Individuals who experience greater feelings of caring and kindness toward themselves tend to also feel less bored, according to new research published in Personality and Individual Differences. The findings provide evidence that perceptions of meaning in life play an important role in this relationship.
“Boredom is a very common experience but it’s subjective in nature. What one individual may find intensely boring another may find fascinating,” said study author Muireann O’Dea (@muireann_odea), a PhD researcher in psychology at the University of Limerick.
“Chronic boredom, often referred to as ‘boredom proneness,’ is linked to many detrimental outcomes for the individual and society at large however little is known about how we can prevent this chronic form of boredom. With this in mind, we were interested in investigating how endorsing a positive psychological mindset like self-compassion could minimize boredom experiences.”
“Self-compassion is a psychological resource that involves offering compassion towards one’s own suffering,” O’Dea explained. “Self-compassion increases perceptions of a meaningful life by strengthening our self-worth and enhancing feelings of connection to both the self and others.”
“Dr. Eric Igou and Dr. Wijnand van Tilburg have extensively researched how boredom triggers a perceived lack of meaning in life and a consequent desire to reinstate meaning. We have now started to research how sources of meaning can also hinder experiences of boredom in the first instance.”
The researchers first conducted a pilot study of 49 undergraduate students, which provided initial evidence that self-compassionate individuals tended to be less prone to boredom. To extend and replicate their initial findings, O’Dea and her colleagues then used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform to conduct a second study with 265 participants and a third study with 191 participants.
The studies examined both dispositional self-compassion (one’s general tendency to be compassionate towards oneself) and state self-compassion (one’s level of self-compassion at the present moment). Similarly, the studies examined both boredom proneness (one’s general tendency to become bored) and state boredom (how bored one feels at the present moment).
The researchers found a consistent pattern of results: Greater levels of self-compassion predicted reduced levels of boredom, and this relationship was partially accounted for by meaning in life.
“It appears that individuals who have high levels of self-compassion are less prone to boredom. In particular, self-compassion is associated with increased perceptions of meaning in life and consequently less boredom,” O’Dea told PsyPost.
“We find this relationship even for brief, momentary experiences of self-compassion, meaning, and boredom. Our research shows that not only is practicing self-compassion beneficial for your overall well-being but it may also help to reduce your boredom levels. Self-compassion can be fostered through journaling and meditation techniques, as a potential antidote to boredom.”
The study’s main limitation is its correlational design.
“This research offers evidence for the benefits of self-compassion on boredom only at the level of individual difference,” O’Dea explained. “Thus far, our studies did not provide clear evidence for a causal effect. Future research should examine more closely whether individual differences in self-compassion have long-term benefits, using designs that support causal assumptions. Further, it is unclear if state self-compassion would have causal effects on boredom.”
The study, “Self-compassion predicts less boredom: The role of meaning in life“, Muireann K.O’Dea, Eric R. Igou, Wijnand A.P. van Tilburg, and Elaine L. Kinsella.