What is boredom?

A friend of mine recently told me that they’re getting bored a lot these days. This got me thinking… what exactly is boredom?

According to Wikipedia, “boredom is an emotional state experienced when an individual is without any work or is not interested in their surroundings.” So, essentially it’s an absence of external stimuli with which to occupy the mind. Which leads me to ask the question… what crosses your mind when you have a lack of external stimuli that leads you to call it boredom rather than anything else?

The essence of my thought process here is that people who say they’re bored are avoiding thinking about something. They’re not at peace with themselves, such that when there is nothing to distract them from their own thoughts they get uncomfortable and turn to their environment for something to blame for that discomfort.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe boredom is just something that happens and there’s no underlying anxiety, but in my experience the only time I’ve ever decided I was bored was when I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts. I’d find anything to do if it meant getting away from my own mind, which is obviously a futile goal.

Next time you feel bored I’d encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking about whatever is on your mind. Ask yourself whether your boredom is actually the product of a desire to stop thinking about your job / financial / relationship / and other issues; a desire to get away from the constant drone of self-criticism, worry and pessimism that plagues your thoughts.

What is it that makes it so hard to spend some quality quiet alone-time with yourself?

UPDATE: Found this discussion of boredom shortly after I wrote this. While I focused on the things going on in my head when I feel bored, that post looks beyond that, though I’m not convinced the actual idea is any different.