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The Shocking Dangers of Boredom & How To Fight It

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“Perhaps the world's second-worst crime is boredom; the first is being a bore.” - English photographer Cecil Beaton

I think I speak for all of us when I say, “Boredom sucks.” Most of us are getting bored quicker and more easily these days. With attention spans shortening, if we don’t have our smartphone fix, our coffee, our TV, or our fantasy football scores, we feel fidgety. We fall into the trap of multitasking and we get caught up in acting for the sake of doing… often to avoid boredom.

Electric Shocks Preferred to Boredom
A collaboration of the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that people despise boredom so much they are even willing to cause themselves physical pain in order to avoid it. A series of 11 studies, led by UVA psychologist Timothy Wilson, began with groups of participants who were asked to be alone for short periods of time (up to 15 minutes) without any material to stimulate their minds. Most of the subjects reported not enjoying the experience.

Wilson and his team wanted to see if people would chose to take part in an objectively unpleasant activity rather than no activity at all. So, as psychologists like to do, they added a button to the barren room that when pressed administered a mild electric shock to the participant. Participants were given a sample shock and all agreed that they would pay not to receive the shock. However, while sitting alone for 15 minutes, 67 percent of the men and 25 percent of the women in this study voluntarily shocked themselves.

Wilson said, “Simply being alone with their own thoughts for 15 minutes was apparently so aversive that it drove many participants to self-administer an electric shock that they had earlier said they would pay to avoid."

Best-selling author and Harvard psychology professor Daniel Gilbert partnered with Wilson’s team on the shock study. Gilbert shared in a Freakonomics podcast last month that one of the male participants shocked himself an astonishing 190 times in the 15 minute period.

Boredom is Dangerous
Okay, so we clearly hate being bored. In addition, it turns out, boredom is also bad for our health. U.K. researchers collected data from 7,500 participants over a three-year period in the 1980s to gauge their level of boredom at work. 20 years after the collection period, the researchers analyzed the data for participants who had died. They found that those who had reported being “very bored” were two and a half times more likely to die from a heart-related problem than those who did not report being bored.

Psychologist Stephen Vodanovich of the University of West Florida states that research indicates that boredom increases the risk of anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol dependency, smoking, eating junk food, and work and school performance.

Exercise Combats Boredom
WebMD contends that boredom is common reason that people give for not exercising. People often find exercising monotonous. So, I’m going to argue that we should do something that many of us find boring to fight boredom. I’m a big fan of experimenting to find what works best for you… for your schedule, for your meal plan, for you workout routine. People often ask me, “What kind of exercise should I do to get me motivated?” The answer I give is, “Start with something that you will enjoy.” If we don’t like something the chances are slim that we’ll do it consistently.

Being active, however, isn’t sufficient to prevent boredom from creeping in. I’ve run the same route in Central Park dozens and dozens of times. And, yes it can get a bit boring. We need to find new ways to vary our routines so that they don’t become too… uh… routine.

Fight Boredom Your Way
There are some tips for combatting boredom while we work out so that we will stay motivated enough to keep exercising and enjoy it more. Again, everyone is different and not every suggestion will work for all of us. Reducing boredom is tantamount to making our workouts more fun. Making exercise a social activity can work for many of us. A running partner, workout buddy, or trainer can make exercises more competitive, supportive, or interactive. We wrote about how a great workout pal can be your dog in a blog last summer. Combining exercise with something else you enjoy can help a lot. Most people running on the treadmill or lifting weights in the gym have their headphones or earbuds glued to their heads. If music isn’t your bag, watching television, listening to podcasts, playing video games, or reading books may work for you.

One of the best ways to ensure that boredom doesn’t creep into our workouts is to create variety. With the many options of new and exciting classes available for us to try at gyms, apps and YouTube workouts available to enjoy at home, and new products to incorporate into my exercise regimen, I keep things interesting and fresh. My preference is to try at least one new exercise every week. My Core Flytes certainly make this easier for me to do as I am constantly challenged by what others are posting on social media. Fortunately, people are regularly telling me what they’re doing with their Core Flytes and it helps inspire me to try something new. This week a customer shared a “zombie press,” which I’m still working on!

We’d love to hear from you. What do you do to keep your workouts fun and make sure you’re never bored when you exercise? Comment below or on our Facebook page at facebook.com/flytefitness or tweet us at @flytefitness.

Be Flyte Fit,

Jeremy Greenberg

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