Everyone suffers from boredom from time to time, but some people find it more difficult to cope than others. For many, the combination of isolation and monotony created by the current pandemic is a breeding ground for numerous psychological challenges, including the perils of boredom. While there are no tests to diagnose boredom, boredom that lasts for long periods of time or occurs frequently may be a sign of an underlying condition – depression. There is no specific, medical treatment for boredom, but there are steps you can take to help get your mood back on track.
1. Take Note and Take Action
Boredom may be an unpleasant feeling that most people do not enjoy, but often disagreeable feelings, like boredom, are normal and serve a purpose. Feelings, even negative ones, can help you meet your needs and keep you focused on what truly matters. For example, anger may signal that you are being taken advantage of, and the feeling of fear can indicate that you are in danger. Boredom tells you that you are at risk of stagnation and need to take action to stimulate your mind and body. So, despite being an uncomfortable feeling, you might be better for it. The challenge is to take note and respond wisely.
2. Find a Direction
Most people are grounded by routine and activity. With the ongoing pandemic and varying quarantine restrictions, routines quickly changed, leaving many feeling ‘out of sorts and lost. Quite simply, most people are used to outsourcing the control of their attention and time. In quarantine, some people have come to realize that they’re actually not that good at directing the focus of their attention, often to the point of dilemma and eventually decision-making paralysis. Whether to watch TV now and do the laundry later or to tackle the laundry first can become a momentous decision. Boredom pushes you out of a reactive gear and encourages you to discover a self-determination gear. You need to find a direction, create new routines, and establish different priorities.
3. Understand Why You’re Feeling Bored
Boredom is not an absence of things to do. There are ALWAYS things to do, so that’s not generally the problem. At the very least, your smartphone is a virtual portal to the infinite. The problem is that a bored person desperately wants to be doing something, but doesn’t want to do anything that is ‘doable’. Often feelings of boredom stem from the inability to do what you would truly rather be doing. When bored, you can’t muster up an actionable desire or find any value in the available options. So, boredom is born of disordered wanting and valuing, not an absence of possibility. Once you better understand why you are experiencing feelings of boredom, look for tasks or activities that are right at your fingertips. Another idea is to make a to-do list of tasks that need doing and commit yourself to check something off your list the next time you find yourself twiddling your thumbs.
4. Take Time to Find Clarity
Finding clarity about your desires and discovering the value in possible activities might require a moment of self-reflection. Take that time. Many people report that the most transformative and fulfilling changes in their lives were sparked by periods of change that forced them to reflect on their goals and values. Try journaling. For example, reflecting on the value of quarantine itself might help. Research shows that having a good reason for doing something makes it less boring, no matter how monotonous the task may seem. Understand your reason for doing any activity and you’ll be less bored.
5. Avoid Monotonous Passive Entertainment
Early in quarantine, binge-watching Netflix seemed like a great plan, but eventually many people became restless for something more. In fact, passively consuming entertainment – treating yourself like an empty vessel in need of filling – likely makes you more susceptible to future boredom. What you need most when bored is the ability to reclaim control of your life. Tragically, most people do the exact opposite, again outsourcing a solution. Resist the urge to find the quickest anesthetic, offering a remedy without a cure – or worst, blunting the motivation to address the root issue. When bored, the key is to find activities that flow from and give expression to your passions, creativity, and curiosity. And while wrestling with these big questions, pause to enjoy a cup of coffee and go for an invigorating walk. Find simple pro-active strategies that reduce boredom, rather than relying on passive entertainment.
6. Get by With a Little Help from Your Friends
An absence of human interactions can make isolation and monotony even more unbearable. Research has shown that people are more likely to be bored when alone, compared to when spending time with others. In quarantine, direct human contact was highly abridged, causing many to turn to online connections to help fight boredom. Today, the Internet can play a vital role in helping people stay connected. Play an online game with others, join a chat room, or stay in touch with friends and family via scheduled zoom calls. If at home with your family, gather around the dining room table for a fun board game. Social distancing does not have to mean an absence of social connection.
7. Look for the Silver Lining
Potentially boring situations that you learn to navigate can end up being rewarding. Constantly being controlled by external forces, being kept busy by the demands of life, and fulfilled by external compelling experiences can cause many to feel disoriented and lost. Moments of pause create a space to explore who you are and what you truly value. What’s more, figuring out the answers to such questions can guide you towards important boredom-busting life projects. Choosing a variety of activities to pursue is better for your overall mental and physical health.
Remember, everyone, suffers from occasional boredom. This is a completely normal feeling and should not cause you too much worry if kept in check. In fact, boredom can inspire you to invest in yourself. If boredom is part of a larger issue, like depression, definitely seek treatment from a qualified mental health provider. Talking to your doctor about your feelings will help them understand your needs and ensure you get the right treatment.
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