I felt bored today.
You know; that kind of boredom where you can’t even get out of your own way to make yourself feel better? The only things that seemed to filter through my mind were all the boring things I needed to do, and of course, there was pretty much no hope of chores motivating me into action!
I carelessly kept flicking through my phone, browsing email, checking my facebook newsfeed, the weather forecast, my to do list…but nothing enthused me. Humph! What’s a girl to do?! Ideally what I needed was for someone to rescue me. Someone to offer up an excuse for an hour out at the shops, or to grab a coffee and a natter, but I couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to send the text…
Do you have days like these? They’re so frustrating. By the end of the day, you’ve usually overcome your funk to some extent, but then feelings of panic and guilt set in as you frantically try to get the most important things done ready for the next day.
The Itch That Can’t Be Scratched
I used to think that it was probably lethargy, that maybe I was too tired after a heavy week at work and therefore needed to rest up. But scientific studies don’t support this definition. Instead, science defines boredom as being:
Aggressively dissatisfying in the sense that you have a high level of motivation to be engaged but nothing that you do seems to satisfy that need. James Danckert, University of Waterloo, Ontario.
But taking control and removing boredom isn’t always an easy sacrifice to make. After all, boredom, like a lot of other negative emotions requires effort to change it, which we may be unwilling or unable to make. As I’ve described above, my day of boredom was seized by my inability to get out of my own way in the moment.
It’s important then to understand what’s driving the boredom. Is it genuinely a need for rest and relaxation, maybe provided by a different environment, such as a walk on the beach or in the countryside?
An opportunity to replenish ourselves by ‘taking from’ nature in this case rather than the giving of ourselves through the daily demands which have led up to this point? Sometimes we’re just ‘spent’ and the resultant emotion is world-weariness, a kind of boredom tinged with sadness.
If this is the case, an ‘easy’ option is probably the best advice. Give yourself a break from your routine, down-tools and look after Number 1.
But what if it’s not tiredness? What if you are motivated to do something, you just can’t find the something that will get you buzzing again?
What Do You Really Want?
Leo Tolstoy offers us this very succinct view:
Boredom: the desire for desires.
I love this quote because for me it aptly sums up what boredom is all about. It gives us a clue that our desires have not been fully articulated. Whether that is in the moment or for the future, the result is the same. We’re reduced to inactivity. We know we want to do something, but what? Consequently we feel dissatisfied with our lives and experience boredom.
As I write about boredom and the links it holds with not really knowing what we want, I’m easily reminded of last year, with my very clearly articulated (and publicly shared) goals. 2015 was an incredible year of activity, which has made for some wonderful memories. Whilst I’m sure I had periods of boredom during the year, I’m also convinced that they would have been short lived as there were so many plans and activities that filled the time.
Looking for the Remedy
There’s no excuse to be bored. Sad, yes. Angry, yes. Depressed, yes. Crazy, yes. But there’s no excuse for boredom, ever.
It seems obvious then that the antidote to boredom is well-defined activity which aligns with our values. The trouble is that we need to know our own personal antidote(s) well before the boredom sets in. Trying to find the cure when we’re already mired in frustration and/or apathy is too late.
So how can this be achieved?
If you haven’t already got a well-defined, or even a loose set of goals, now is the time to get to work. Work on your goals and plans now, so that you will either be (a) too busy to feel bored, or, if boredom sets in you (b) have a list you can refer to.
Don’t leave this task to chance. Don’t assume that when the time comes, you will be able to think up a list of activities that you will find enjoyable. I can assure you that when you’re in a funk, your brain will only be able to muster things that will make you feel even worse!
Bear in mind also, that when you’re not at your best, difficult or challenging tasks might not be the way to go. Think small and think joy and happiness. What lifts your spirits? Go create a list…
My ‘When I’m Bored List’
• Is it a certain person? Put them on your list to invite out.
• Is it a hobby that you have little time for? Make sure you have the materials or means available so that you can pick it up and absorb yourself for a while.
• Is it watching a box set? Set it up, grab a cuppa and settle down.
‘Curing’ boredom often isn’t about the big tasks. It’s about finding the small and manageable things that have the ability to lift us out of our mood. Use your list whenever you feel bored, scan it for an activity that appeals to you (even if only a little), and then do it. You don’t need to feel any guilt or remorse, just indulge and remember that being bored all day never achieved anything, but indulging in a little of something that makes you happy is infintely better!
Photo: Azrul Aziz, Unsplash