Whenever I think about boredom, I tend to picture a lousy and negative state of mind that brings me down. In an article for bbc.com, David Robson points out that research on this behavior has found that two distinct personality types are prone to experience boredom. One is those who are constantly on the lookout for new experiences, and the second are individuals who see the world as a fearful place and run for shelter. "Out of their high-sensitivity to pain, they withdraw," notes John Eastwood, a scholar of this state of mind. Boredom can have dire effects on health. To avoid it, some people turn to addictions or behaviors such as over-eating.

But just as fear helps us avoid danger, boredom has a positive side in that it can serve as a spur to curiosity. In other words, it leads us into new arenas of exploration and discovery. Heather Lench of Texas A&M University concludes: "If we don't find stimulation externally, we look internally – going to different places in our minds. It allows us to make leaps of imagination. We can get out of the box and think in different ways." Here boredom challenges us listen, to be more attentive, and to see this form of ennui as a teacher.

The more I read about the emotions, the more it becomes clear that they are complex and paradoxical aspects of our character. For some of us, it makes good sense to embrace tedium and use it as a catalyst to fresh fields of wonder. For others, boredom can be a symptom of a deeper existential malaise that needs serious tending. We agree with our friend Sam Keen who suggests: "Authentic happiness is only possible when we allow ourselves to experience the full range of human emotions, including boredom, fear, grief, anger and despair."

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