Oh, Boredom!

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I was talking to an investor recently, who confessed to boredom because he was not able to find stocks worth buying in this rising market. Another investor asked – “What you say about long-term investing in the stock market is all good. But doesn’t it get boring after a time?

Reaching home, my children and wife complained of boredom with nothing much to do and ‘virtually’ no socializing.

Bored – is a word we have heard repeatedly during the lockdown with everyone going through various stages of boredom for the last 15 months and that led me to do some more research on it.

 “Boredom” first became a word in 1852, when Charles Dickens published Bleak House, where he wrote –

‘I am bored to death with it. Bored to death with this place, bored to death with my life, bored to death with myself.’

As an emotional state, however, boredom dates back a lot further. Roman philosopher Seneca described boredom as a kind of nausea. Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard wrote this in his book Either/Or: A Fragment of Life – Adam was bored because he was alone; therefore Eve was created. Since that moment, boredom entered the world and grew in quantity in exact proportion to the growth of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille. After that, the population of the world increased and the nations were bored en masse.

Wikipedia defines the word ‘boredom’ as an emotional or psychological state experienced when an individual is left without anything in particular to do, is not interested in his or her surroundings, or feels that a day or period is dull or tedious.

For most people, boredom is a passing, nearly trivial feeling that lifts as the moment pass or a task is completed.

But as per science, boredom has a darker side. Easily bored people are at higher risk for depression, anxiety, drug addiction, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, eating disorders, hostility, anger, poor social skills, bad grades, and low work performance.

Bertrand Russell wrote in his book, The Conquest of Happiness – We are less bored than our ancestors were, but we are more afraid of boredom. We have come to know, or rather to believe, that boredom is not part of the natural lot of man, but can be avoided by a sufficiently vigorous pursuit of excitement.

Talking of removing boredom through the pursuit of excitement, look no further than the widespread consumerism that has engulfed modern society. One reason why so many people buy so many things they don’t need is that such buying helps them kill boredom – or so they think.

As I also understand from a few of my friends working in the stockbroking industry, trading in and out of the stock market is not just a show of overconfidence from the trader. Just the excitement of constant activity helps in killing the boredom that the stock market can create from time to time.

Bertrand Russell wrote in his book – ‘A generation that cannot endure boredom will be a generation of little men…of men in whom every vital impulse slowly withers, as though they were cut flowers in a vase.’

This thought is so important to understand and always remember.

Many have pursued wars to kill boredom. Many have done it with quarrels with neighbors. And many have invented stuff because they had “nothing else to do.”

But acting out of boredom is never a good strategy. To get over your boredom, channel your energy into productive activities or by picking up a hobby. But please, please, don’t try to let your boredom get to your head, and lead you to act in haste just because you want to bring back excitement into your life.

This weekend, Don’t be bored and stay blessed forever.