Boredom – why we get bored and what it can mean


Most people get bored now and then. But for some people boredom becomes their norm – and this can be a sign that someone needs to make significant changes.

For one thing, boredom is not good for our physical and mental well-being. It can steal our energy and just leave us so lethargic that we do absolutely nothing.

Then it becomes a vicious cycle. Life seems empty and without meaning.

It can be something that is extremely difficult to break away from – then it can develop into depression. Or it can be a sign that someone’s already depressed.

Also, it’s possible that having a mental health condition can increase the chances of being bored. So it’s always essential not to ignore any boredom that seems to go on.

Who gets bored?

Getting bored

Virtually everyone gets bored at times and maybe more during specific periods of their life. In fact, a study of 2,000 Americans that was published in 2019 found the average American experiences 131 days of boredom every year, which is more than a third of their year.

In other surveys, over the years it is generally recognized that adolescents will experience being bored more than other age groups. Also, men say they are bored more often than women.

Boredom leaves us feeling empty, unable to focus our attention and it’s frequently combined with feeling frustrated. There’s a burgeoning lack of interest in anything, and people suffering from boredom feel listless, apathetic, fatigued – and often but not obviously anxious about everything too.

Increased risks due to boredom

Boredom can be a sign that something needs addressing in someone’s life – that maybe there are unresolved histories to be looked at and/or present changes to be made. It can be connected to feelings of anger, despair, anxiety, and loneliness.

For many people, it is what is behind these feelings that really needs to be looked at in order to resolve the boredom. But instead many people look to other things in an attempt to stop feeling so bored.

Many of these are clearly unhealthy, and include:

  • Behavioral addictions including gambling, shopping, exercise, gaming, looking at pornography, the internet and social media.
  • Smoking cigarettes and/or marijuana.
  • Alcohol abuse.
  • Substance abuse & addiction.
  • Binge eating or continual snacking.
  • Eating unhealthily.
  • Taking risks.
  • Self-harm.
  • Having a one-night stand or an affair.
  • Making irrational choices, such as quitting a job without any means to pay your way.

What’s behind boredom?

Who's behind boredom

When people feel trapped they can experience boredom. It’s perhaps one reason that teenagers and many in their early 20s often complain of being bored.

They want to get out there among the excitement of the big wide world, but until a certain age are dependent on their parents. Often as well, teens and younger people are studying, which requires a lot of repetition to learn things – plus they know the time could be spent alternatively having fun with their friends or doing a sport or hobby they love.

However, there’s immense pressure from society and family to pass those exams. It means sitting around more than a young person is supposed to – and it’s as if the energy they have inside is bursting to escape.

Boredom at any age can be caused by repetition and a lack of interest in whatever we are doing. Many modern-day jobs are repetitive and extremely predictable.

As well, anything that’s too easy can be boring. We switch off and then it is almost as if our minds and bodies are craving something else.

But people feel trapped because they need to earn money to pay their way. It is clear that jobs that are also our hobby or that are different most days are the least likely to lead to boredom.

Sometimes this is coupled with someone not really knowing what their hobbies are – perhaps all their adult life they’ve had to work and had a young family to look after, so they’ve never had the time to discover their true passions. Or perhaps they do know what they are, but just can’t seem to escape the rat race, even for one minute… and so they feel bored with not only their daily tasks but with their overall life.

Some people are more prone and likely to be bored than others. For instance, those with extrovert personalities may need more excitement in life to feel it’s fulfilled.

Boredom is also connected to problems with keeping attention. Consequently, someone with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) will frequently feel bored. Someone with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can also find that boredom comes on them much more quickly due to the nature of their condition.

In addition, sometimes a chronic illness can leave people feeling bored. For instance, if someone cannot get out and about as they would like it can obviously create problems.

Boredom as a signpost

Boredom as a signpost

Boredom often serves a purpose though. Think of it as a call to adventure, which is the first stage of the hero’s journey.

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) described boredom as “the unpleasant calm that precedes creative acts”. So boredom can be the inspiration for taking action, for doing things differently, for making changes.

It can also be an indication that repeatedly doing something is a waste of your valuable time. This can be a strong persuasion not to carry on with it.

Consider that the study of 2,000 Americans published in 2019 revealed 60 percent of US adults thought that behind their boredom was the fact they felt their life was too “grown-up”. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed admitted missing aspects of their childhood.  This included having fewer responsibilities, spending time with friends, and not going to parties.

So the solution is obvious if anyone is feeling bored because they feel too grown-up – find your childlike wonder again! Meet your friends, organize parties, go to parties, and try to find ways to have some less responsibility (and this – never saying no – can sometimes be linked to being a “people-pleaser”).

Staying socially active helps a great deal. Say yes to those invites, make sure to do your favorite hobbies, do some exercise, get out there. Then even if you have many things that feel like a grind, there’s always something to look forward to that will make those tedious tasks and hours pass by much quicker.

So join a club, book a court, try a new hobby or rekindle your passion for a previous pastime, do some voluntary charity work, find reasons to throw a party… As the phrase says: life’s what you make it.

Getting outside and away

Another way to beat boredom is to get outside of yourself, and this is always achieved if you do things for others. Even making a phone call to a long-time friend or elderly relative, but keep the conversation about how they are and what they are doing in life. This will not only alleviate boredom but will also make you feel good inside.

Then, aim to be mindful, be present in the now. If we truly focus on what we are doing – using all our senses – it can make even the most mundane seem interesting.

Sleeping well is important too. If we don’t have enough energy it can mean we feel bored before we even start.

If you choose to spend some time here with us at Tikvah Lake you can be assured of having the most peaceful sleep. Everything about our luxury mansion has been created with calm and tranquility in mind.

Getting away is another way to beat boredom. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by breathtaking nature. That includes our beautiful lake – that’s ideal for boating or just sitting on its shores to meditate or read a brilliant book.

Our experienced team has first-rate expertise in treating people with every emotional problem and type of mental health issue. Get in touch with us to discuss how we can help you or someone you know, starting today.

David Hurst - Tikvah Lake Recovery

About David Hurst

David Hurst has four books published on mental health recovery, including 12 Steps To 1 Hero, The Anxiety Conversation and Words To Change Your Life. He has written for national newspapers and magazines around the world for 30 years including The Guardian, Psychologies, GQ, Esquire, Marie Claire and The Times. He has been in successful continual recovery since January 2002.

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