Hi Reddit! I’m Erin Westgate, a social psychologist at the University of Florida who runs the Florida Social Cognition and Emotion Lab. I study what boredom is, why people experience it and what happens when they do.

I’m here to answer your questions about the boredom you may be feeling while the world social distances and self-isolates due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In my research at the Florida Social Cognition and Emotion Lab, I have focused on:

  • Daydreaming
  • Procrastination
  • Meaningful activities
  • Psychological “richness"
  • Bias on the LGBTQ+ Community

Proof!

More about me:

I earned a PhD in Social Psychology and a M.A. in Social Psychology, both from the University of Virginia, in addition to a B.A. in Psychology from Reed College.  Before becoming an assistant professor at University of Florida, I was a postdoctoral research at The Ohio State University where I was in the President’s Postdoctoral Scholars Program. 

Update: Thank you for all of the wonderful questions! It was great answering all of your questions. If I'm feeling 'bored' later, I'll come on to follow-up on some additional questions. :)

Comments: 124 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

thismustbetheplace__27 karma

I’ve seen a lot of videos of girl’s trimming their own hair and going for bangs. Is there a connection between being bored and wanting to change up your look?

ufexplore40 karma

Now there's a study I'd love to run! Leave people alone with some barber's tools, and experimentally induce boredom to see what happens... ;)

More seriously: we know that boredom does a few things to people. It makes us more interested in novelty; new things are extra appealing when we're bored. And it makes us more sensitive to rewards - we pay more attention to the potential upsides than the potential downsides of our choices. And there's some evidence that it may also increase risk-taking.

I don't know of any work specifically linking boredom to hairstyles or grooming choices...but take a few people who need a haircut, leave them bored at home with the right tools, and given all the above... I would not be surprised if bangs were the result.

GooeyGlobs4U17 karma

What, if any, are significant psychological differences between people who are comfortable in isolation and those who cant go five minutes without human interaction?

ufexplore28 karma

There's definitely individual variation in desire for social interaction. Extraversion is one of the basic dimensions of personality, and introverts are much more comfortable than extraverts with being alone. But the funny thing is: introverts enjoy social interaction just as much as extraverts if you "force" them to go interact with others.

Dr. Thuy-vy Nguyen at Durham has done a lot of work on solitude, and finds that people can really benefit from solitude if they choose to be alone (there's also individual variation in how much people want or desire that). Being alone seems to have a mellowing effect - people feel less extreme positive emotions, but also less extreme negative emotions as well, when you randomly assign them in studies to spend time by themselves for instance.

HelloWorld80815 karma

How does our senses (visual, taste, and sight) play into boredom? Does being in the same place (locked down in home) play a major role in feeling bored and why?

Thanks for your research.

ufexplore18 karma

Wanna come do a PhD with me? That's a GREAT question. And one we really don't know the answer too, I would say. We know that attention is an important component of boredom: we feel bored when we can't pay attention (either bc what we're doing is too hard or too easy). But most of that work has looked at cognitive attention (or in some cases visual attention) more broadly.

We do know for instance, that people like to snack more when bored. I love these studies, but if you randomly assign people to a boredom induction, and then put snacks down in front of them, bored people eat more.

Whether that's about taste is hard to say. We also find in other studies that if you experimentally make some people bored, they're more likely to give themselves electric shocks as well.

So it might not be specific to our senses - but to the extent that sensory experiences are easy to immerse ourselves in and pay full attention, it's entirely possible that they may reduce boredom. For instance, the fad of dining in the dark that was going around a couple years ago, where you go to a restaurant and the entire room is dark. The idea is you essentially have visual sensory deprivation, which should help you focus more intently on what you are tasting and have a more intense culinary experience. (And although I haven't been to one, I've been told by friends who have that it's an extremely interesting and not-boring experience).

But great question, and an area that we def need more research on!

ReasonedGuardian15 karma

Hello Dr Westgate.... Three questions

1)Do you think binge watching garbage tv or shows about Polygamy or Abducted in Plain Sight while eating Obatzda and other snacks with college friends and their fiance is the best cure for boredom?

2)When are you coming back to our house to do so?

ufexplore16 karma

1) Assuredly so

2) As soon as we defeat the pandemic by all staying home & doing our duty in social/physical distancing!

3)

big_dadenergy9 karma

I skimmed the articles you linked, and the idea of hobbies we enjoy sometimes being too difficult to provide relief for boredom really resonated with me. There are times when I'm really feeling up for playing an instrument or reading a book, but other times when all I want to do is binge a TV show. Could you speak a little more to the concept of the "right amount of challenge?" Are there any ways you recommend building our cognitive strength (for lack of a better term) to fully enjoy our tough hobbies?

ufexplore14 karma

That's a great question, and I talked about my own struggles with this in answer to another question. If you're familiar with the concept of flow, it's quite similar: the overly-simplified version is that we have X amount of resources at any given moment that we can invest in an activity. Say 10 resources.

