Have you ever had one of those days when nothing sounds interesting or fun? The kind of day during which every potential activity seems like something you have done too many times before? A day in which everything you can think of to do sounds like more trouble than it is worth to do it?
Boredom & Your Mental Health
We are willing to bet you know exactly the sort of day we are talking about: a day you feel nothing but boredom.
After all, everyone gets bored from time to time. It isn’t terribly fun, but it is generally not that big of a deal. In fact, there is even research to suggest that a period of boredom can have surprisingly positive effects—particularly as a jumping-off point for creative thinking.
For some people, however, boredom can lead to problems. For example, if you are a person struggling with a mental health disorder—one of the forms of depression, anxiety, trauma-based disorders, and the like—boredom can worsen your symptoms.
Why would that be? Let’s take a look.
Too Much Room to Ruminate & Worry
When we are bored, our mind often takes the opportunity to travel down some unhelpful paths. We might ruminate about the past, going over slights, embarrassments, mistakes, and more—sometimes even recalling and fretting over things that happened years and years ago. Alternately, we might worry about the future, playing out every possible negative scenario that we believe looms right over the horizon if we make an error in judgment or are just unlucky.
These tendencies to ruminate and worry are counterproductive to the maintenance of good mental well-being. They can amp up symptoms of depression and anxiety—and those symptoms can be self-replicating. That is to say, we can start to feel depressed about being depressed and anxious about feeling anxious. It is a short step from persistent boredom to this self-reinforcing cycle of mental health issues.
So what can you do about it?
Beating Boredom: Don’t Let Boredom Get the Best of You
The trick to beating boredom may lie in cultivating a range of interests. Don’t feel like watching the game today? You can dive into a good book instead. Don’t feel much like reading? You can call up some friends to play a game or watch a movie or just have a good conversation. Feel like being alone but don’t want to just sit around? You can work on a puzzle, try a new recipe, listen to some music. Tired of your music collection? Maybe it’s time to dust off that instrument you used to play and make some music of your own.
We could, of course, go on and on (and on). The options are limitless—and often the first step to beating boredom is to, well, just take that first step and do something. If it isn’t the right thing, you can always do something else.
That something else might take the form of volunteering for a cause or organization that you would like to support. Volunteering can be truly meaningful—and a sense that your activities are meaningful is a strong antidote to boredom.
Sometimes Being a Little Bored Is Okay
We have, of course, been suggesting things you can do to overcome a sense of boredom, but we should also point out that sometimes it is just fine to sit with your feelings of boredom. You might use the moment to practice mindfulness so that you stay present in the moment rather than ruminating or worrying. Sitting with a feeling can help you understand its source a little better—and it can be an excellent reminder that this feeling, like all feelings, is temporary and will pass.
Along these lines, we also want to be clear that you do not want to fill your schedule from morning to night in an effort to outrun boredom. Being extremely busy can be just as bad as being extremely bored. As with so many things in life, when it comes to busyness versus boredom, the sweet spot is balance.
Here’s Something To Get Excited About: We Can Help You Bolster Your Mental Health
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we are excited at the opportunity to help individuals struggling with mental health disorders find ways to improve their overall mental well-being. We will carefully listen to you and then design a personalized plan to help you better manage any mental health difficulties you may be facing.