Most parents have undoubtedly heard the words “I'm bored” come out of their child's mouth. This unfortunate occurrence happens on car rides, while sitting quietly on the couch, or even when the youth is actually in the process of doing something that suddenly lacks interest.
The phrase possesses a grating quality. It’s painful to the ears, frustrating to the mind, and even saddening to the heart and soul. How can the youthful mind, which should be filled with a sense of wonder and imagination – particularly when there’s no exterior stimulus – be so barren and disengaged?
I honestly don’t recall ever saying “I'm bored.” I know with certainty I never said it during childhood, because I never was bored. I didn't live a spectacularly exciting life, by any means. I had toys, video games and participated in numerous sports, both organized and pick-up games, so I was definitely busy; however, I also recall simply doing nothing and being okay with it. When I was 9 years old my parents gathered me and my brothers – then 2 and 6 – in the family van and embarked on a two-week odyssey across the American West. I remember long stretches of the ride where there was nothing to do, but I don't remember ever once being bored.
It’s a different world today. Rapid advancements in technology have changed our capabilities regarding communication, commerce and earning a living; but has also brought with them side effects.
Here is what we do know: People, and not just children, are more distracted and stressed, and have shorter attention spans, than ever before. Some of us are literally addicted to our phones and tablets, and the younger generations that have grown up with electronic devices appear to be most affected. Couple this “technology addiction” with the reality that many of us work too many hours and in our personal lives habitually bite off more than we can chew, and we have a recipe for a society ridden with anxiety, depression, sleep disorders and other mental issues.
I don't claim to have the cure. All I can suggest is to slow down, breathe, take a break from social media and your favorite websites, and be okay doing nothing. Allow yourself to be bored. It is not only healthy, but necessary.