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Spartan Scoop

Spartan Scoop

Inform · Connect · Entertain

Spartan Scoop


The surprising ups and downs of this complex emotion
Karma Patey
A man shrouded by random thoughts of boredom

You’re sitting down at a work covered desk, paperwork, coffee, and a blank computer screen lies before you. You know you should muster the energy to lift your heavy arms up to the keypad, but you just can’t seem to find the will. The clock ticks slowly as it has done for the past twenty minutes, each second feeling as if it were the same as the millions of years Pangea took to break up. You are bored and can’t possibly think of what to do with yourself, so you continue to sit and let your consciousness slip away into the vast recesses of your mind. 


Prolonged boredom can prompt you to reflect and ask yourself, ‘Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing?

— Harvard Business Review

Boredom, or the idea that we are not currently fulfilled by what we are doing (Psychology Today), is a commonly occurring experience with unique pros and cons. Most people face boredom often, having to overcome it at work, school, or just in a room by yourself.  According to Columbia News,Sixty-three percent of American adults experience boredom at least once every 10 days.”

Psychology Today explains that there are plenty of ways to recognize boredom. For example:

  • “Checking the clock frequently or counting down the minutes
  • Daydreaming or zoning out
  • Procrastinating or avoiding tasks
  • Engaging in mindless activities like scrolling through social media

That said, boredom can look different for everyone, it can occasionally stimulate creativity or be a sign of deeper issues. The different effects of boredom are something most people might not consider while staring blankly at their math homework. The National Library of Medicine (NLM) notes that, “Boredom is often considered a trivial and inconsequential emotion, but recent studies have shown that it can have a significant impact on our wellbeing, productivity, and even our health.” 


Generally, people do not consider boredom to be a pleasant feeling as it is characterized by someone’s disinterest and apathy. Repetition in someone’s day to day, as well as unfulfilled desires, can contribute to this malaise. With these characteristics of boredom in mind, many studies have discovered that feeling bored consistently can be a sign of mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression (NLM)

The link between these illnesses and boredom is found in the increased rate in negative actions committed by those struggling. These behaviors can look like self harm, impulsive risk taking, and substance abuse. 

In one study, administered by the University of Virginia, participants were found to have preferred to conduct electric shocks on themselves rather than sit by themselves for a fifteen minute period (Columbia News). 

Adding on to the obstructive aspects of boredom is the emotions ability to distract. The National Library of Medicine provides a real life example, “…a security guard had to call the police to release him from handcuffs after he handcuffed himself out of boredom and lost the key…”. A similar incident took place with an air traffic coordinator as he was preoccupied with a tv show while on shift. The controller was caught watching a crime drama as opposed to monitoring the area. Experiences like this illustrate how easily boredom can get a grip on someone, even in a position where vigilance is necessary. 


In contrast to the negative characteristics of boredom, there are also many side effects that lead people to appreciate the feeling. 

The most well known positive aspect is that short periods of boredom have been proven to instill creativity into those coping with it. A 2018 study showed that when provided with mundane tasks such as attending a meeting, subjects were more likely to let their mind wander. In this period of time the participants thought of creative scenarios as a way to escape (Psychology Today) “In the absence of external stimulation, we use our imagination and think in different ways.”

While pushing our thoughts to get creative, boredom also has the ability to motivate us. When we are bored the brain is signaling that it is unfulfilled by the current task at hand. This signal will often cause someone to shift gears and perform an activity that will meet their needs. As Harvard Business Review states, “Prolonged boredom can prompt you to reflect and ask yourself, ‘Am I on the right path? Am I doing the right thing?’” So, while maybe your history notes need to be put to the side, that book you’ve been reading can be finished. 

Coinciding with this, the Child Mind Institute explains that boredom isn’t good for you simply because it’s there, but because of what you can accomplish when you are bored. If someone can learn to cope with their boredom effectively they feel in control of their own well being. 


When it comes to managing boredom of any format, there are a plethora of different pathways one can take. Mayo Clinic suggests balancing activities with down time. You can stimulate your brain through socialization and trying new things, but it is important to take time to rest as well. Toggling each of these things can refresh one’s creativity and help you feel more balanced throughout the day. 

Another way to cope with boredom is to spend some time reminiscing. Thinking through past memories can distract individuals from the discomfort of boredom as it reduces negative emotions, this can be particularly helpful as people age (Bethesda Health). 

A third alternative is using what Psychology Today calls “The Goldilocks framework”. This tactic involves measuring the level of engagement a task will require and choosing the project that matches someone’s current energy. If a person is high energy and likely to get bored with a menial task, then an activity that calls for constant attention may suit them best. This method attempts to ward off boredom before it can occur. 


The feeling of boredom can be complicated, and most people don’t reflect on it positively. However, like any human experience, there seems to be two sides to the story. So, the next time you dread doing a mundane task, remember that boredom opens your brain to infinite possibilities.

About the Contributors
Andrew Buchholz
Andrew Buchholz, Reporter
"I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it" (Alice Walker).
Karma Patey
Karma Patey, Illustrator
the dude who draws the things who isn't the other one