As a parent, one of the most frustrating things I can hear from my kids is “I’m bored.” It’s concerning to be in a house full of toys, games, electronics, bikes, skateboards, and more (all of which you paid for, by the way) and have your kids insist that there’s “nothing to do.” The reality is, boredom isn’t something that happens to you; it’s something you let happen to you. In other words, listen up kiddos, you can learn how to not be bored.
What is boredom?
Boredom is defined as “The state of feeling disinterested in one’s surroundings, having nothing to do, or feeling that life is dull.”
While boredom can be tied to certain uncontrollable conditions, like ADHD or antisocial personality disorder, boredom itself isn’t considered a “disorder” in the way that depression or anxiety are.
In fact, if we take a closer look at the definition of boredom, we can see that the things that define boredom are within our control—at least the vast majority of the time.
“Disinterest in one’s surroundings”
It’s not the surroundings that are the problem; it’s your disinterest in them that causes your boredom. Certain surroundings are not more or less boring than others; it all has to do with your perspective and preferences.
One person might be thrilled to be at the symphony; another might be wishing they were at a rock concert. You might love a quiet library, while someone else would much rather be at a noisy convention. People have been “bored” at amusement parks, parties, award ceremonies, beaches, movie theaters, you name it … while other people in the exact same places at the exact same times are having the time of their life.
That means that if you can learn to be interested at any time and in any place, you never have to be bored.
“Having nothing to do.”
This seems to be the type of boredom my kids experience. When they say “I’m bored,” what they mean is “I have nothing to do.”
But is that objectively true? Of course not.
There is always something you could be doing, whether it’s working, cleaning, learning, relaxing, journaling, or watching a show. There are so many opportunities open to each and every one of us that the idea of having “nothing” to do is almost laughable.
I think it’s more accurate to say that boredom stems from having nothing that you feel like doing. That’s valid, of course. Sometimes it’s hard to land on something you want to do. But it’s rarely objectively true that you have nothing to do, and you could find something to do if you really tried.
“Feeling that life is dull”
I get it—sometimes life feels dull. This is especially true on hard days, or during times when you’re struggling with a specific challenge (including mental health challenges like depression).
But here’s what I know: some of the happiest, most joyful, most hopeful people I know are also the ones that endure the most hardship. That’s not to say that you have to respond to hardship with positivity (I know I have a super hard time with that), but I am saying that it is possible to find beauty in even the “dullest” moments of life.
Just like your surroundings aren’t inherently disinteresting, life isn’t inherently dull. It’s the lens you’re putting over things that will determine if you see something as dull.
Essentially, the way we thinking about “being bored” or “boredom” is inherently incorrect. Boredom has everything to do with what is going on inside of us, not what is happening outside of us. This is good news—it means that being bored (or not) is totally within your control.
How to not be bored
With that in mind, what can we do to not be bored?
Don’t be boring
The Pet Shop Boys song “Being Boring” was inspired when someone labeled the group as “boring.” Some of the lyrics read:
We were never feeling bored
‘Cause we were never being boring
We had too much time to find for ourselves
Don’t want to be bored? Don’t be boring! Learn to entertain yourself (and others). Create experiences for yourself. The great thing about this is that you can do it anywhere, any time, under practically any circumstance.
Stop blaming others
A victim mindset means seeing yourself as a victim to circumstance or to the actions or choices of others. Those with a victim mindset have a hard time seeing how they could control their actions or attitude in a given situation.
A victim mindset lends itself to boredom, because it takes the power away from you. It blames someone or something else for your circumstance—and if someone else is to blame, what could you do to fix it?
Take COVID-19 as an example. As a result of this pandemic, most people spent most of 2020 shut up in their homes (a recipe for boredom if there ever was one). Someone with a victim mindset might have spent that time at home thinking about all the things they couldn’t do, the places they couldn’t go, the choices that were not available to them. They would blame the pandemic (or their government leaders) for the situation, and commiserate over everything they were missing out on.
Others would try to make the best out of a bad situation, recognizing that while they may not have caused the problem, there were still options available that could help them handle the problem in a healthy, productive way.
Which of these groups, do you think, would be less bored in quarantine?
If we can stop trying to assign blame for our boredom, and instead focus on overcoming it, we’ll be a lot more likely to get through it.
Invest in yourself
The Eisenhower Decision Matrix rates tasks on scales of urgency and importance. Some tasks are both urgent and important, some are urgent but not important, some are important but not urgent, and others are neither urgent nor important.
The tasks that are important but not urgent are the ones that get ignored the most often. They’re also often the ones that could help us the most. Investing in yourself falls in this category.
Investing in yourself could look like:
- Self-care (relaxation, meditation, journaling, self-discovery)
- Spending time on creative endeavors
- Setting goals
- Creating a positive environment
Investing in yourself is the perfect boredom buster. It’s always available to you, it’s completely flexible (you can spend as much or as little time on it as you want), and you’re always going to come out ahead because of it.
If you can find ways to invest in yourself, you’re a lot less likely to ever be bored.
Know and use your resources
In the modern world, we all have plenty of resources available to us. Create a list of the resources available to you that can help you not be bored. Your list might include:
- Streaming services
- Music libraries
- Favorite websites or social media platforms
- Outdoor activities available to you (nearby parks or hikes, bike trails, etc.)
Be specific with your list. Include things you’ve always wanted to explore but have never had the time to do so (e.g. a specific documentary, or a certain skill you’d like to learn through a YouTube tutorial). Having a list ready to go will help you avoid boredom when it’s threatening to strike.
Few things can spark creativity better than boredom. Banishing boredom is always within your power; you just might have to get a little creative to do it.
If you’re starting to feel bored, change things up. Look for creative ways to pull yourself out of that funk. Explore new opportunities. Work with your hands. Creativity is inside everyone, and using your boredom as a creativity springboard will not only help you not be bored, but will also help you expand your creative thinking skills for future use.
The bottom line is this: you never have to be bored again. When you follow these tips for how to not be bored, you create the world you want to live in. You give yourself space to enjoy what is right in front of you, to broaden your creative horizons, and to develop more appreciation for your world and your life.
I’ve told you how to not be bored. It’s up to you to put it into action. Banish the boredom and “create happy” in your life instead.
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