Everyone experiences boredom at times—boredom probably plagued a great many of us during the peak of pandemic restrictions and isolation. However, a new study reveals that some people are less likely to suffer from boredom than others.
“Chronic boredom, often referred to as ‘boredom proneness’, is linked to many negative outcomes for the individual and society at large,” explains study author Muireann O’Dea, a Ph.D. researcher in psychology at the University of Limerick. However, the outcome of the study suggests that those who demonstrate more self-compassion experience less boredom, leading the researchers to investigate how promoting a positive psychological mindset (like self-compassion) affects the experience of boredom.
What is self-compassion?
As O’Dea explains, offering compassion regarding our own suffering lowers the psychological impact of a negative experience. Self-compassion also helps us build up our own self-worth and improves our feelings of connection with ourselves and with others.
In a previous study, two of the study authors working alongside O’Dea (Eric Igor Ph.D. and Wijnand van Tilburg, Ph.D.) established how boredom produces a perceived lack of meaning in life, which ultimately leads to a desire to reinstate meaning. “We have not started to research how sources of meaning can also hinder experiences of boredom in the first instance,” O’Dea adds.
A closer look at the study
The researchers performed a pilot study involving 49 undergraduate students. The results of this pilot study found that self-compassionate participants had less of a tendency for boredom. Then, they used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform to carry out a second study with 265 participants and a third study with 191 participants.
The study took into account dispositional self-compassion (in other words, a person’s general tendency to show self-compassion), and state-self compassion (a person’s level of self-compassion at that moment). It also looked at boredom-proneness (the general tendency to feel bored) and state-boredom (how bored a person feels at that moment).
The results? Practicing self-compassion appears to reduce boredom levels, on top of being good for an individual’s overall wellbeing.
How to foster self-compassion
While some people may have the natural tendency to be more self-compassionate than others, it is still a skill to be honed, much like gratitude.
To begin cultivating self-compassion, psychiatrist Elisabeth Netherton, MD, suggests starting by simply taking notice of your thoughts. “As you notice that you are talking to yourself in a negative way, you can practice reframing or rephrasing those thoughts to allow for more kindness,” she says.
People who are more self-compassionate also tend to foster this trait through journaling, active self-reflection, and meditation techniques, notes O’Dea, and pursuing these activities could itself mitigate boredom.
For transformational leader and New York Times bestselling author Christy Whitman, self-compassion “is an inner action that allows you to soothe and comfort yourself when things are not as you would like them to be… It is a way to feel yourself and allow yourself to have your experience and emotions but move through them.”
Whitman’s advice is to become aware of the energy from negative emotions and process them “through breath work or energy mastery techniques and processes.” After, she says to “ask to feel compassion. Feel as if a warm hug of energy is surrounding your body. Speak to yourself with kindness and soothing words, such as. ‘I know it is not easy to feel X sometimes, and it will get better.”
Source study: Personality and Individual Differences—Self-compassion predicts less boredom: the role of meaning in life