If Netflix takes 3 resources, that's going to be too easy. You'll feel bored.

If playing an instrument takes 15 resources, that's too hard. You'll feel bored. (And frustrated. And maybe anxious, too, depending).

The trick is to scale your activities to where you're currently at (like Goldilocks!), and that's what I love about your question. There's two ways to do that: one is to change ourselves. We can increase resources short-term by doing things like drinking caffeine (my students will tell you I'm addicted to Sugarfree Rockstar) or getting more sleep, and those short-term situational changes have real impact. But we can also increase them long-term by getting better at our tough hobbies.

I recently picked up violin again after almost 15 years of not playing, and it is much harder and much more boring than it was when I stopped playing, because I'm so bad at it now. As I get better at it, a lot of that will become automatic again, and it will get easier. As that happens, I'll both have more fun playing and also feel more "up" to playing even when I'm a bit tired (bc playing isn't as demanding). The same goes for reading and other high-skill hobbies; they get easier as we get better at them, and we get better at them by doing them. (Which can be hard initially when we're not good enough for them to be fun yet).

The other thing we can do is not to change ourselves, but change the situation. Keeping with the violin example: it's much harder to practice a Vivaldi solo than it is to practice some simple Christmas tunes. If I'm tired and not feeling up to playing, I can increase my odds of enjoying it by modifying my activity to make it easier. In education we often call this "scaffolding": when introducing a new activity to learners, we give them an easier modified version of the task to help them learn the ropes, then as they get better, we scale it up. Video games use the same logic: they get harder as you go.

But we can also use that in reverse, and make things easier for us when we need it. And if that helps us stick with it, it (in theory) builds up those long-term skills that will make even the harder more challenging versions easier for us (and a better fit) down the road.

Prudent-Object9 karma

So when someone says they're bored while at home, do you think it's due to them doing the same activities over and over and not wanting to repeat or is it something else? TV has 100s of channels. Internet is a wonderous area for exploring and desires. I'm sure you're place can be cleaned up to a degree. People have plenty to do and yet they are bored. Curious what you think and to give you something to do. Miss Ya Erin. ;)

ufexplore34 karma

It's funny, but having lots of options available isn't always helpful if you don't know what the right one is. I'm certainly guilty of that myself, of just complaining "I'm bored" when I don't know what I want to do.

Boredom is tricky because it can be caused by two different problems: not having something meaningful to do OR not having the right amount of challenge (i.e., something is too easy or too hard). But we don't always know which one we're experiencing, so we don't always know how to fix it.

It can also be tricky if all our options are superficially different (i.e., tons of netflix shows!) but don't offer a variety of different challenge points or meaning. This goes to your point about whether people are tired of doing the same things over and over; they can be, if those things no longer are meaningful, or if they're too hard or too easy.

For instance, I love to read but also am sometimes bored despite having tons of books around because it turns out I don't reaaaally want to write a big serious Russian novel after a long day at work. "The Circle" on Netflix is a much better pick if I'm already running low on cognitive resources/fuel. So getting it right is much harder than we think, and having lots of choices can add to that feeling of being overwhelmed if we are already tired.

rourkej7 karma

My mother used to say “only boring people get bored” is there any factual truth in her comment?

ufexplore17 karma

This is a common misperception! People (especially Americans) tend to assume that "bad" things other people do are because of who they are as a person, not the situations they are in. But much of the time it IS the situation: almost everyone gets bored in my (terribly horribly) boring studies when we deliberately induce meaning and attention deficits. They're not boring people, they just had the misfortune of participating in a boredom study! But that can also happen in everyday life, when situations align to make it hard to find meaning or challenge.

JarJarBinksSucks6 karma

What is your end goal, through your research?

ufexplore9 karma

I'd really like to know what boredom "does" - that is, what happens to us when we're bored and how does that change our behavior? But before we can understand that, we have to understand what boredom is. A lot of my work has looked at the basic science of boredom as an emotion - how it works and why we experience it.

My current sense is that boredom isn't good or bad - but it does signal a need for change. Whether that's changing our engagement with the current task (to make it more meaningful or a better cognitive "fit"), or doing something else already, depends on the options we have.

Knowing that gives us some hints about why people get bored, and how we can prevent it. It also lets us predict what people will do when they're bored that they might not otherwise.

I'm a basic scientist, so applied research isn't really my area - but I have wonderful colleagues in education and industrial/organizational (I/O) psychology, who I hope can put this basic understanding of boredom to good use to make people's live, well...a little less boring.

