We’ve all had those days where boredom hits you. I’m currently going through an extended period of unemployment due to redundancy and my own business failing. For months I’ve been applying for jobs from my sofa with occasional breaks for a dog walk and boredom has become a constant companion. At first, it was painful and really challenging but as time went on I started to see my boredom as something different.
Boredom became a lens on my life through which I actually saw things with a new, refreshing perspective. When we are constantly busy we are very focused on our to-do lists, our next deadline and looking forward to our days off to rest. Before we know it years have passed and many of us are not quite sure how we ended up where we are in life, for better or worse.
We often focus on those things that are niggling us, those negative things that annoyed you. Whether it is the colleague who never shuts up when you’re trying to concentrate, rude customers or the rainy day commute many of us come to the end of a busy day and wish we didn’t have to do it all again the next day.
With my enforced career break boredom came a new perspective. A sense of gratitude for those little niggles. A longing for the purpose that those to-do lists and deadlines provided. I found that the more bored I became the more motivated I was to find a job to get me out of the situation. The boredom helped me to look at things with new eyes. I was more grateful for the experiences I’d had but also clearer on what I did and didn’t want from my next step. By focusing on what I was missing the most from being employment (and no it wasn’t money) I was able to see what type of role I was looking for next. I had clarity on what made me happy and what didn’t that allowed me to take my career in a direction that leads to more overall contentment in the long run.
Had I not had a long enough gap to become bored then I likely would have just ended up doing the same thing I did before and continued to be sleep-deprived and ungrateful for all of the experiences I was getting.
So boredom can actually be a positive thing. Whilst uncomfortable it is in the long run beneficial. Coping with it is still tough though. Sitting wallowing in it doesn’t help so what I recommend is what I named “active boredom”. When I felt that boredom crossing the line between motivating and depressing I jump off the sofa and immediately do a boredom buster.
What’s a boredom buster?
Well, it’s a list of things I can do to help make boredom a positive thing. The trick with boredom is to make a positive out of it. You’re sick of sitting doing what you’re doing so do something else, anything else – I guarantee ultimately it will make you feel better.. What that “something” is, is of course completely up to you but here are my top 5 boredom busters to get you started:
1. Do some housework
Yeah I know it sounds crazy that housework is top of my list but it genuinely is my number 1 boredom buster. I don’t enjoy housework and I’m not a neat freak however I find a clean and tidy environment really helps my mental wellbeing. It is also an active activity (i.e. can’t be done sitting on the sofa) which helps to break that boredom cycle. So when I’m feeling my mood slip from motivated-bored to sad-bored I get up and put some laundry on, hoover, empty and fill the dishwasher or clean the bathroom. You mind shifts from “woe is me I’m so bored” to “what’s next?” mode. You get focused and at the end looking around the house makes you feel like you’ve achieved something.
2. Dance to music
I recommend headphones and privacy for this one. Putting on some upbeat music has lots of scientific evidence for lifting mood as does physical activity. Combining both by dancing to happy tunes helps you release your happy hormones and feel better. So grab your headphones and go and have a silent disco in your room and you’ll soon be feeling less bored and more upbeat.
3. Go for a walk
Sometimes when I’m bored it’s because I’ve been in the house too much. My Newfoundland ‘Bear’ helps me deal with that by making sure I get out at least once a day. However, somedays he will get 3 or 4 walks as walking really helps clear my mind. It’s easy to get stuck in a though cycle when you’re sat on the sofa but getting up and getting some fresh air (and often damp air here in the UK), seeing something outside of four walls and the repetitive act of walking often helps you to see things differently. It calms you and (just as with dancing) helps get those happy hormones flowing. So borrow your neighbour’s dog, walk over to a friend’s, walk to the shop and back or just walk around the block and you’ll soon be grateful you’re back indoors – especially if it’s a wet and windy day outside.
4. Get creative
Sometimes when I’m bored I’m just not able to get active, my brain just will not let me. Sometimes even after being active I still need a boost. That’s where creativity comes in. I paint or I write personally but there is almost an infinite number of ways to get creative. Creative tasks focus your mind on something positive with a tangible product at the end. This helps you feel like you’ve achieved something and takes your focus away from the boredom. So grab a brush or start that book you’ve always wanted to write – who knows maybe it could be the start of something big!
5. Make a list.
When all else fails I make a list. When I’m bored sometimes it’s not because I’ve nothing to do but because I can’t see the options. List-making gets my mind to open up to thinking of possibilities. The list can be as simple as a shopping list or a list of jobs around the house that need doing.
My favourite though is a list of holidays I want to take, places I want to visit and things I want to do – the bucket list. Writing a list helps you to see that there are always options, always things that you can do and helps you focus on possibilities rather than the trapped feeling that boredom can make you feel. So next time you’re bored try writing that bucket list and you’ll soon feel more optimistic and full of potential.