Nothing to do? Boredom can have an upside, experts say

Boredom can be excruciating.

You watch the minutes tick by, aimlessly flicking channels or re-reading the same posts in your social media feeds, all the while knowing something better is out there.

And these days, with lockdown orders imposed on much of Canada due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, it seems like there are a lot of bored people out there.

While being bored is very uncomfortable, experts say, it doesn’t have to be all bad.

“It helps us self-regulate. It helps us manage our pursuit of meaningful goals in our lives,” said James Danckert, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo and co-author of the upcoming book Out of My Skull: The Psychology of Boredom.

That might sound a bit lofty for dealing with the day-to-day boredom of a pandemic, but keeping this in mind can help you manage things, he said.

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It’s worth noting that right now, not everyone is bored. Some people are extraordinarily busy: still at work, sometimes in professions that put their health at risk, or caring for children and loved ones, or trying to deal with financial hardship.

But right now some people seem aimless, just waiting for physical distancing to end.

The biology of boredom

Boredom, like many human emotions, seems to have a biological function.

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“It’s like physical pain,” said Dr.

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