A Stanford University Professor Reveals Why Boredom is Good For You

March 18, 2024

Dr. Anna Lembke is a Stanford University Professor of Psychiatry.

Dr. Lembke was helping Sophie, a Standford undergraduate who was struggling with depression and anxiety. 

Sophie was constantly plugged in either scrolling through Instagram or watching YouTube or listening to podcasts.

Dr. Lembke suggested that she walk to class without listening to anything and discusses this interaction with Sophie and the importance of boredom in her book, Dopamine Nation.

“She looked at me both incredulous and afraid. “Why would I do that?” she asked, openmouthed. 

“Well,” I ventured, “it’s a way of becoming familiar with yourself. Of letting your experience unfold without trying to control it or run away from it.

All that distracting yourself with devices may be contributing to your depression and anxiety. It’s pretty exhausting avoiding yourself all the time.

I wonder if experiencing yourself in a different way might give you access to new thoughts and feelings, and help you feel more connected to yourself, to others, and to the world.” 

She thought about that for a moment. “But it’s so boring,” she said.

“Yes, that’s true,” I said. 

“Boredom is not just boring. It can also be terrifying.

It forces us to come face-to-face with bigger questions of meaning and purpose. But boredom is also an opportunity for discovery and invention.

It creates the space necessary for a new thought to form, without which we’re endlessly reacting to stimuli around us, rather than allowing ourselves to be within our lived experience.”

– Anna Lembke, Author of Dopamine Nation: Finding Balance in the Age of Indulgence

Here's a great Ted Talk by Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist, podcast host and author on the importance of boredom.

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