“Being Bored Is an Insult to Oneself” (Jules Renard)
Did you ever meet people so boring they put your feet to sleep? They complain about living, “I have to breathe all day, even when I sleep. It’s so boring!” One guy remarked that he fell asleep while reading a dull book and had a dream that he was still reading it; finally, he woke up from sheer boredom. How about you? Do you ever get bored? Here’s how you can tell. You’re bored when the only reason you go to the park is to watch pond scum slowly form on the surface of stagnant water.
Boredom may be a boring subject, but it’s an important one because it is the source of much misery. You see, it is accompanied by, or leads to, feelings of loneliness, emptiness, helplessness, inadequacy, sadness, despair, and even depression. When allowed to spin out of control, there can be serious repercussions. For example, some may try to escape boredom by turning to drugs, sex, and alcohol. Yet, all they succeed in doing is compound their problem. Faced with what they believe to be boring and pointless lives, some young people drop out of school and engage in violence, crime, and sexual promiscuity. Addictions trap them in a world of darkness from which they cannot escape. So, you see, something as innocent as boredom can have severe consequences if it is not tackled.
When someone is bored, they don’t like what they’re doing, but don’t know what else to do. The missing element is a good idea. So, if you feel the pang of boredom, it is a signal to stop and think. When you don’t like what you’re doing, shouldn’t you stop doing it? Boredom is a state of passivity and its opposite is a state of activity and creativity. For instance, let’s return to the earlier example of pond scum. Just sitting there, watching it is boring, but what if we decide to write a poem about it? Perhaps we could call it, Ode to Shapeless, Stagnant, Pond Scum. Once we start, the boredom will dissipate. Writing a poem about pond scum may be challenging, but that is just what is needed. It is our nature to rise to and thrive on challenges. What is boredom, but the absence of a challenge?
If we are not bored when we are busy, we should be happy when we are bored. Why? Because boredom tells us that we have free time. And free time is a valuable resource that can be used to enrich our lives. It’s time that can be devoted to friends, family, or personal development. When we’re at work or in school, there are only a few ways to spend our time, but during our time off, we are free to use it as we see fit. We can use it to create meaning in our lives and experience greater fulfilment. But only if we take the time to stop and think before we act.
One source of boredom may be the endless pursuit of pleasure, for pleasure cannot be endless. Therefore, in seeking it, we are bound to be disappointed. Life is not about a quest for pleasure, but about a reason for living. Our reason for living is a personal one, and one that we create. If we create it and live up to it during our free time, we won’t experience boredom.
Boredom also arises when we are preoccupied with ourselves. How can we be bored when we live in such an incredible universe? Or such a wonderful country? Whenever we direct our attention outward, we will find much to be excited about, learn about, and get involved with. If we insist on consuming our time with thoughts of ourselves, we may come to realize, as Dylan Thomas did that “Somebody’s boring me… I think it’s me.” Boredom is essentially being bored with yourself. So, if you use your spare time to make yourself interesting, you’ll never be bored to be with yourself!
Since you are interested in personal development, there is little chance that you suffer from boredom. How do I know? Simply because if you are interested in anything, you are not bored. After all, boredom is the absence of interest and enthusiasm. The words of Blaise Pascal were filled with passion when he described the horror of living a life of boredom, “Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he feels his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness.”
In unguarded moments, even the best of us can slip into a period of boredom; however, in such a state, we don’t live, but merely exist. Each period of boredom is a fragment of our life that is wasted. Imagine what we could have done if we had chosen to do something rather than nothing. The only way we can become bored is by forgetting it is a choice. As Wayne Dyer wrote, “Life is never boring, but some people choose to be bored.”
But why would anyone choose to be bored? It’s simply because we imagine it would take too much of an effort to break free of boredom. However, that is like saying, “It’s too much of an effort to live, so I rather die!” Isn’t that silly? It’s worth whatever effort it takes to lead an exciting life. Besides, it’s not difficult to get over boredom, and in a moment I will share 26 tools that can sweep it away from our lives.
