Heidi Ledford:

Which would you prefer: pain or boredom? Given the choice, many people would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit idly in a room for 15 minutes, according to a study published today in Science.

The results are a testament to our discomfort with our own thoughts, say psychologists, and to the challenge we face when we try to rein them in.

“We lack a comfort in just being alone with our thoughts,” says Malia Mason, a psychologist at Columbia University in New York, who was not involved in the study. “We’re constantly looking to the external world for some sort of entertainment.”

Seriously? 15 minutes? I mean, I know this is nothing new, but still, sitting idly and letting my thoughts meander is my default state, and I’m not even into any sort of official Zen meditation or anything. I get intensely irritable when I’m forced to go too long without the opportunity. It’s a wonder I ever accomplish anything.