OrangeCassetteTapes6 karma

What actually is daydreaming? What function does it serve? Do people tend to daydream about certain topics or is everyone different in that regard?

ufexplore14 karma

We know surprisingly little about daydreaming, given how commonplace it is. There's not even a great consensus about what counts as daydreaming - is all mindwandering daydreaming? Only if it's spontaneous? But can't we daydream on purpose too?

We've been studying instances where people intentionally choose to entertain themselves with their thoughts: intentional daydreaming (or "thinking for pleasure" as we call it more formally). We find that when you ask people to do this on purpose, they think about all kinds of things, but they tend to enjoy it most if they think about social topics (e.g., friends, family) and other people.

The jury is really still out on why we daydream, and what purpose it serves. One idea is that it's cognitive "leftovers" (much like actual dreaming is thought to be by some); others suggest that it's a kind of mental simulation that lets us imagine possible futures and play out different scenarios and how they might go. (Or reimagine the past).

Others think that daydreaming may serve as a kind of tool to regulate our emotions - to make us feel better or less bad. For instance, daydreaming about the past may make us nostalgic, and we may like feeling that way. Or we might daydream to escape boredom - that when we don't have anything else to do, turning to our own thoughts may be a useful or adaptive strategy. Though rare, there are stories of folks in isolation or POW camps who used this kind of mental daydreaming to help cope with their really stressful situations when they didn't have other alternatives out there.

garyomario6 karma

What makes you bored?

ufexplore13 karma

I'm bored all the time; it's really quite embarrassing. I literally know better.

But my weak spot is that many of the hobbies and things I love to do are "high effort" activities - which means that when I'm tired it's hard for me to find meaningful easy things to do that aren't overly challenging. TV is the classic answer to that dilemma, but I have a really hard time paying attention to primarily visual formats (I have no mental imagery either, possibly related!), so that's kinda out for me.

There's a saying in psychology - research is "me"search. ;)

AttractingNuisance5 karma

Why is it that when I am busy living normal life, I feel like there are so many things I want to do right now, like cleaning or projects I’ve been putting off...But then when I have all the time in the world to do these things I don’t want to do them?!

ufexplore1 karma

Ah! This is classic construal level theory! When we think about things in the far-off future, we think about them in abstract terms. For instance, imagine your wedding day. What a wonderful gorgeous day of bliss and a celebration of eternal love!

But when we think about them in the present (or near future), we shift from the abstract and focus on things in concrete terms. Now instead of eternal love, I'm worrying about what color the tablecloths should be, and about my MIL who's calling for the 16th time about the color of my veil, and #@#( do I need a veil I didn't even think about that???

Far-off future = focus on abstract (e.g., goals, values, etc)

Present (or near future) = focus on concrete (e.g., specific details)

Which means that in the abstract you'd probably love for your house to be clean or for these projects to be done....but now that the prospect is here, you have to shift to thinking about the concrete details of what goes into them, and those (for many of us!) are often less appealing.

aGuyNamedFish4 karma

Hey Erin! This is a fascinating topic to me because I have ADHD, and I feel like I’ve lived the majority of my life with “boredom” as my default state. Has ADHD ever come up in your research?

Thanks!

ufexplore8 karma

This is actually a super-common question I get; you're not alone! Boredom is caused by two things: deficits in meaning, but also deficits in attention. So, of course, it makes sense that ADHD is going to be tightly tied to boredom in some interesting ways. For a real deep dive into all the ways attention & boredom are related, check out this paper by John Eastwood (or visit his lab website).

The quick version is that we feel bored when we can't pay attention, and ADHD makes paying attention particularly problematic. (Which of course results in what? Boredom, for many folks)

LeslieBC4 karma

Thanks for doing this! I'm wondering if there's a distinction made between different types of boredom? I feel like there's a restless, creative kind of boredom that I really associate with childhood - that sorta rainy day boredom where you invent new games, make weird stuff, walk around the yard looking for bugs, whatever. And then there's the rather bleak kind of boredom where you know there are a bunch of things you could do but you somehow don't really feel like doing any of them.

Do you feel these two flavors of boredom are entirely different phenomena, or just to do with energy, mood etc? And as a sorta tangential question, do you feel the amount of entertainment and distractions we have available might be an obstacle to that first type of "creative" boredom?

ufexplore4 karma

Yaaaaaassssss! Absolutely there are different "flavors" of boredom. This has been a really hot topicof research (and not all boredom researchers agree). But I argue that boredom is a signal that we're not meaningfully engaged in what we're doing, and both parts of that matter:

  • Meaning = Does what we're doing FEEL subjectively meaningful to us at that moment?
  • Engaged = Are we succeeding at paying attention to what we're doing, or is it too hard or too easy for us to keep focused?

