Reframing Boredom Instead of fleeing from it, try to welcome it

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As the days become darker and shorter and weather, colder and rainier, motivation in my training naturally wanes. I find during this time of year, I procrastinate more and don’t enjoy being outside as much (because I’m a big baby when it comes to the cold). I find myself opting for the treadmill, experiencing playlist fatigue, and doing the same types of cardio workouts day-in and day-out. I take the winters off when it comes to organized races so my training doesn’t provide me with that same sense of purpose as it does when I’m working towards a specific goal. What I feel more than ever, is boredom.

Boredom has a bad rap in all aspect of our lives. As soon as we feel it, we try to flee from it. Boredom induces restlessness and this need and desire to escape. In a famous study by Wilson et. al, where participants were given the choice on whether they wanted to be alone with their thoughts for 15 minutes, or receive a mild electric shock, most of the participants opted for the shock. We avoid boredom like the plague.

However, as counterintuitive as this may sound, one of the ways I motivate myself during this time of year, is to embrace the boredom, and use the repetition and monotony in more productive means. When I’m running on the treadmill and staring at a wall for ~40 minutes, I feel more creative in my thinking and new ideas emerge more frequently. Boredom for me, is excellent mental training. The more I allow myself to feel it, the more discipline I have in showing up consistently not only to my training, but also to my work—which most of the time, isn’t all that exciting. Other research has shown that boredom can also help us with problem solving, make us more empathetic, and can be the impetus behind making big, positive changes in our lives—like setting ambitious goals or making healthier changes to our routines.

So, with that being said, if you’re feelin’ bored more often than not at this time of year, rather than giving in to feelings of apathy or trying to escape from it (both of which I’m guilty of), try a reframe exercise: practice basking in the boredom and see what happens to your creativity and productivity. Boredom can grant us the attentional space to make room for new goals, new challenges, and constructive changes in our lives. It doesn’t have to be all that bad!

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