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Why do we get bored?


You know the feeling. Sitting in a traffic jam. Watching the clock during your least favourite class. Waiting in a long line. Yaawwwn!

We've all been bored before. Although the word "boredom" didn't take off until the 19th century, the feeling has been around for a long time. Greek and Roman philosophers described it as a kind of nausea or sickness. Boredom makes us feel frustrated and unhappy. We want to be doing something else, but in that moment we can't control or change the situation.

Imagine you're watching paint dry. "This is boring!" you complain. (Have you actually tried watching paint dry? Is it more enjoyable if you turn it into a science experiment?) Watching paint dry bores most people because it's an activity we don't find interesting or important. We can also get bored by a task that is too easy or too difficult. Or maybe we can't focus because of other stress caused by our environment. Boredom could be the result of a combination of different things.

Did you know that there's an International Society for Boredom Researchers? There's even a Boredom Lab at York University here in Toronto! Studying boredom can help scientists learn more about the brain, mental health and the way attention works. This could give people more ideas to design better school and work environments.

The good thing about boredom is that it's temporary. When we get bored, it usually motivates us to end the feeling! The way humans deal with boredom has changed a lot throughout history. Nowadays, we're used to being entertained with a click of a button or swipe on a screen. But even that can become boring.

The pandemic has caused many people to get creative and explore new hobbies. But it's okay to take a break sometimes, just relax and reflect. Small, everyday things can be very meaningful. What makes you feel happy? Peaceful? Figure out what matters to you!

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