We can be bored because what we're doing isn't meaningful, we can be bored because we can't pay attention, or we can be bored because of both. And in experimental studies I find that they not only both cause boredom, they cause slightly different "types" of boredom. There's a good (fairly accessible) overview in this paper I wrote for nonexperts/college students here that goes into much more detail on this. But, essentially, yes.

kinsatopia4 karma

Is there a corrolation between boredom and creativity? Is boredom a precursor to creative activity?

ufexplore11 karma

This is a really hot topic in the field right now, and I suspect that if you ask five different boredom researchers, you'll get five different answers. There is some correlational evidence that suggests that boredom and creativity might be associated with each other. But it's hard to tell from correlational studies whether boredom is really causing creativity, or whether there's something about creative people that makes them more easily susceptible to boredom.

Likewise, we can ask people afterwards why they did something creative, and they might say it's because of boredom, but we know from psychology that people can't accurately tell you the true causes of their own behaviors.

So what we really want to look at (the "gold standard" of evidence) are randomized experiments, where we induce boredom and look at how it changes creativity. And those studies are more mixed: some do suggest that boredom might cause slight increases in creativity or associate thought, but others suggest that boredom doesn't have much of an effect (or in at least once case, might actually have a negative effect).

What we do know is that boredom increases novelty-seeking in experiments, and novelty is an important component of creativity. So while I think it's plausible that boredom spurs creativity, I think we really need better experimental evidence for it before we can really draw that conclusion.

readerramos4 karma

Hi, Erin – I'm curious to hear your thoughts on how much boredom, or the cause of it, may play a factor in interface design – and to what extent? Of course, it seems like common sense to try and design websites and apps for ease-of-use/utility/adaptability. But as much as a successful video game would need to keep a user engaged (not bored), do you believe an understanding of boredom is already a consideration in the design of more broadly-used programs and devices that are considered successful? Are these websites/apps, phones, tablets etc. designing to fend-off boredom, or are they more focused on repetition and ingraining regular interaction?

Also, are there any books/authors that inspired you to become a scientist?

ufexplore2 karma

Oh, and yes, two books! One as a child:

  • Shark Lady (about marine biologist Eugenie Clark)

And the second, as a college student:

But also my father is a vertebrate paleontologist, so I've been very lucky to be surrounded by science and scientists my whole life

ufexplore2 karma

Really interesting question, and probably outside of my ballpark, but I think this is totally applicable to the success of broadly-used programs and devices. The neat thing about boredom is that when it works, you don't actually need a PhD in social psychology to figure out what it's telling you. In other words, even if you've never read a paper on boredom in your life, a good designer should be able to figure out through trial-and-error what keeps people engaged and coming back. Knowing the theory behind why it works just streamlines that process. (And agreed that the best games absolutely already demonstrate these principles - it's why difficulty scales as we get better than games, and why so many involve storyframes or social connection/competeition to increase meaning).

The second part of your question is trickier: is it really a good thing that we're suppressing boredom in this way? That's unclear.

cncncty4 karma

Does boredom affect nt brains differently to adhd brains? (I know they are both spectrums)

ufexplore2 karma

We do think there are some differences in how people with ADHD experience boredom - check out my response to someone below who asked about research on boredom & ADHD. We don't know a ton about the neuroscience of actual brain processes in boredom, although researchers like James Danckert and others are working on it.

thedrunkmind3 karma

Hi! Could you talk a bit about your productive procrastination work?

ufexplore4 karma

When we think about procrastination, we often talk about it as if it's a bad thing. And in some ways, it's definitely not a good idea to put off or delay important tasks, if it means that bad things happen in the long run!

But there's two parts to procrastination:

1) What you're procrastinating on

2) What you're doing instead

That second part is the bit I'm particularly interested in. Is it bad to procrastinate on something you should do, if you do something else worthwhile instead? We all agree it's a bad idea to put off studying for an exam, and binge-watching netflix instead.

But what if you put off studying for an exam, and use that extra time to work on a paper for another class? Or what if you use that time to do the laundry or wash the dishes? Is that the same thing, and is it just as bad as binge-watching Tiger King?

We don't think so, so we've made a distinction between what we call "unproductive procrastination" (putting something off and doing something unproductive instead) and "productive procrastination" (putting something off but still doing something else worthwhile in its place).

