The Origins of Boredom, and Its Possible Benefits (Smithsonian)

The word boredom entered our lexicon with the publication in 1852 of Charles Dickens’ serial, Bleak House. Before that, Roman philosopher Seneca described boredom as a kind of nausea, and in the Christian tradition, the “noonday demon” referred to the condition of monks suffering both simultaneous listlessness and restlessness, the Smithsonian explains.

Recent research suggests boredom could be an indication of an underlying illness, such as depression, anxiety disorders, gambling addictions, eating disorders, aggression and other psychosocial issues. But on the flip side, boredom might be an advantage, acquired via natural selection. If boredom is akin to the feeling of being “sick of” something, or “fed up,” it might be tied to our disgust impulses, which help us avoid harmful things.

Plus, boredom could be a spur to creativity. The Boring Conference — this actually takes place, in London — “wants people to use the mundane as an impetus to creative thinking and observation.”

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