But before I do that, I will make two more introductory comments about boredom. First, psychologists usually think of it as falling into three types. They describe boredom as the feelings we have when we are forced to do what we don’t want to, are prevented from doing what we want to, or are uninterested in doing anything at a particular moment. It is the third type that this article is focused on because unless we remain wary, there is the danger of occasionally slipping into it. And if we allow that to happen, the periods of boredom may grow more frequent and longer.
My second point is that all our emotions serve a purpose. They can be positive and nurturing feelings that help our growth or they can be signals clamoring for our attention, trying to tell us it’s time to make a change. In the case of boredom, our inner wisdom is shouting, “Hey! Wake up! There must be something else you want to be doing; start doing it!” Whenever we receive such a signal, here are 26 things we can do to turn it off and return to a life of enjoyment. We don’t need all of the tools at once; one or two at a time should suffice.
26 Ways to End Boredom
1. To defeat your enemy, first get to know it. According to the Oxford Dictionary, bored is an adjective that means “feeling weary and impatient because one is unoccupied or lacks interest in one’s current activity. In other words, if we don’t have anything to do or we are not interested in what we are doing, we will be bored. The definition reveals the solutions to the problem of boredom.
For example, Tom says, “I get so bored sitting around and doing nothing (unoccupied) while I wait in the doctor’s office.” Well, do something! Read a book, magazine, or newspaper; do a crossword puzzle; write a letter; plan your schedule; work on your laptop; do something!
And Larry, a high school student, says “I don’t like math (lacks interest). It bores me.” Well, Larry, we cannot love someone or something unless we know about it. Since math is a required subject, get help if necessary and study it until you completely understand it; then you will grow to like it.
2. Take up a hobby or study art. Dean William R. Inge explains, “Nobody is bored when he is trying to make something that is beautiful, or to discover something that is true.” So, get involved in painting, photography, poetry, or writing. Learn how to play a musical instrument or join a choir. Take up pottery, line dancing, or public speaking. Learn how to play chess, bridge, or mahjong.
3. Take a course. Learning new things makes life interesting. Try a cooking or computer course.
4. Meet new people, which is something you will do when you take a course or join a group.
5. Read interesting books, which is another way to meet interesting people (book authors, characters in novels, customers and staff in bookstores and libraries).
6. Listen to good music; it is relaxing, refreshing, rejuvenating, and uplifting.
7. See a good movie. You will become immersed in it and forget about boredom while being exposed to fresh ideas. You will enjoy it even more if you go with a friend or two.
8. Visit the park, for you’ll find ponds, gentle breezes, melodious birds, chirping insects, the scent of moist trees, the fragrance of blossoms, glittering streams, scurrying squirrels, the sound of children at play, inviting park benches, hot dogs, a canopy of trees providing shade, and much more.
9. Keep a journal to get the creative juices flowing and discover more about yourself. Creativity kills boredom. Oddly enough, writing on the subject “Why I am bored today” will become interesting. And writing questions and their answers provide us with solutions. Example questions include, “Why am I bored today? What am I doing wrong? What can I do to improve the situation? What do I choose to do? When will I do it? Why not now?”
10. If you’re bored, do something useful. Such as, creating a list of things to do when you’re bored. Keep adding to the list; keep it handy and refer to it whenever you’re bored.
Other useful things to do include cleaning a room, getting rid of clutter, washing dishes, or doing the laundry. Don’t be fooled by unpleasant feelings that arise when it is time to do your chores. You see, it’s not a matter of doing or avoiding something unpleasant, but a matter of doing what needs to be done now or growing unhappy with yourself later. And if you give in to the temptation to avoid your chores, your suffering is multiplied because not only do you fail to get things done, but you will experience boredom, regret, loss of self-discipline, a decline in self-esteem, a growing sense of helplessness, and more. Wow! That’s a heavy price to pay just to avoid a little unpleasantness.
11. Choose a cause you believe in and dedicate yourself to it, for as Erich Fromm wrote, “One of the worst forms of mental suffering is boredom, not knowing what to do with oneself and one’s life. Even if man had no monetary, or any other reward, he would be eager to spend his energy in some meaningful way because he could not stand the boredom which inactivity produces.”
