What is boredom and how can we go about alleviating it? Back to Basics

Boredom is a feeling that most of us are all too familiar with, and is something that is experienced by everyone in life at one point or another. What makes dealing with boredom so tricky is that it is unique to each person and can creep up at the most unexpected moment. It could be your day off work, the weekend, or even during some time you planned to kick back and relax from your busy life.

Whilst boredom isn’t a mental health disorder like depression or anxiety etc. it can present itself in very similar ways, and can be a symptom/contribution to the aforementioned. However, if we can become bored without much prompting, then it is possible to become interested and entertained just as easily. It’s just about self-awareness and learning how. In this post we will cover the basics of boredom, discussing what it is and how it affects us, before moving on to some ideas of how we can begin to address these feelings which have helped me in the past.

What is Boredom?

Once described by Leo Tolstoy as simply ‘the desire for desires’, boredom, like most things that affect our mental health can be quite difficult to define. Simply put, boredom is feeling uninterested or unmotivated in what you are currently doing or, sometimes, even at the possibilities of what you could be doing.

“We all know the feeling. Time becomes slowed down. Nothing seems interesting. There is a feeling of yearning, but for what? This is what we call bored. We tell ourselves that we are bored! What does this mean?”

The above excerpt from an article by Dr Allan Schwartz on MentalHelp.Net summarises these feelings quite perfectly, at least from my own personal experience. Boredom is quite a tricky thing though, as it is a bottomless well, and if we stand too close it’s possible to fall into it. If you’re bored because you’re not doing anything interesting or exciting, then that can quickly spread and make even the most interesting and exciting things seem dull. This is what we have to work to prevent.

It’s fine to be bored now and again, like I mentioned above, everyone experiences it at some point or another, but what isn’t fine is letting this feeling fester and hollow us out, leaving us depressed and in extreme situations, and can even lead to self-harm and suicide.

So why does this boredom tend to sink in during our weekends? Or when we have a day off? Well, it’s no surprise nowadays that boredom is kicking in during lockdowns and self-isolation, especially if we’ve already deep cleaned our home more times that we thought possible, but even before we had heard of Covid-19, many of us found ourselves on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, feeling bored and tired, and there is a perfectly rational explanation as to why.

Picture it, you’ve been working hard at your 9-5 all week, and stressing over the same tasks day in day out, and finally there is this period where you can just relax. Though whenever you get to those days, you find yourself sitting on the sofa with nothing to do, and the feeling of boredom sinks in. Many times in the past I have felt myself excited for the weekend only to get there and then feel bored, and sometimes that boredom would last the entire weekend until I was back in work, replacing the happiness and relaxation I was supposed to feel with frustration and emptiness.

I’m also sure I’m not the only one who has ever been bored, and yet when someone close to you gives you options of things you could do, you turn them down as you are uninterested. It’s a self-defeating cycle which can really spiral out of control fast. That being said, it’s something I have put a lot of work into addressing and beginning to remedy in my life. Here are some of the following methods I have used to alleviate that boredom feeling, and hopefully they will allow you to as well. 

How Can You Prevent Boredom?

Change up your thought process: The first step to solving the problem is by being self-aware and addressing it head on. Nobody is bored just because that’s how they are. You may be feeling bored because the current task you’re doing is unchallenging, you may feel bored because you don’t have any inclination of what you should do. There are countless causes and reasons which affect each of us differently.

If you catch yourself being a victim to one of these thought patterns, then you’re already on the right track to getting yourself out of that slump. Identify your triggers, be it mentally or even in a notepad somewhere, and then put a note beside them as to how you feel and what you think might be causing it.

A lot of the time, when we are asked to think about things more deeply, we actually become a lot more interested in them and the boring task we’re unchallenged by can turn into an opportunity to either improve your performance or have fun whilst doing it. Small changes such as listening to music whilst cleaning or setting yourself small work-related goals to beat your previous records, can put things into a new perspective and what is boring, suddenly isn’t anymore.

