What do you do? AND What would you like to do?
Ok… For just a moment humor me and explore a chain of experiences you may find yourself in the middle of... Read through the following slowly and intentionally, try to put yourself in each situation, which I conclude with a question, what would you do?
You’ve arrived at the store and only need a couple of things, milk, that random craving for coffee ice cream and the addiction to that carbonated water (yes, the overpriced one that your pissed off you didn’t think of inventing or making or trademarking.) With the small amount of items you see the line 4 deep and then move to the “self-checkout “ and see only one machine open… Another line, this time 2 people. … What do you do?
You’ve arrived at your child or grandchild’s school to pick them up and you’re a little early. You see you have 8 minutes until the bell rings and notice the sun shining and you notice the phantom vibrations in your pocket. Do you “snap”, sit quietly, or dive into your work emails? What do you do?
It’s time for your dentist appointment and you arrive for the appointment. Upon arrival, you sign in, fill out all the paperwork you swore you did last time and think about moving to Canada before the attendant at the desk directs you to have a seat. You notice everyone staring at his or her screen and the magazines are from 2018 pre Covid-19. What do you do?
I am not a mind reader and it’s pretty unlikely I can assume anything that you may have done. However, you may have done like many of the other people living in our developed world who owns a mobile device. You would have whipped it out without thinking and zoned out to the latest something that traditionally amounts to anything that can take us away from being present or dare I say bored.
Intentional Public Service Digression otherwise know as an IPSD - Everyone is doing this I am not saying I am above this nor am I taking this time to pass judgment. However, over 7 months ago I let go of my smartphone, removed all social media and apps and learned a huge lesson. Boredom is ok!!!
We live in an irritated space or shifting habits involving tormenting substance OR living with the S.H.I.T.S . What I mean by this term is that, as life slows down, we seem to have a physical and trained response to approaching quiet, which thrusts us toward seeking the next tormenting substance or thing… Be it doom scrolling, facesnaping or instatweeting our day and nights away. And not being ok with quietude or Boredom.
This idea may seem rather far from rare (insert panoramic picture of droves of human zombie face planting due to being lost in their phones).
My definition of boredom: A disagreeable experience of wanting to absorb in nourishing activity but unable to fulfill that craving, which suggests that, when you experience boredom, we are uncoupling from internal thoughts and feelings (whether by choice or unintentionally) while simultaneously failing to find interest in outside, external happenings. Essentially, bored means that the S.H.I.T.S around us is unexciting, tedious, or straight up not interesting.
My fear is that boredom is a sign that either: One, we’re over simulated and consuming way too much and we need some time away from our digital devices. And secondly, we’re not challenged enough, and it’s time for some variety to re-engage our bodies, minds and spirits in more of an enjoyable, fulfilling manner.
So what could you do? The Invitations…
The First Invitation: Take 3 minutes.
Give me a moment, technically 3 minutes. I want you to take 3 minutes to evaluate your relationship to boredom.
1. Put your phone and computer away; shut the television and music off.
2. Simply sit comfortably in a chair or lay down with your eyes open, in silence; you don’t need to close your eyes. For this exercise I want you to fully feel, see, witness all that comes into your consciousness and thought
*Stop reading this post right now. Take just 3 minutes to feel into this experience. Then come back to the post and reflect with the questions below.
· What happened in the first 15 seconds?
· How did you start to react after 45 seconds? Did you notice any intrusive thoughts?
· Did you start to distract yourself with stretching or thinking about what you “should” be doing?
· Were there any emotions that came up? For example, anxiety, or depression?
· What happened at between 1 minute and 3 minutes?
I want to offer this exercise to bring awareness to the concept of irritated space we live in and the latent anxiety and stress when there is quiet, down time.
Did you know that people would rather feel agony or pain than boredom?
What is the terrifying concept of boredom that so many of us would soon harm ourselves rather than experience boredom?
Invitation 2: Intentional transition
For the next day or two I would like to encourage you to introduce an intentional transition between all you do. I am defining intentional transition as a mindful, meaningful shift; for example, before moving from reading this blog to your next activity take a moment to breathe and sit quietly for an intentional 5 seconds.
Other ideas to practice intentional transition
· Before you get out of your car, breathe and sit quietly for an intentional 5 seconds.
· After you wake up, don’t just jump out of bed or grab your phone to check your messages. Take 5 seconds to intentional breathing.
· Shifting from work to home. Treat yourself to an extra 2-3 minutes of intentionally transitioning. Just sit at your desk and do nothing before you leave work or sit in your car and do nothing before you walk into your home.
My hope is that you turn towards boredom. Specifically, trusting that boredom can stir creativity, confidence, trusting oneself and ultimately contentment within self. Moreover, forcing us to grapple with the emptiness when it comes to slower moments.
Being alone with our feelings, and beliefs is tough and requires bravery; it requires us to face ourselves and accept them for what they are, allowing them to pass through us. I ultimately invite you to allow in boredom.
If you are struggling to overcome a digital addiction taking an intentional transition might be just the start you need.
Dr. Ryan Westrum is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical psychologist that specialize with digital addiction and other forms of addiction, like pornography addiction. Please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to healingsoulsllc.com to schedule a therapy session.