Boredom is the failure to use our time in a fulfilling way. When we add meaning to our lives, when we have a purpose for being, we will live fulfilled lives and be free of boredom. What is your life purpose? If you don’t know, you don’t have to search for your ‘true life’s purpose.’ All you have to do is pick a cause, any worthwhile one, and devote yourself to it. As you grow and evolve, you are free to change causes at any time.
A good place to begin is with a foundational cause that doesn’t change. For example, your cause or purpose can be to do good. That purpose doesn’t change, but how you express it, or what you specifically do will vary as you grow in knowledge and experience. If you choose to do good, you will look for ways you can avoid harming or causing pain to others, and ways of helping, inspiring, and encouraging others. You will also seek to give freely what others crave and need, which are love, attention, acceptance, understanding, patience. The wonderful thing about offering these gifts to the world is that the world will give back to you everything you give to it.
12. Here’s good advice from Theodor Haecker, “The one sure means of dealing with boredom is to care for someone else, to do something kind and good.” So, become a volunteer; help someone get over boredom; do something together; have fun.
13. Change the way you look at things. For instance, rather than thinking “work is something I have to do to make money to survive,” think “work provides me with the opportunity to develop and practice skills, contribute to society, develop relationship skills, make money, help others, and find meaning in life.” Negative thinking makes ‘work’ boring; positive thinking makes it exhilarating. As Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
14. Set goals; they give you something to plan, tasks to do, and the pleasure of looking forward to achieving them. Those who lead goal oriented lives are never bored and experience exhilaration with each accomplishment. Lou Holtz concurs, for he said, “If you’re bored with life — you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things — you don’t have enough goals.”
15. Learn meditation to discover yourself and practice mindfulness to discover the beauty and joy of the present moment. Your local library, bookstores, and the Internet have a plethora of information on meditation and mindfulness.
16. Boredom may be a sign that your body needs reinvigorating, so get up, get out, and take a walk! Exercise is critical. Don’t neglect it.
17. Don’t let your brain sink into the stupor of boredom. Reactivate it by challenging it with Brain Teasers, crossword puzzles, sudoku, and rebus puzzles. For fun, try creating your own rebus puzzles. (You can find sample rebus puzzles here.
18. Check your newspaper for a list of events, activities, and meetings you can participate in.
19. Get a pet; its care and companionship can offer many moments of pleasure daily. But don’t get one unless you have the time and willingness to properly care for it.
20. Whenever you are bored be thankful because it offers an excuse to visit weird, wacky, and wonderful web sites that are guaranteed to wash away your boredom and fill you with wonder. Start by visiting here, and for some amazing videos, visit here.
21. When you were a child, mommy placed you in a room full of toys. But now, you are an adult, so stop wanting to have everything done for you. Accept responsibility for your own happiness.
22. Awaken the curiosity of your childhood. There are whole new worlds to discover.
23. Boredom is not caused by a lack of things to do as much as an unwillingness to do anything. So, develop your will by taking action. It’s okay to feel lazy and bored; but choose an activity and do it anyway.
24. Boredom is also a cry for change. But not superficial or meaningless change, such as switching from one bar to another. Rather, it calls for substantial change, such as replacing your nightlife with night school.
25. Refresh your body by taking a walk or exercising. Boredom can simply be a sign that your body needs reinvigorating.
26. Maintain an active life. If it’s rest you’re looking for, you’ll find boredom. If it’s activity you’re looking for, you’ll find rest.
Now that you’ve been through the list, add your own ideas to it. And whenever you are beginning to get bored, pull out your list and choose your solution.
1. You have to meet life halfway; you cannot just sit there and wait for it to entertain you. Take responsibility for your own happiness. As William C. Menninger wrote, “The amount of satisfaction you get from life depends largely on your own ingenuity, self-sufficiency, and resourcefulness. People who wait around for life to supply their satisfaction usually find boredom instead.”