Plan Things to Look Forward to: If boredom is something you know tends to happen around the weekend, or a specific time in the week, one way to prevent this is to plan something during that time period. It may initially sound like avoiding the problem, because…well…it is, but that is one of the ways we can tackle boredom, by finding ways to not experience it. I know plans are hard to come by in today’s current climate, seeing as in some parts of the world you still can’t meet up with friends etc. but it doesn’t mean you can’t make them at all or make plans with yourself/those in your bubble.

In my post about self-care, I talked about making small plans such as zoom calls with friends or treating yourself to a nice home cooked meal that you enjoy, but these are just some of the potential plans you could make. Pick a date to try a new hobby or give yourself more things to look forward to such as a planning a holiday etc. It’s about finding what things make you happy whilst also putting your time to good use. That being said, these plans don’t always have to be something you have to put a lot of effort into, which brings me to my next approach:

Rest, Relax and Recover: Now I know I have talked about boredom tracking us down whilst we are supposed to be relaxing, but that doesn’t make it inevitable. As long as you’re doing something you genuinely want to do and are interested in, it can make all the difference.

Whilst planning yourself a spa day where you pamper yourself at home may sound like an easy way to feel bored, it can actually be extremely stimulating. The next time you get a chance to put your phone down and actively avoid looking at the time, then just go for a bath. Whether you listen to music, read a book or just sit there quietly and enjoy, you’ll be surprised by how much comfort you can get.

Being bored is a different feeling for different people, so it stands to reason that being entertained or interested is equally as unique. Whilst some people may like to have a virtual meet-up with their friends, others want their free time to be about recharging. So, it’s totally fine if you want to lay in bed for a while longer, or binge watch that TV show you’ve been meaning to. Just be aware of your limitations to prevent that bored feeling from creeping in and ruining even the most relaxing activities.

Be Proactive: Meal Plan, work on work stuff, work on a project, do housework, do something you’ve been putting off. It may seem like a chore, but sometimes all it takes to stop feeling bored is to throw yourself and your energy into doing something. On that note, what better way to do this than by doing something that will help make your future a little easier. Cooking some meals on a Sunday and then freezing them or preparing your lunches for work that week will save you a bunch of time and stress, and also take up some of the time you would otherwise spend feeling low and unmotivated.

I know from personal experience that Sunday’s can be really challenging. If you have a stressful job it can feel like it is looming over you on a Sunday, and that you don’t have any time to enjoy yourself before you’ll be back in that office again. Through being proactive we can slightly ease this feeling. It really is nice to not have to worry about your lunches for the week, what clothes you’re going to wear tomorrow or even that you’ll have to do some house chores when you get home. Instead, it’s all done, and you can just enjoy that bit of time you have left on a Sunday evening, and get a well-deserved sleep to fully recover.

Talk to your GP: If your boredom persists and you feel yourself unmotivated, uninterested and generally down, then reach out to your doctor and they will be able to help you figure out where these feelings are possibly coming from. They are there to help and will provide solutions to ease this boredom.

Long term boredom and the feelings that come with it can actually lead us to becoming depressed. If this happens to be the case, and you’re experiencing this or any other mental health issues which you previously might not have realised, then your GP can refer you to some great resources for helping you cope with this.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to learn more about mental health awareness and training, be sure to check out my blog here or follow me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook. Do you struggle with boredom? Did you find the tips above useful? Can you suggest any other helpful tips for coping when bored that I forgot to mention? Let me know in the comments down below.

If you’re experiencing any of the feelings described in this post, or know somebody who is, then there are many things you can do to help. Talking to somebody about how you or they are feeling can be very beneficial. If you’re not sure what to do but need urgent help, there are many emergency hotlines that provide support and encouragement such as Mind.org and Samaritans.org. You’re not alone in feeling this way, others are there to help.

Published by AnxietyBear

Opening a conversation around the topic of mental health. Providing support and advice. Exploring personal experiences.

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