“I’m bored.” How many times have you heard your child say this to you? Or your sibling and/or friend? How many times have you said this statement to yourself? Boredom and “feeling bored” is bound to happen at least a few times within our lifetimes – but what actually is boredom?

Boredom is defined as a “state of mind characterized by lack of interest, stimulation or some sort of challenge.” The boredom can be due to external factors, such as environment, or internal factors, such as not feeling a sense of purpose. It can be due to low levels of mental stimulation, routine/repetitive tasks, not enough choice over daily activities, and even lack of sleep/increased fatigued. There is also chronic boredom which can be attributed to mental health disorders, such as depression. Boredom can also happen in a multitude of different settings, including school, work or even during downtime and periods of rest. Essentially boredom can be a common occurrence for many people among many different settings.

Not only can boredom show up in different settings, but it can also present itself in many different ways. Some ways include:

  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Unable to stay interested or focus for long periods
  • Difficulty staying motivated
  • Unable to fully relax or rest

Now it is important to note that most, if not all, of these signs of boredom can also be signs of something else. Being unable to stay interested or focused for long periods of time or difficulty to fully relax can be signs of both anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), whereas lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy can be a sign of burnout or even depression. If you are experiencing all of these symptoms, especially if it is disruptive to everyday life, it may be a good idea to talk to a mental health professional who can help discern if you have depression and/or another mental health disorder.

However, if what you are experiencing is boredom, there are ways to combat this. The first step would be to try and identify the source(s) or root cause(s) behind the boredom. Maybe it is due to not feeling mentally stimulated enough, whether in work, school or both. This could be due to repetitive work tasks or the tasks themselves no feeling fulfilling or rewarding enough. It could also be due to external factors, such as location. Once you identify the main cause(s) of the boredom, it will be easier to take steps on addressing it.

While there isn’t a particular “treatment” for boredom, there are ways you can help “fix” it. Some ideas include:

1. Try a new hobby or activity. This can be something such as pottery, crocheting, candle-making, calligraphy, learning an instrument, or dance. Classes for a variety of activities can be found at your local community center or on websites such as Eventbrite.com. By taking an in-person class you also have the benefit of meeting new people and making friends. However, there are also plenty of options to learn a new hobby virtually and doesn’t (generally) cost any money, by using websites such as Udemy or YouTube.

2. Change Your Environment. Something that can also help if you’re feeling bored is a change of environment. While this can look like going somewhere specific, like a museum, the cinema, a café, etc., it can also look like simply going outside and taking a walk. Another idea is to bring your hobbies outdoors, such as bringing out a new book or sketch pad.

3. Practice Mindfulness. While boredom can be helped by doing activities, a change of environment, etc., it can also be helpful to learn mindfulness techniques. These strategies, such as meditation, body scans, and various breathing exercises, have been shown to help reduce feelings of boredom, at least in that moment.

4. Have a Conversation. This can be with a friend, family member, colleague, partner, neighbor, therapist, or complete stranger. Sometimes boredom is actually loneliness and meeting up with a friend to catch up or talking with someone new can help!  

5. Be Careful with Technology. This is something that I need to actively work on myself, but automatically turning to technology (specifically mindlessly scrolling through social media) is not always the best first choice to “cure” boredom. This doesn’t mean avoid it altogether, as you can find a lot of good things to help boredom online, such as online classes, recipes, tutorials, meetup/event groups, and more. However, it shouldn’t always be the first (and only) thing you turn to when you’re feeling bored.

6. Embrace the Boredom.  While this isn’t necessarily a tip to reduce the boredom, it is important to realize that it is OK to feel bored – and completely normal! For children especially, it is stated that being bored allows for them to “strengthen their creative muscles and learn to cope with feelings of boredom later in life.”

As mentioned, boredom is normal and ultimately something you can’t avoid – but this doesn’t mean you always have to be bored! By switching up your routine a little, or chatting up an old (or new!) acquaintance, you can break up the monotony. Boredom can be an uncomfortable feeling, but it doesn’t have to be!

Staff Blogger: Mollie Clupper

Mollie Clupper works for MHA as a Communications and Support Specialist. Using her own experiences, she wants to help bring awareness and end the stigma surrounding mental health. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, drinking coffee, and spending time with loved ones.