Have you ever watched the hands on the clock move, while you sit aimlessly thinking to yourself: "I'm bored!"

Boredom is the emotional and physical state of an individual when they have nothing particular to do and have become uninterested in their surroundings.

While for most people boredom is a temporary state that can easily be alleviated by a change of environment or in circumstances, it can be a chronic and pervasive stressor for others. Boredom can weigh heavy on an individual's health and well-being.

Being bored at work can lead to acute problems such as slacking off to serious accidents when safety depends on alertness. In terms of behavior, boredom has been linked to impulse control such as overeating binge eating, drug and alcohol abuse and gambling. Though it is clear boredom can lead to serious consequences, there still remains little to no research regarding the study of boredom.

Psychological scientist John Eastwood, of York University in Ontario, Canada, and colleagues at the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo hope to understand the mental process that causes boredom and create a precise definition of boredom. Their hope is to find a definition that can be applied across a variety of theoretical frameworks.

Through research across psychological science and neuroscience, researchers defined boredom as, "an aversive state of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity."

They also found when individuals are bored it is because:

  • We have difficulty paying attention to the internal information (e.g., thoughts or feelings) or external information (e.g., environmental stimuli) required for participating in satisfying activity
  • We're aware of the fact that we're having difficulty paying attention
  • We believe that the environment is responsible for our aversive state (e.g., "this task is boring," "there is nothing to do").

Researchers hope to help discover and develop new strategies to help ease boredom and help address the potential dangers.

The study was published in the Perspectives on Psychological Science.