Addiction: scary word with all the connotations it has. There is an older and less used definition of it that can lead to a better understanding of how most of us work. This definition is more akin to habit or routine. Basic gist is that an addition is some behavior that if we don’t do it causes us some sense of pain.

addictionI like this better. Writing is certainly an addiction in this sense for me. Reading also. I try to take a look at what I get most irritated about when I am taken away from it. Those two rank pretty high. Those two are flow activities for me, both energizing and engaging.

On the opposite side of the spectrum is boredom. It is neither engaging or energizing (well it is better than depressing on the energy level but not much). Most of us seem to get stuck in boredom. It’s one of the great precursors to action, both positive and negative, so maybe it isn’t all bad. The choice is ours.

But how often does boredom become just another complaint? It’s this complaining and the social connection created by commiserating that I think makes boredom addicting. It also does another thing for us — gets others to take responsibility for our entertainment or action.

We’re able to get out of the cycles of boredom, or other addictions that may have limited use for us, but there is withdrawal associated with it. It’s hard to not slip back into old behavior loops, especially when we loosen our consciousness. We miss the familiarity, the ease of not having to think, the simple payoff.

Relapse happens when we start to create positive addictions. We tumble from the healthy eating wagon. Skip the gym just this once (or hundredth time but who’s counting). Unless we do them enough to make them addictions the path back is smooth compared to the one ahead. If you’re a runner (I’m not) it can be painful to not go for a run each day. Same for swimmers. Engaged in enough to become an addiction, the cost of not doing it is too high — now the old path is overgrown and less tempting.

For many of us I think boredom has become the gateway to many other unhelpful addictions. Screen time, eating, substances, sleeping, depression, anxiety. It ties in with the article on avoiding or embracing. What is the reason for what we do?

Addiction is the automation of our behavior so we don’t have to think about it anymore. This can be good, it can be bad, or it can be indifferent. I have come to believe it’s good to subject these everyday addictions to some scrutinous examination. Boredom is one I am working to eliminate. No longer is it an excuse for me to cruise social media, or engage in banal activities. I will let it be more the warning sign of opportunity. Boredom will signal freedom to engage in activities that moves me toward a better self. Maybe it can transform into space for a little more daydreaming.

What addictions help you live a better life and which ones get in the way? What are you willing to do about them?

Thanks as always,

With civility ~ Brian