Why are we bored listening

Likes instead of boredom: Why it harms us that we can no longer be bored

Nowadays, distraction is usually just a click away. We bridge even short waiting times with WhatsApp, Facebook or mobile phone games. As a result, boredom has become a foreign word for many people. A little more of it would do us good.

At the bus stop, at the supermarket checkout, in the doctor's waiting room, in a traffic jam: in everyday life we ​​are constantly forced to wait; sometimes a few seconds, sometimes longer.

The temptation is great to take out your smartphone and answer a few WhatsApp messages, play a round of Candy Crush Saga or go to Facebook.

It all cuts time and keeps us busy. Otherwise we could get bored.

But is it a good thing that many people can no longer stand the wait and pick up their cell phones after just a few minutes? Or does it even have negative effects?

"We have forgotten how to listen to ourselves," says Marc Wittmann. The psychologist and human biologist conducts research at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Hygiene in Freiburg on all sorts of questions relating to time perception.

Waiting makes many restless

Wittmann can explain why people quickly grab their smartphones: "While we wait and are not distracted, we suddenly become aware of ourselves."

So we notice ourselves and with it our physicality. Only then do we pay attention to the time. But when we perceive it, it seems to pass very slowly, it expands.

The result: We are bored. "The experience of oneself and the experience of time are very closely related - and that can trigger negative emotions."

But what exactly is boredom? Wittmann explains: "A bit exaggerated, you could say that you can't stand it with yourself."

Actually, that's a paradox. On the other hand, many people complain that their everyday life is too hectic and that they have far too little time.

Likes instead of boredom

So a moment of waiting could actually be a moment of rest and a break.

"So we could just be very relaxed with ourselves while waiting, pursue our thoughts and consider what we have done today," says the psychologist and author of two books on the subject of time.

But the thought of just staring in front of you and doing nothing makes a lot of people restless.

On the other hand, positive signals await us on the smartphone in the form of e-mails, messages or likes. These reward and encourage us, we are "a little addicted" to them, says Wittmann.

But by doing this we slow down our thoughts. Because everyone knows that too: You stare out the window while the train is driving, consciously not worrying - and suddenly you have a good idea. Or suddenly the solution to a problem in your head that you have pondered over for a long time.

Ideas develop in "empty times"

Wittmann confirms this: "You have to get through boredom to come up with ideas. In 'empty times' something often develops in the back room that can only then come to light."

Of course, that doesn't always have to be the case. But if there is no room for your thoughts to wander because you are immediately distracted, nothing can develop.

The biggest problem with this is that there are so many ways to be distracted these days. Mainly through the smartphone. This means that "suddenly the whole world is available to us. And conversely, we are also constantly available to other people," says Wittmann.

But that's not all. After a hard day at work, we turn on the television, run the radio, read the newspaper or a book and go to the gym.

"These are all things that I and everyone else enjoy doing, and none of them is bad," explains the expert. "It's just that we fill every empty time with activities. Often this is also an escape from oneself, an escape from boredom."

"Dead Time" was also filled earlier

On the other hand, the phenomenon that people want to fill "dead time" is not so new. Technological progress has exacerbated the problem in the past. Because whenever time was saved by an invention, people filled the time with other activities.

For example, after the invention of the washing machine. The psychologist says: "Washing used to be exhausting and took hours. Today we only need to press a button. We even have dryers and non-iron shirts." But that didn't make everyday life any more peaceful either.

So we have no choice but to admonish ourselves not to actually do anything while waiting.

Wittmann advises: "We don't necessarily have to be bored, we can also go for a walk. But if we constantly have input because we are constantly absorbing information, no real output is possible. Only when we cut off the input and just let our thoughts roll over. an idea can arise. "

This often happens precisely when we are not consciously thinking, for example when jogging.

Or we practice relaxation methods such as meditation or yoga: All of this is aimed at calming down and feeling yourself better again.

According to Wittmann, the fact that many people deal with these techniques is also a reaction - to the fact that we have forgotten how to sit calmly and calmly for 30 minutes, to do nothing, to concentrate only on breathing and on the here and now .

So we should endure boredom and see it as an opportunity instead of checking Facebook messages immediately or scrolling through the WhatsApp status messages of friends.

But Wittmann is confident: "We can learn to think in moments of waiting: Great, now I use the time for myself."

Marc Wittmann is currently conducting an online study of the perception of time in everyday life. The questionnaire also shows how people experience time and react to it. The survey can be found here.