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People With Higher Levels of Self-Compassion Experience Less Boredom, Study Says

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Verywell / Zoe Hansen

Key Takeaways

  • Boredom is common, but experts believe one way to reduce it is to practice self-compassion.
  • A recent study found that individuals who have high levels of self-compassion are less prone to boredom.
  • Meditation and breathework are two ways to learn to cultivate self-compassion.

Everybody gets bored now and then. But some people are less likely to experience boredom than others—and it may have something to do with how they treat themselves, say researchers. 

A new study, published in Personality and Individual Differences, found that people who experience greater feelings of compassion towards themselves are typically less likely to feel bored. A crucial part of this is their perceptions of meaning in life.

“Chronic boredom, often referred to as ‘boredom proneness’, is linked to many negative outcomes for the individual and society at large,” says study author Muireann O’Dea, a PhD researcher in psychology at the University of Limerick. 

However, little is known about how to reduce and prevent this form of boredom. This prompted the researchers to investigate how endorsing a positive psychological mindset like self-compassion could impact boredom experiences. 

What is Self-Compassion?

Self-compassion, by offering compassion towards one’s own suffering, reduces the psychological impact of negative experiences, explains O’Dea. Practicing self-compassion helps to increase perceptions of a meaningful life by strengthening our self-worth and enhancing feelings of connection—to both the self and others, she adds. 

Muireann O’Dea, PhD

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.

— Muireann O’Dea, PhD

Eric Igou, PhD, and Wijnand van Tilburg, PhD, two of O’Dea’s fellow authors, have previously established 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,” says O’Dea. 

A Closer Look at the Study 

First, the researchers carried out a pilot study of 49 undergraduate students and found that self-compassionate individuals tended to be less prone to boredom. Next, they used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk platform to conduct a second study with 265 participants, then a third study with 191 participants. 

The studies examined both dispositional self-compassion (i.e. a person's general tendency to be compassionate towards themselves) and state self-compassion (a person’s level of self-compassion at that particular moment). The studies also examined both boredom proneness (a general tendency to become bored) and state boredom (how bored a person feels at that particular moment).

“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,” says O’Dea.

The research suggests that not only is practicing self-compassion beneficial for your overall well-being but it may also help to reduce your boredom levels,” O’Dea says. “Importantly, the benefits from the increased perceptions of meaning in life that self-compassion imbues is specific to boredom, not negative affect.”

How to Foster Self-Compassion

Elisabeth Netherton, MD, a psychiatrist and Regional Medical Director with Mindpath Health, believes that when we have self-compassion we hold ourselves in regard and extend ourselves grace in the same way that we would extend grace to someone else. But self-compassion isn’t an attribute we just wake up with one morning—it takes practice to cultivate it.

We can do this through daily practice, starting with taking notice of our thoughts and how we talk to ourselves. “As you notice that you are talking to yourself in a negative way, you can practice reframing or rephrasing those thoughts to allow for more kindness,” says Dr. Netherton. 

Elisabeth Netherton, MD

As you notice that you are talking to yourself in a negative way, you can practice reframing or rephrasing those thoughts to allow for more kindness.

— Elisabeth Netherton, MD

The recent study makes sense, she adds, as people who derive a high degree of meaning from life are often quite active in pursuits and roles that contribute to that sense of meaning.

O’Dea says self-compassion is a malleable personality trait that can be fostered through journaling and meditation techniques, offering the potential to mitigate boredom experiences.  

Christy Whitman, a transformational leader and two-time New York Times bestselling author, sees self-compassion as energy. "It is an inner action that allows you to soothe and comfort yourself when things are not as you would like them to be," she says. "It is a way to feel yourself and allow yourself to have your experience and emotions, but move through them; it neutralizes energy from lower-level emotions into higher-level emotions."

Whitman's first tip is to feel what you don't want to think by being aware of the energy. "Process that energy through breathwork or energy mastery techniques and processes," she says. "Then ask to feel compassion. Feel as if a warm hug of energy is surrounding your body. Speak to yourself with kindness and soothing words such as 'I know it is not easy to feel X sometimes, and it will get better'."

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2 Sources
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  1. O’Dea MK, Igou ER, van Tilburg WAP, Kinsella EL. Self-compassion predicts less boredom: The role of meaning in lifePersonality and Individual Differences. 2022;186:111360. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2021.111360

  2. van Tilburg WAP, Igou ER, Sedikides C. In search of meaningfulness: Nostalgia as an antidote to boredomEmotion. 2013;13(3):450-461. doi:10.1037/a0030442