Coping with Boredom

By Tom Horvath, PhD

image of a guy coping with boredom by watching tvBoredom is the perception of being under-stimulated. We all have optimal levels of stimulation (some generally want more, some generally less). Whatever your level, when you are not getting enough, you are bored (and when over-stimulated, you may be stressed).

Boredom is often considered an undesirable state. However, let’s start with its advantages. If not much is going on in your immediate world, you have time to consider the larger context of your life. It is easy to lose track of what is more important than day-to-day and moment-to-moment issues. If bored you have a moment to consider what is important, rather than just immediate or urgent.

When feeling bored you might say, “I’m glad nothing is pressing on me at the moment; I can think about the bigger picture of my life.” If you tend to run away from thinking about your life, you may make a significant effort to avoid boredom, so that thoughts about “life” do not have time to be considered. Your life may have a frantic quality, or you may have addictive problems.

On the other hand, you may feel you don’t have enough energy to think about your life. You may feel apathetic, or even exhausted. If those feelings are ongoing, improving your physical health, or addressing depression, may be your next steps.

Boredom might also arise after completing a big task. Rather than considering this boredom a negative, you could perceive it as a time of transition. By comparison, when finishing up a hard workout, your body needs time to transition back to a normal activity level.

Sometimes boredom arises when you are engaged in an activity you’d prefer not to be doing but need to continue. A boring meeting is an example. Unfortunately, there may be little mental space to think about the larger context of your life. Fortunately, there can be ways to multi-task in such situations, or even better, figure out how to take more charge of the situation or get out of it in the future.

It seems that boredom, and therefore, coping with boredom, is a normal part of the flow of life. Accepting it, and taking it as a cue for useful activity, can allow boredom to have its natural place in your life.

If you or a loved one are interested in gaining tools for coping with boredom, our individual therapy services can help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out