How To Overcome Boredom And Add Spice To Your Life
Updated December 21, 2018
Reviewer Prudence Hatchett, LPC, NCC, BC-TMH
Feeling bored? Scientists have discovered that you really can be bored to death. Meaning, people who report being bored often run a greater risk of dying from heart disease or stroke. Not only that, but boredom leads to feelings of anger and frustration. And these negative emotions can alienate you from others and lead to negative actions such as eating when you aren't hungry.
But boredom is not your destiny! Once you understand its causes and learn how to overcome boredom, you will be a high-functioning, fully-entertained, healthy member of society.
What is boredom?
Boredom doesn't just pop up out of nowhere; there are mental and physical precursors that trigger the universal feeling of boredom. And some people are very proficient at avoiding these precursors, meaning that they rarely, if ever, feel bored. Here are the classic catalysts of boredom:
- Psychological arousal: When is the last time you were relaxed and bored? Never. Relaxation and boredom do not happen at the same time. Boredom only occurs when you are psychologically energetic and would like to engage in something, but don't have anything to do.
- Lack of motivation: Laziness and boredom form a vicious cycle; boredom increases laziness, and vice versa. The only way to break the cycle is to jump into action, despite lacking motivation.
- A busy environment that prevents focus: If you have ever been bored in an airport, you have experienced this principle. An overabundance of environmental stimuli can be overwhelming, leading you to withdrawal, disengage, and feel bored.
- Mind wandering: Trying to overcome boredom with mind wandering is a lost cause. In fact, mind wandering increases boredom. You begin to recognize that your mind is wandering because you are bored, and then you retreat to an even greater sense of boredom at the entire unamusing situation.
- Lack of control: The less control you have over a situation, the greater the likelihood of boredom. On the other hand, if you feel that you can impact, manipulate, and rearrange your environment, you will become absorbed in the task.
- The object of past boredom: The mistaken human tendency is to channel the feelings of boredom onto an innocuous object. For instance, if you were always bored in History class, chances are you associate the innocent history books you read for the class with boredom. These books can trigger feelings of boredom well after the initial under-stimulating encounter.
Here are some activities to do when you are feeling bored with life:
Ignite Your Creativity
Your boredom may result from over-using your logical, left brain hemisphere and under-using your creative, emotional right brain hemisphere. When you do not balance the use of both hemispheres, you can feel restless and dissatisfied with life.
According to philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, "Because it is possible to create … one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever." The same holds true for boredom. Boredom is the mind's resignation after not being allowed to fulfill its natural creative desire. People often feel anxious and bored at the same time.
You can easily incorporate creativity into daily activities. Here are some ideas:
Color in a coloring book: Not only will this distract you from your boredom, but adult coloring books are a great way to reduce feelings of stress.
Go to the park and draw the landscape: If you are feeling ambitious, draw/color/paint your own picture from scratch. Perfection is not required.
Write something: Whether you write prose poetry, flash fiction, or lyrics to a song, you can channel your creativity into word form.
Invent something: Most people encounter an object that they would like to change at least weekly, but few do anything about it. Fulfill your creative desire by inventing something.
Journal about your emotions: Expressive journaling not only prevents boredom, but it can improve your mental and physical health as well. Studies have demonstrated that writing about emotions decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduces bodily inflammation, improves job hunting success, increases productivity, and maybe even wards off chronic disease. What an amazing activity to do in your spare time!
Express your emotions in daily conversation: Don't just express your emotions with a pen and paper; find trustworthy friends and family with whom you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings. People with a strong support system tend to live happier, healthier, more entertaining lives.
Brainstorm new, innovative ideas for your workplace: You can even be creative when you are bored at work! Whether you work as a bank teller or shoe salesman, you can brainstorm innovative ideas to improve your workplace. Your boss and your mind will thank you.
Use Google as Your Guide
If you feel boring and don't know what to do, hop on Google. The world is at your fingertips, ready to explore. Explore neighborhoods in Southeast Asia with Google Earth. Learn about Tibetan culture. Discover new forms of wildlife. The opportunities for learning are endless. When you feel psychologically aroused but have no outlet, the Internet is your answer.
Plan a Local or Faraway Adventure
If you are feeling bored, plan a solo or group adventure. Sometimes the mind just needs a respite from the normal routine, and you can add spice to life by creating a new adventure. Add personal touches to your adventure to make it uniquely yours. You will come back to your routine with a fresh perspective, entertaining stories, and mental diversion.
Do Invigorating Exercise
The same old exercise routine will not cut it if you are feeling bored. But a new, invigorating exercise routine (think: Insanity, P90X, Cross fit, wind sprints, or boot camp) breaks the monotony and channels your psychological arousal into a healthy activity.
Learn to be Mindful
Remember that you can control psychological arousal itself-a cause of boredom-through mindfulness, meditation, and relaxation. When you feel bored, you can either choose to find an entertaining activity or reduce psychological arousal.
A mindfulness practice encourages you to use all of your senses to nonjudgmentally observe the present moment; a meditation practice teaches you to focus on your breath and bodily sensations, and relaxation reduces muscle tension and anxiety. All of these strategies reduce psychological arousal and feelings of boredom.
Call an Old Friend
Likely there are many people from years past who would love to reconnect with you. If you wonder what to do when you feel bored, pick up the phone and call an old friend. You might spend hours catching up and listening to each other's entertaining stories.
Make New Friends
Developing new connections might seem difficult and intimidating, but this challenge will make you forget all about boredom. If you don't want to drive to the coffee shop to meet a new and interesting person, simply go online and use one of the many websites or apps for meeting people.
Learn How to Cook
Nutrition is an important part of overall mental and physical wellness, and there is no better time than when you feel bored to try a new recipe. Cooking is a marketable skill. Plus it reduces your food bill each month because you won't need to eat out as much. When boredom hits, use it as an opportunity to hone this important life skill.
Explore another Culture or Language
If you are feeling bored with life, explore other ways of living. The lifestyles of other cultures can be fascinating from an outsider's perspective. You may even choose to adopt some new perspectives or ways of living. Not only will you overcome boredom, but you will be a more interesting person.
Set Goals and Pursue Challenges
Because lack of motivation and boredom can be a vicious cycle, you must set goals to develop a sense of purpose. According to Walter Annenberg, a former American diplomat, and philanthropist, "When we hold back out of laziness, that is when we tie ourselves into knots of boredom." Defeat laziness and boredom by setting goals and jumping into action. The first step is always the most difficult, but once you start, you will not look back.
Stay Away from Fast-Paced, Violent Media
Studies have found that when children are exposed to fast-paced, violent media, they are much more likely to develop ADHD than children who watch slower-paced shows (think: Mister Rogers). Indeed, a child's brain is ultra-sensitive, but there is every reason to believe that this pattern holds true for adults.
When you expose yourself to overstimulating media, you set the standard of stimulation for your brain. Any life situation that is less stimulating becomes boring. Choose slower-paced forms of media that do not overwhelm your senses so that your normal life remains interesting and stimulating.
Don't waste any more of your precious life feeling bored. If you have frequent episodes of boredom, try these strategies and consider talking with an online counselor, who can help you get to the root of your boredom.