Source: Pexels by Andrea Piacquadio

Boredom has been a subject of debate for decades; it is frequently associated with feelings of exhaustion, depression, or apathy caused by a lack of challenging or meaningful work or stimulation.

It is a complicated mental state that is controlled by the brain hormone dopamine. Some people either create less dopamine or have brain receptors that are less sensitive to it, resulting in a lower threshold of boredom.

And, while boredom as a mental condition is not fatal, it is widely believed that people who are easily bored are more prone to engage in risky activities, be sexually promiscuous, and abuse drugs and alcohol. All of these factors will shorten people’s lives.

This article will reveal fascinating information about boredom and how it may affect the brain.

Bordem as a Historical Concept

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The word “boredom” first appeared in print in 1852, with the publication of Charles Dickens’ complicated (and occasionally boring) serial, Bleak House; as an emotional state or mental condition, it dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt.

For example, the Greeks used the term “Acedia,” which means “a state of listlessness or torpor, of not caring or being bothered with one’s place or status in the world.” Early Christian monks adopted the phrase to describe a spiritual condition of listlessness, and it took on a very Christian moral tone from there, for instance, “The desert fathers”, a group of Christian hermits who traveled to Egypt’s desert to lead a solitary life of prayer, are said to have been the first to theorise boredom in any serious way. This “noonday monster,” as they called it, was the most serious sin to them since, aside from being spiritual, feeling bored was essentially the only other thing they could do.

Researchers however, didn’t become interested in boredom until the early 20th century, when psychologist Joseph Ephriam Barmack saw how industrial employees handled the volume of repetitive tasks they had to accomplish inside the factory — And you guessed it, stimulants was the answer. 

Although researchers found interest in this topic, boredom rose to the pinnacle of style throughout the 20th century (during and after the great wars): being bored was a means to stand out from the crowd. Being bored demonstrated that you at least didn’t have to worry about life’s fundamental issues and that hedonism had nothing to hide from you. In other words, being bored required a lot of time, money, and effort. 

People Would Rather Experience Negative Stimulation Over Bordem

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In 2014 – at the University of Virginia – a group of researchers collected a group of volunteers composed of 55 undergraduates (31 females, 24 males) aged between 18–25 years old, and asked them to deliberately interact in an empty room for 15 minutes and were also given the option of experiencing external negative stimulation via an electric shock as some sort of entertainment 

The hypotheses was that people will not enjoy entertaining themselves with their own thoughts in the absence of external stimulation and that they will voluntairly choose negative external stimulation over the boredom of entertaining themselves with their own thoughts. 

It was later observed that 25% of female participants and 67% of male participants decided to shock themselves for entertainment, meaning that men are more likely than women to seek external stimulation. When asked about their experience, the participants reported that they did not enjoy engaging in mental reverie and claimed that it was “difficult” and “boring”, and that the electric shock was unpleasant and that they would pay to avoid experiencing it again.

The researchers later concluded that It could be particularly challenging to rely only on thinking in the absence of external stimuli. Numerous subjects preferred negative stimulus to no outside stimulation.

Boredom as a Form of Government Punishment

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It is widely believed that boredom as a form of punishment is sensible and non-violent compared to other forms of punishment such as torture. For instance, pop culture will have you believe that parents frequently send their misbehaving their children to their rooms and deprive them of their phones. The same thing could be said about confinement.

Tammie Gregg, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project says:

 “Solitary confinement can serve many goals, from punishment to protection. And it is called many things — protective custody, restrictive or secure housing, administrative or disciplinary segregation, or simply “the Hole.”
The conditions are essentially the same: It’s the extreme deprivation of any meaningful social contact,”

Extreme boredom can be brought on by jail or prison conditions, but there are also ways to pass the time, mostly via social engagement and story-telling. Solitary confinement, however, presents a unique set of problems. According to a research by Human Rights Watch and scholars from the University of Colorado, solitary confinement accounts for more than half of all prison suicides. Inmates in solitary confinement self-harm 10 times more frequently than other offenders, according to research by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This is mostly attributed to the absence of entertainment that would keep the prisoners entertained and prevent them from turning to outside stimulus.
This of course, raises the question of whether we need to review our confinement practices.

Boring Job? Sue Your Boss!


Yes! Apparently you can actually do that.

According to an article published in The Guardian, Frenchman Frédéric Desnard sued his boss for his exteremely boring job at a perfume company. 

“I was ashamed of being paid for doing nothing,” 

he said.

He claimed to have been stripped of his initial responsibilities and reduced to performing chores that had nothing to do with his employment, according to Agence France-Presse. He claims that this caused him to feel “destroyed” and “serious depression.”


Like so many characteristics of the brain, boredom is still a mystery. Better techniques for measuring boredom would be one step toward resolving it. And, although there are many things that people may do with their phones today to quickly divert them, most of the time people get bored of them.

Sadly, we still do not fully understand this feeling, but given the amount of research and effort being poured into it, it appears that we will be able to do so very soon.

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