose our ability to savour experience, to make sense of it, to experience our experience."

The key to combating that disorientation is downtime. Leisure.

"We need time for reflection, for introspection, for the cultivation of self-knowledge," she says.

Without that time, "we can lose sight of what our preferences are, what our desires are, but also what our values are." 

The time we need for this self-knowledge is different from our everyday scheduled time, or the quick hits of our digital lives.

"It is a time for musing...for dipping into our memories, for connecting our memories to our present situation."

Of course, there are actual demands on our time, particularly, say, if you're a single parent, or working double shifts. And Hoffman acknowledges the broader social context that influences us.

"Our cities are open 24/7. They're full of diversions... so we're always doing something," but she argues that we can make conscious decisions to protect time for our interior lives.

"We need to, in a sense, habituate ourselves to this. We also, I think need to tell ourselves that these intervals of leisure are not the same as slothfulness or laziness... they're not transgressions against the work ethic."

Author Eva Hoffman says our obsessive busyness is damaging our emotional health.