By Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich
Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich, author of seven books, has provided exciting 3-dimensional social emotional learning for 45 years.
Janai, the pandemic brought a surge of boredom for many. Please share your thoughts on the role of boredom, how it can be an advantage or disadvantage for children and adults in today’s climate. When is being bored ok?
Thank you Shields for the opportunity to address this very interesting dynamic that influences our actions and growth or lack thereof.
Ninth grade Biology Class in 1964 was the most boring class EVER! The teacher would droned on in a monotone voice. One day when we were directed to stare constantly into a microscope at dead germs, I was bored to tears. I absolutely HAD to do something. But what? We were mandated to keep staring at the little dead guys under the microscope while the teacher droned.
Perhaps the boredom snapped me into a new stream of consciousness out of desperation. I had never thought of changing something inside me in order to change something outside of me. But that day boredom was my catalyst to do just that.
I found myself wiggling my eyes in such a way that whatever I looked at appeared to be shaking and dancing. OH MY GOSH! All those little dead germs were dancing their little dead buns off! The more I wiggled my eyes, the faster they danced. I started smiling and had to hold back laughter. Now class was fun. I had no idea what the teacher was saying but now I was entertained, learning something and changing a boring situation into a fun one. I actually did not want to stop using the microscope!
As the years passed, other boring situations led me to discover I could wiggle my eyes, raise one eyebrow up and down, wiggle my nostrils and make a rabbit mouth all at the same time! It is probably nothing to brag about except it certainly entertains young children – and an occasional adult with a sense of humor! Thank you, Boredom!
When is boredom not ok?
A situation comes to mind from misdirected anger resulting in harm. I was about 8 years old and my brother was 7. We had a deal. He was to be my baby and ride in my baby buggy while I was the mom strolling him around. He did not like the role but we had a deal. He played what I wanted then I played what he wanted.
As the story unfolds, he was getting more and more upset being my buggy baby. He insisted we stop and play ‘cowboys and Indians.’ He was the cowboy and I was appointed the Indian that he captured. He had learned how to tie knots quite well and tied me up to the house gutter. He then fetched his BB gun, yelling at me while filling the BB gun with gravel, “I’m gonna make you dance, Indian!” And he did just that. He shot my legs several times. I could not get untied from the gutter. It left me jumping from one foot to the other trying to avoid the shots. His baby buggy boredom tactics got him in big trouble which I thoroughly enjoyed while nursing my gravel-shot legs.
Boredom is not ok when it causes any harm to oneself or others mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually.
Do we have a choice when boredom shows up?
There is always a choice with boredom. Pandemicitis, Zoom classes and meetings cultivated boredom as a daily chore to cope with for many children, students and adults. I have unscientifically researched what this boredom caused for many ages. Here are some of the responses/feelings of what boredom caused: “Mopey. Sad. Lifeless. Dull. Not smart. Flat like a sidewalk instead of a tree. Don’t feel like I am important. Felt stuck. Not confident. Icky. Didn’t feel like me. Not excited about anything. Mad. Confused not figuring out what to do to feel better. Not motivated. Felt like I was boring and everything was boring. Not good feelings about me. Felt like nobody cared about me. Zoom was so boring I wanted to hit the computer. I just wanted to be someplace else doing something else. I get mad when I’m bored because I don’t like it and take it out on my family.”
Mandated Zoom sessions triggered boredom that spilled over into daily life. These responses indicated boredom was not ok or appreciated. Boredom IS ok when it leads to something positive.
I proceeded to ask different ages what can be done to get rid of boredom and if they ever thought it was a good thing to be bored. While not one person admitted liking boredom, many saw it as an opportunity. Some typical responses included: “Use my imagination like I am someplace else and somebody else. Look out the window and pretend I am not in front of the computer. Pretend I am older and in charge to make things more fun and better. Get up and do something. Go outside and get fresh air for my brain. Close my eyes and rest to get energy for doing something because boredom makes me tired. Move around instead of just sitting. Use my hands making something. Exercise. Play something fun. Make up new games. Tell a friend I am bored to see if we can make it go away with doing something fun. Sleep instead of having to think of being bored. Find something funny to laugh about and then I get ideas to not be bored.”
According to Perone’s research published in the Journal of Psychophysiology (July, 2019) the brains of people who are prone to boredom react differently, compared to those who don’t. Those who experience boredom more often tend to have more anxiety and are more prone to depression.
What is the best way for a parent to respond when a child is bored?
Create options. Be compassionate as you redirect them. Relay a story of how you felt bored and didn’t like it. Share ways you have conquered boredom and how it made you feel better. Ask the child if she/he has any ideas that can change boredom into something creative. Offer some options that give the child age appropriate ways to move the stuck energy. When possible, provide something funny that elicits laughter. It has a magical effect on boredom when you laugh together. Offer to do something WITH the child and see if she/he has ideas about what that can be. Boredom does not allow for connecting with others so doing something WITH children can draw them out of the boredom den. Another choice is to ask your child to help YOU get ideas for your own boredom to get those creative wheels turning.
Why does endless consumerism not work to alleviate boredom?
Consumerism can be a tool for items that stimulate and inspire. However, the bottom line is to help children help themselves by exercising their own creativity to s-t-r-e-t-c-h their way out of boredom.
How do we sit with boredom and allow inspiration to well up from within, and teach kids?
Awareness! For yourself (and teach kids): Pay attention to your body when bored. Notice that your breathing is shallow and irregular.
Not enough oxygen is entering your body to provide stimulation and creative thinking. Lack of proper oxygen can lead to negative thoughts and emotions. Sedentary boredom means insufficient oxygen. That, in turn, means it is more difficult for your mind/body to be positive and move energy.
Shocking the body in safe ways can wake a person up… Cold washcloth on the face. Hot showers ending in cold rinsing off. Going for a walk in the rain. Dancing moves energy quickly to fun music….in the kitchen, driveway, any place accessible. Music! Play! Make some art! Creativity arises with right brain activities and moves energy gracefully and often swiftly.
Another option is to close your eyes and FEEL the boredom. After being aware of its impact on your mind/body/emotions/spirit, ask yourself if you like it. It is always your choice to keep it or cast it out. If you need to rest or take a break from being too busy, perhaps boredom is your temporary medicine. If you want to be done with it, then visualize doing something easily accessible that inspires you. Or make a plan for an adventure and take steps to prepare. Just DO something. With children it is easier because their minds are so creatively active.
Janai, what is your remedy for boredom?
When it appears, I take note and ask why it is present. Then I tap my willpower to decide to USE boredom to grow from and resource my creative intelligence. I switch up the energies. Try something new. Dance out the boredom. Laugh out the boredom. Time the boredom. “Ten minutes, boredom, then I want insights and ideas.” Then I move myself in a direction that is enlivening, not sedentary! My intention is always to grow.
Steve Jobs: “I’m a big believer in boredom. Boredom allows one to indulge in curiosity, and out of curiosity comes everything.”
Do you have any final thoughts on this subject?
Boredom can serve you. However, habitual boredom is like a drug. Its impact can deplete you if it takes over too long. Your own creative internal resources can replenish you. It is not necessary to have a goal to make dead germs dance. Your own goal will bring satisfaction that enlivens you in the maze of finding your way through boredom segways!
Janai ‘Grandma Boom’ Mestrovich
Life Coach/Author/International Speaker/Trainer
Exec. Dir. Superkid Power, Inc. 501(c)3