So things like procrastibaking or cleaning to avoid doing things you really should be doing instead....might not be the BEST use of your time, but they might not be wholly bad either. And we have some initial data from college students that suggests that while "unproductive" procrastinators do have worse grades (and worse alcohol-related outcomes), there's not any real difference between non-procrastinators and "productive" procrastinators.

anotheruser303 karma

What did you do to that poor panda?

ufexplore1 karma

I have no idea where that panda came from! But I feel very sorry for him/her (and I'm kinda delighted it showed up)

prashantveerman3 karma

I'm a highly ambitious person but for the past 5 years, i've been doing the same thing over and over again:

I make huge plans of conquering the world and all, than i right them on a paper, than pick the first goal i've to achieve and than draw a daily routine i need to follow to achieve that goal. And than i don't do anything at all. Sometimes i follow that routine for a day or two but than it all goes back to the same. I know what i need to do, i know how i need to do it but i just don't do it. And i feel terrible about it, i'm eating myself from the inside, always very unhappy, and on top of that i explicitly start doing things that i must not do, like eating bad things, binge watching anything at all while crying from the inside for why i'm not doing what i'm supposed to do. Than, i take a pen and draw the same plan again and follow the same procrastination pattern. I've notebooks and stacks of paper filled with plans of a great career from the past 5 years but i have not achieved a thing that i ever wrote down in them.

What should i do?

ufexplore2 karma

That's a great question, and one that entire teams of scientists are still trying to answer: why is it so hard to do the things we want to do?

We don't really know yet. But I *can* tell you that it's much easier once you make those behaviors a habit; at that point they become automatic and you don't have to think about them or exert "willpower" to make it happen. Here's the catch: it takes a few weeks for a new habit to form. And until then we DO have to exert that everyday willpower consistently until it happens.

Dr. Wendy Wood has great research on habits and how to establish them; I think you'd find it interesting!

impressive_content3 karma

What do you mean by psychology '"richness"?

ufexplore3 karma

Think about what it means to lead a "good" life? What do you imagine?

When we ask people to do this, many people describe a "happy" life, or a "meaningful" life. But a certain percentage describe something else: a deep interesting psychologically "rich" life.

We think that psychological "richness" may be a third version of the "good" life, characterized by a life full of interesting varied experiences. We've developed a questionnaire where you can test and see how psychologically rich your own life is - you can take the test yourself here.

[deleted]3 karma

[deleted]

ufexplore2 karma

Matt Baldwin, obvs ;)

lxxn6663 karma

I really need help when it comes to being alone with my thoughts.. For some reason everytime im alone i tend to talk to other girls while im in a relationship.. I find nothing wrong in it since i be really deep down into my thoughts and feelings.. After I snap out of that state i realize what i did was really wrong.. Cant you help me find a way prevent this? Thank you

ufexplore3 karma

I should start by saying that I'm not a clinician, I do basic psychology research (i.e., putting people in experiments and seeing what happens to them). But relationship boredom is a real problem that folks have looked at, and there's lots of work right now on non-traditional relationships, including consensual non-monogamy.

But if the thoughts you're having are causing distress, I really do suggest talking to a counseling professional who can help you work through what's leading you to have those thoughts and behaviors, and how you can reduce them. I love research, and research can be helpful in understanding why people in general think and feel the way they do. But a professional counselor or therapist can help figure out how to apply what we know about people in general to your own unique situation. Which is pretty incredible, when you think about it.

CrocTheTerrible3 karma

What do you do when your bored?

ufexplore5 karma

Most recently? I made the terrible mistake of downloading The Sims 4 and all 8 expansion packs.

malachiconstantjrjr3 karma

What connection does boredom and LGBTQ+ bias share?

ufexplore5 karma

None that I'm aware of, save that I'm interested in both topics! Have you heard of the distinction between hedgehogs and foxes? It's a play on how modern scholars break down along the two lines from a fable by Greek poet Archilochus, who wrote, "the fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing."

When it comes to research, I'm definitely a fox. I'm interested in many many things, and one of those is the rapidly shifting society we're in and how attitudes (like LGBTQ+ bias) have changed even in my own lifetime. For instance, when I was in high school, I once told a friend that I expected my children would live to see same-sex marriage legalized but I didn't expect to see it happen in my lifetime. Eleven years later I called that same friend on the day the supreme court legalized it, to wish him and his fiance congratulations.

As a scholar, I find that rate of change fascinating, and some of the research I've done has looked at how we as a society have shown remarkable cultural change in our implicit and explicit attitudes towards lesbian & gay people in a remarkably short time. For instance, we found that from 2006 to 2013, implicit anti-gay bias dropped by 13.4% and explicit bias by 26%, in just that short seven-year period. (And it's changed even more since then).

impressive_content3 karma

What drives people to start a task if they’re not entirely sure in the first place whether they’re going to finish it?

ufexplore3 karma

One of the really neat things about emotions is that they don't work in the "logical" way we often think they do. There's this idea that you have a feeling & then that feeling makes you do things. But research suggests it's the other way around - we do things because of how we think they'll make us feel in the future.

