Description: Think about this distinction for a moment in relation to your own experiences within and related to our time with the Covid-19 pandemic. How much of our negative emotional, social and cognitive experiences could or should we attribute to bad things that have happened to us (e.g., health challenges, job losses, life disruptions) and how much might we better attribute to things just being different now than they were 6 months ago? It is a tough question because things in the “different” category are often harder to see, harder to name, and as such harder to process. Measures of stress such as the Homes-Rahe Life Events Stress Scale, for example, have been criticized for not considering life events that did not happen (e.g., not getting a promotion, not having anything to do on a weekend evening). Loss and grief associated with missed opportunities are also examples of the impact of non-events. If the distinction is still hard to see think about this as an example. If you are or were feeling down as a result of Covid-19 related social isolation, how much of what you are feeling might appropriately do attributed to aspects of depression and how much might, more simply, be attributed to boredom? This question highlights a clear example of a possible distinction between what could well be an emerging mental health epidemic associated with the Covid-19 pandemic and what could be a general social adjustment challenge associated with the many ways in which life is or will be different during and after Covid-19. Think about your own emotions, thoughts and experiences over the past few months in terms of depression versus boredom and then read the article linked below for a Psychology research grounded reflection on this question.
Source: Is the Lockdown Making You Depressed or Are You Just Bored? Richard A. Friedman, Sunday Review, Ney York Times.
Date: August 21, 2020
The main point in the questions I suggested above was not that we need to decide which is right and which is wrong. Covid-19 has provided many of us with challenges to mental health and wellness AND is requiring us to do a lot of what we used to do differently. What the questions, and the linked article, suggest is that by becoming aware of the distinctions between depression and boredom, between stress or anxiety due to negative life events and stress and anxiety related more to uncertainty due to things, social things mainly, being different opens up ways of looking at, at least some of what we are facing differently, as things we have the ability to DO something about which draws on aspects of our self-efficacy and through that leads to positive coping. All of this is a big part of what makes up resilience which is not simply coping with stress and anxiety better than other people but sorting through your situation and finding the parts of it you can do something about and taking them on. Isn’t that much better than being so bored you decide that giving yourself a shock is better than nothing?
Questions for Discussion:
- What are some examples of ways in which things are just different today rather than being inherently stressful or noxious to our mental health?
- What are some of the important differences between boredom and depression?
- What might you do to check on your own wellbeing in this area from time to time? What sorts of things might you look at or reflect upon in order to cope more resiliently as opposed to remaining enmeshed in stress, anxiety and uncertainty?
References (Read Further):
Wilson, T. D., Reinhard, D. A., Westgate, E. C., Gilbert, D. T., Ellerbeck, N., Hahn, C., … & Shaked, A. (2014). Just think: The challenges of the disengaged mind. Science, 345(6192), 75-77. Link
Fernandez, Luke and Matt, Susan J. (2020) Americans’ inability to cope with boredom is spurring the spread of coronavirus, Salon, Aug 2. Link
Bajaj, B., & Pande, N. (2016). Mediating role of resilience in the impact of mindfulness on life satisfaction and affect as indices of subjective well-being. Personality and Individual Differences, 93, 63-67. Link
Ramasubramanian, S. (2017). Mindfulness, stress coping and everyday resilience among emerging youth in a university setting: a mixed methods approach. International Journal of adolescence and youth, 22(3), 308-321. Link
Goldberg, Y. K., Eastwood, J. D., LaGuardia, J., & Danckert, J. (2011). Boredom: An emotional experience distinct from apathy, anhedonia, or depression. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 30(6), 647-666. Link
Wolniewicz, C. A., Rozgonjuk, D., & Elhai, J. D. (2020). Boredom proneness and fear of missing out mediate relations between depression and anxiety with problematic smartphone use. Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, 2(1), 61-70. Link
Bargdill, R. W. (2019). Habitual Boredom and Depression: Some Qualitative Differences. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 59(2), 294-312. Link