Harnessing Boredom

Does anyone remember what it's like to be bored? Like truly bored? Not this half-baked boredom that we experience in the days of endlessly scrolling social media, reading articles, and binging YouTube. I'm talking true unrepenting boredom where the bar for what constitutes entertainment is so low that it's practically non-existent.

You would start reading the ingredients off a salt packet before you voluntarily expose yourself to that.

You might think you hate doing hard things. Vigorous exercise, eating lettuce, starting a new business, you know... that kind of stuff. It all feels infinitely harder than puttering around the internet or engaging in any other "mindless" activity.

It may feel rather cruel that the far more persuasive part of the brain appears to be hardwired to not want to do the exact things that the more cognisant and nagging part of our brain identifies as being in our best interest. But, if I could lock you in a room with nothing but a chair, some Nietzsche books, and a treadmill you'd start running pretty damn quick.

I'd imagine you'd get quite good over an extended period.

And now for my announcement. I am launching a new running Bootcamp, where I turn any lazy couch potato into a next-level athlete.

Kidding. Unless you're looking to invest. Give me a shout.


That feeling that pops up between starting a productive and difficult task from an unproductive but entertaining one is nearly unbearable. It is a feeling we spend large portions of our lives avoiding.

That feeling sells entertainment. It fuels industries. It makes you read articles like this instead of working on whatever it is you should be doing. And don't lie to me, I know there is something you should be doing.

As bad as that feeling may be, you definitely hate boredom more. True boredom. And if you're in the majority of men, or in a reasonable percentage of women, you might choose pain over boredom. Electric shock to be precise.

When locked in an empty room, much like the one from my awesome new boot camp where I make you an Olympic level runner (only $249.99), 67% of men choose to electrically shock themselves rather than sit alone with their thoughts.

One subject (who should definitely be placed on a watchlist) went as far as to shock himself 290 times.

Boredom is an insidious feeling. One that we don't tolerate very well. Electricity, on the other hand, actually feels pretty damn great according to one subject, and not quite as bad as boredom according to a few others.

People who report experiencing high levels of boredom are significantly more likely to die young than those who don't, likely in part caused by their increased risk of being drawn towards dangerous behaviors and drug/alcohol abuse.

Now on the other hand, if instead of allowing that boredom to drive you towards dangerous vices, you would find a way to harness it, or just allow me to lock you in a room with a treadmill, this could greatly increase your lifespan.

Natural selection has likely bred you to despise a lack of stimulation over all other things. It's part of the reason why solitary confinement is often recognized as an actual form of torture. And by all reasonable measures, is a form of torture.

It is entirely possible that natural selection placed eveolutionary pressure on these traits to evolve as those who felt discomfort high enough to force them to act, had higher survival chances. Those who stagnated and felt comfortable staring at a tree or whatever there was to do back then probably didn't fare too well. They were erased from the gene pool.

It is also entirely possible that a benevolent God wanted to see my boot camp succeed. Evolution is funny like that. So many complexities, so many factors.

This isn't a prescription for you to go block all social media and design your life in a way that would minimize distractions because I am not currently the proud owner of an intensely relevant product. Although if I hadn't procrastinated and actually made that ripoff of Cold Turkey Blocker that I was always planning on this article could have made me a fair bit of money.

Take it as you will. Boredom is an incredibly powerful emotion and one that we probably don't experience in all its glory very often. Maybe schedule a few hours in to live like an ascetic, and see where it gets you.

If you take away neural stimulation in all your usual forms, you'll find something new to do. Whether that is the start of a new project or a new found pleasure in self-administering electric shocks is left to be discovered. In my case it was writing this article.

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