That means if we think it'll be fun to start doing something....we often start doing it. (Even if maybe we know deep down we have no intention of finishing it). And when we make those predictions about how we'll feel, we think about how we'll feel when we start the task, not once we get going.

Psychologist Alexandra Freund in Switzerland, for instance, has found that people often focus on the "process" (how they'll feel doing an activity) or the "goal" of the activity, but not always both at the same time. So if there's an activity you dread (but you're looking forward to achieving the goal), you can motivate people to get started on it by having them focus on that end goal - how they'll feel after finishing it.

On the other hand, if the goal is too scary and crippling, you can focus on the mundane basics of actually doing the activity and how it will make you feel, and that can help instead.

TheHumanRavioli3 karma

[deleted]

ufexplore4 karma

Great question! There are a couple possibilities (and only you can know for sure which applies). One possibility is that the tiny screen makes it difficult to focus. I have a really hard time reading long news stories or books on my phone (the only time I've done so was when I lost my Kindle on a trip to the Alps and the only way to finish Brandon Sanderson's Stormlight Archives was to read the entire thing on my tiny phone screen).

We know that attention deficits (literally struggling to pay attention) produce boredom, and that might be one reason you struggle to feel engaged and interested on your phone.

Another possibility is that reading on your phone doesn't give you the same vibe or feel as reading on paper; it might not feel as "subjectively" meaningful to you. And that too can produce feelings of boredom.

It's up to you - but if you have the change to spare, I don't think you need to feel guilty about splurging on a tablet, if it helps you focus and enjoy your books (plus you can check out free digital books from the library!).

j-m-kays2 karma

A lot of managers are dealing with employees working at home for the first time. Do you have any suggestions on how they can keep their employees engaged so they don't get bored?

ufexplore3 karma

That's a great question; I think we're largely in uncharted waters here, but there are a few things that might help.

I suspect the biggest problem employees are going to have is trouble paying attention, due to distractions at home. (And we know that trouble paying attention = more boredom). There's not really a lot that managers can do to solve distraction at home, short of being patient with employees and knowing that it may take time for them to sort out how best to do so. What managers can do is make the work part of home as easy to focus on as possible; in other words, make it easy to come to work. Struggling through confusing online infrastructure or platforms, or sending a constant stream of emails throughout the day, adds to employee distraction, and we can control that, at least.

The other things managers can do is make work meaningful: connecting socially with employees, letting them know their work is valued, and conveying that steadily can make being at work less bored for employees.

For other tips on reducing boredom in the workplace, there's a nice writeup here geared towards its employees (but applicable to mangers as well I think).

beets2health2 karma

Think being too bored for too long and isolation can cause severe depression? I only get about 3 hours a day with my husband and I’m basically alone the rest of the time. Before corona got nuts, I worked as a PA and was alone in that room filing. So I’ve got from a very interactive lifestyle in photography to being alone almost all the time and my depression I’ve had since I was a kiddo has been a little overwhelming.

ufexplore1 karma

I'm so sorry; that's a really rough situation, and that has to be hard. We still don't know quite what is going on with boredom and depression. We know that boredom is often a feature of depression - that when we're depressed, we find it hard to feel interested or engaged in what we're doing. But it's not clear that boredom CAUSES depression. Instead, it might be that boredom & depression share some of the same causes: isolation from friends and family, lack of meaningful activity, etc., may increase our likelihood of depression AND our likelihood of feeling bored.

I wish I had a better answer for you, but this is something we're still actively trying to figure out; it's clear they're linked, but we're not quite clear yet on why. If you can find someone to talk to, there's great empirical evidence for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with depression, that focus on changing how we behave and think to change the way we feel. The American Psychological Association has some great resources- and I know personally that many counselors and therapists right now are offering tele-options to connect with folks virtually, since most folks can't come in person right now.

AdventcherusSpellr2 karma

Are there any cures for unproductive procrastination?

ufexplore1 karma

There is one nifty trick, courtesy of Dr. Alexandra Freund - but it requires that you know WHY you're procrastinating. If it's because the thought of what you have to actually DO sounds awful - she suggests focusing on the end goal instead (i.e., why it's so important).

On the other hand, if it's more that you're paralyzed because the stakes are so high, she suggests focusing on the concrete steps you have to take.

For instance, I haven't filed my taxes yet for 2019 (unproductive procrastination) because I hate doing it. Dr. Freund's research would suggest that instead of focusing on the little concrete details that I'm dreading (like finding my W2), I should focus on the big picture and that beautiful tax return I'll get when I actually file.

Lexovisaurus2 karma

What’s your favorite sea creature and why?

ufexplore7 karma

This gorgeous creature because look at them!