2. Awaken to the fact life is a gift. Unwrap it. How can you be interested in a gift you haven’t opened? If the gift is a toy, play with it! Awaken to the world around you; get out and get about. Breathe in the magic, mystery, and majesty of life.
3. Make time for self-reflection and self-questioning. Don’t be like the man who was so busy he didn’t have time to live; all he could do was exist. The purpose of life isn’t to busy yourself today with the hope of becoming happy in the future; rather, it is to experience fulfillment and happiness each and every day.
4. Remain focused on the tasks at hand. If you allow your attention to drift, boredom will strike.
5. Ever see a cat stretched out in the sun? It isn’t bored because it is content with what is. “Man is the only animal that can be bored.” said Erich Fromm. We are the only creatures that questions what is and asks, “Is this all there is? You mean there isn’t more to life?” In a word, we can fall into periods of ungratefulness. The cure to this is to practice gratitude, to count our blessings, to stop questioning and start enjoying. If I were a guest at a banquet, instead of wondering if this was all, I would rather enjoy what was available, wouldn’t you? Remember, the more we are grateful for what we have, the more we will have to be grateful for.
6. Be willing to make an effort; be willing to pay the price for an exciting life. We already expect to pay for a ticket to gain admission to a major sports event or concert, so why do some expect to enter the greatest event of all, life, without paying a price; anything worthwhile has a price. And remember that “Only those who want everything done for them are bored.” (─Billy Graham).
7. Eric Hoffer admonished, “When people are bored it is primarily with themselves.” So, ask yourself, what makes the people you like interesting? What can you learn from them and how can you make yourself interesting? For once you make yourself interesting, you will no longer be bored with yourself.
8. Allow yourself the luxury of occasionally doing nothing, just enjoy being, instead of doing. After all, our body needs moments of relaxation to refresh, rejuvenate, and invigorate itself.
9. If you find yourself bored, don’t wait to become interested in something because interest doesn’t come from waiting, but comes from taking action. So, act first by taking one of the 26 steps.
10. Boredom is not caused by a lack of things to do as much as unwillingness to do anything. So, develop your self-discipline by taking action. It’s okay to feel lazy and bored, but choose an activity and do it anyway.
11. Boredom is also a call for a change, but not a petty or small change, such as switching from one TV channel to another. Rather, it calls for a significant change, such as replacing your TV viewing with a martial art class.
12. If you’re retired, get a part-time job or become a volunteer. Don’t sit around the house if you can be out, contributing to life. Maintain an active life. If it’s rest you’re looking for, you’ll find boredom. If it’s activity you’re looking for, you’ll find rest.
Don’t be afraid of getting bored because it is delivering an important message. It is telling us that we have free time. And free time is a valuable resource that can be used to enrich our lives. It’s time that can be devoted to friends, family, or personal development. When we’re at work or in school, there are only a few ways to spend our time, but during our time off, we are free to use it as we see fit. We can use it to create meaning in our lives and experience greater fulfillment. But only if we take the time to stop and think before we act.
A Philosophy of Boredom by Lars Svendsen
Boredom: A Lively History by Peter Toohey
Boredom Is in Your Mind: A Shared Psychological-Philosophical Approach By Josefa Ros Velasco
Manoush Zomorodi: How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas
Chuck Gallozzi lived, studied, and worked in Japan for 15 years, immersing himself in the wisdom of the Far East and graduating with B.A. and M.A. degrees in Asian Studies. He is a Certified NLP Practitioner, speaker, seminar leader, and coach. Corporations, church groups, teachers, counselors, and caregivers use his more than 400 articles as a resource to help others. Among his diverse accomplishments, he is also the Grand Prix Winner of a Ricoh International Photo Competition, the Canadian National Champion of a Toastmasters International Humorous Speech Contest, and the Founder and Head of the Positive Thinkers Group that has been meeting at St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto since 1999. His articles are published in books, newsletters, magazines, and newspapers. He was interviewed on CBC’s “Steven and Chris Show,” appearing nationally on Canadian TV. Chuck can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his photography at https://500px.com/chuckgallozzi. This article cannot be re-published without permission.