OldNTired19622 karma

Is it weird that I'm not bored at all? I legit don't understand how people are having so many bordem issues in such a short time.

ufexplore1 karma

Boredom is a lot about the situation you're in right now. For instance, I've been less bored during the pandemic - because I have more to do, and it's challenging in just the right way, and so there's plenty of challenge and meaning to fill my day. Those of us that feel right now are lucky.

But others aren't. Many people are laid off and stuck at home, maybe without the money or financial resources to game or buy books (the first thing I did when I got the work-from-home order from the university was order about a dozen books since the public library was closed). Many of us can't work from home, or don't have classes to occupy us, and don't have access to the activities that brought meaning and challenge to our lives. For instance, if choir or chamber orchestra is your passion, those are closed off now. Depending on where you live, hiking or the outdoors may no longer be an option.

Others who rely on social interaction at work or by going out are now trapped at home alone, and lonely - and bored, because they don't have social interaction to turn to.

In short: it's really variable, and depends a lot on who you are as a person, the situation you're in, and the resources (social, financial, etc) that you have to cope with your new reality. Some of us lucked out in all those regards (I'm one of them, and it sounds like you are too), but many folks didn't. It's okay for them to be bored; but we can also talk about ways to help cope with it.

lauvnoodles2 karma

In contrast to boredom, what makes something really interesting or "addictive?" For example, why do some games or apps hook users and make them come back for more?

ufexplore2 karma

Oooh - you'd be really interested in Czikszentmihalyi's work on "flow." Flow is, in many ways, the quintessential OPPOSITE of boredom. A lot of the times when we're not bored, we might feel enjoyment or interest instead. But if we're feeling that perfect addictive combo of optimal challenge and meaning, we might experience flow instead.

Czikszentmihalyi also has a great free TED talk on the topic of flow, and how to achieve it - I think you'd be into it!

cloudswindandrain2 karma

Hi, I know I am a bit late but I was wondering, if someone is in a boring situation, can they convince themselves it isn't boring by thinking they are having fun. Like doing a boring thing in a boring place but constantly thinking "wow this is fun! totally not boring"?

ufexplore2 karma

Interesting idea! We know from other work that if you're anxious, just thinking to yourself "I'm excited, I'm excited, I'm excited!" can work to change your mind and really make you think you're well...excited.

Does that work for boredom? We don't know yet, but it could. All emotions are based in what you're thinking about at that moment. When we change our thoughts, we literally change how we feel. So focusing on how what we're doing is meaningful (in social psych we call this "reappraisal") is a powerful method to reduce boredom in otherwise boring situations.

thestreetiliveon2 karma

Hi there!

I often tell people that they should live on their own at some point. I did for a few years in my 20s (I’m in my 50s now) and don’t go out of my mind whenever I’m alone now.

Any opinion on that?

ufexplore1 karma

Interesting idea! To my knowledge folks haven't studied this much, but there is something to the idea that we need to learn to "self-regulate" our own emotions. And that's hard to do if we've never had any experience in that. One reason it's hard to study is because it's hard to know how much is due to the experience and how much is due to natural inclination.

For instance, I've lived alone for many years, and find the current stay-at-home orders pretty okay. But is that because I lived alone for many years and have experience with it? Or is it because I'm the type of person who's okay living alone - and that's why I lived alone earlier and also why I'm okay with doing it now? (It's probably a mix of both; but it's awfully hard to tease apart scientifically and that's hard to do without randomly assigning people to live alone or with roommates, which has obvious ethical and pragmatic issues)

krewator2 karma

I'm a hikikomori of 5 years, why do I have the urge to go out now that the pandemic is at large?

ufexplore1 karma

I don't know, but I'm very curious about your experience! What do you think? I do know that we're running a study right now about how people feel about the Coronavirus outbreak, and some of the results are surprising - for instance, many people DO feel anxious, but a lot of people are really *curious* (or even excited) as well. We don't talk as much about that, but I think it's natural to feel that curiosity about a once-in-a-lifetime event (hopefully), even if it's a really negative thing.

We're collecting data at our website, and would love if you (or friends and family) would like to participate on our research about how people are feeling right now during the outbreak, and how that's affecting our behavior.

amfree882 karma

Isn’t boredom self imposed? People don’t get caught in a tractor beam or held in place by any external force.

ufexplore1 karma

There's a common misperception that boredom is something about who you are as a person. But situations are powerful. What we know from the science of emotion is that ANY of us can feel bored in the right circumstances. If what we're doing doesn't feel meaningful, or we're not able to pay attention, we feel bored as a result. For instance, in one study more than 90% of people shocked themselves when forced to watch a boring video for over an hour.

Some of us are lucky enough to have the freedom and resources to adapt quickly to even very brief feelings of boredom, and find ways to re-engage meaning and challenge in our life. Those of us with that freedom are lucky, and we're less likely to experience boredom. But many folks aren't. Boredom is more common among people "stuck" in situations - students in school, for instance, or those of us stuck in boring jobs because we need to pay the bills. It's not people's fault in those cases; it's the fault of the bad situations they're trapped in. Sure you can quit your boring factory job - but what if you have family relying on you to work that job to put food on the table and keep the lights on? Or what if you need to suffer through that boring class to graduate?

thismustbetheplace__2 karma

Can boredom cause mood swings, or could they just be a response to our current situation?

ufexplore2 karma

Interesting question. One thing we know about emotions (boredom included) is that they're always about our interpretation (in psychology we call them "construals") of the current situation. For instance, if you see a snake in the grass, you might feel really afraid, whereas I might feel really excited, because our interpretations of what it means to be near a snake (and how dangerous it is) are different. Lisa Feldman Barrett has a great book on this called "How Emotions Are Made"; I really recommend reading it or checking out one of her free public recorded talks, because they're eye-opening on how emotions work.

So boredom (like all emotions) is always about our understanding of the situation we're in. That's partly determined by the actual situation (e.g, there's a snake or there isn't!), but also by our own personal interpretation of the situation (e.g., I'm in danger!). And those perceptions are influenced by who we are as individuals: our own past experiences and our own mental habits or "mindsets". They come together to form our emotions. And the good thing about that is they give us two ways to change how we are feeling: we can change the situation OR we can change the way we interpret those situations.

(We also usually differentiate between emotions, which are about a specific situation and thus limited in time & scope, and moods, which tend to be more vague and long-lasting bc they aren't really "about" anything in particular).

FeetusDeletusThot2 karma

Can boredom count as a mental illness? because there can be a downside of it and it is said that is dangerous. I used to cut myself out of boredom.

ufexplore1 karma

Normally, feelings of boredom (like all emotions) are healthy and adaptive. Negative emotions don't *feel* good, but they're really important signals to us that something is wrong. In that respect, they're like pain: none of us want to experience it, but pain tells us that we're hurt, and motivates us to fix the problem. Sadness and boredom and anger are like that, too. They're healthy messages that something is wrong, and a sign we need to fix it.

But - it can go wrong when we can't fix the problem. Or when we feel bored (or angry or lonely) for too long, and those feelings start to become chronic. In those cases, the emotion isn't useful anymore, and we can respond in less ideal ways. There is research showing that boredom is linked to self-harm correlationally. There's also experimental research that finds when you experimentally induce boredom, people are more willing to self-administer painful electric shocks to themselves.

I hope you're doing better now, and that those feelings are behind you - but if you should find yourself in that dilemma again, there's good evidence that cognitive behavioral therapy can be a real help to folks.

TheCoolRedditor122 karma

Hi I'm of a younger age than probably most on this thread, but nevertheless I wanted to ask something. I've studied psychology before, but never professionally. I've always believed that most of my ideas probably aren't accurate. So I wanted to ask: I'm currently on lockdown in my home, and I cannot talk to my friends anymore. I know that withdrawal from social interaction can cause boredom even in introverts. Is there any advice you have on how I deal with this?

Also sorry for the long post

ufexplore1 karma

You have nothing to apologize for - it's a great question! One of the things psychologists have realized is that calling it "social distancing" has given people the wrong idea. It's not that we can't stay socially connected - actually, staying connected to "our people" socially is critical. Instead, it's physical distancing that we need to do. Even if we can't be with people in-person right now, we can still talk to them on the phone or over text or in videochat, and we really really should.

When I was in high school, pre-smart-phones, I spent hours every night on three- or four-way phone calls with friends, late late into the night and early morning hours. I love those memories, and even though we couldn't be with each other physically outside of school hours (we were all too young to drive, and our parents wouldn't have allowed us out late anyway)....we were very much still together. I know phone or videochat can feel awkward at first, and they're not totally the same as being together in person; but technology has come a long way since I was in high school. Use it. Stay in touch with your friends, as best you can. There are great options like NetflixParty that let you watch movies together, or JackBoxGames that let you play games together virtually....there's a time and place for tech, and that time is now!

For more ideas, check out this lovely podcast "The Happiness Lab" with Dr. Laurie Santos (the whole podcast is wonderful; they have a special series on Coronavirus) episode on how to stay in touch socially in a time of "social" distancing.

Norgeroff1 karma

What color is your toothbrush?

ufexplore2 karma

Black, white, red, and yellow. Storytime: I studied abroad in Munich as an undergrad, and became a huge fan of German soccer. Last time I was in Germany it was the world cup and they were selling German soccer-themed toothbrushes in the team's national colors. I bought a few dozen. Yes, I know.

BERNIE_IS_A_FRAUD1 karma

What is your opinion of grapes?

ufexplore1 karma

They're better frozen.