Boredom With a Capital "B"

It may seem obvious when you stop and think about it, but in the moment it's easy to forget.

Boredom = Trouble

Now let me preface by saying many people out there suffer from neurological imbalances and hereditary mental illness that have nothing to do with boredom and truly only improve with intense therapy, medication, or a combination of both.  But what if you are experiencing a little more anxiety than usual, some obsessive thinking, restlessness, lack of motivation, or are feeling a touch of depression, with no history of mental illness?

It might be time to take stock of how you're spending your time.  Think about a typical day.  Perhaps you go into the office every day like you're supposed to, but find yourself obsessively checking email, or getting on Facebook over and over, sighing, waiting for the clock to hit 5pm, not really focused on your work.  Then you head home, put on your comfy pants and settle into the sofa...only to get up for dinner and to go to bed.    Now in all fairness, sometimes we need a night like this.  (I need regular nights like this). But what if it is every night?  What if weekends look like this, too?

Too much free time makes us unhappy.  It's that simple.  When you have too much free time you think too much, analyze too much, and want too much.  Being busy keeps our minds occupied, makes us feel like we are contributing, builds confidence, and expends physical and mental energy.  It also helps keep us in the moment, it is difficult to ruminate on the past or worry about the future if you are focused on the now.  Our brains need stimulation, otherwise it will devise its own activity - typically in the form of worry and obsession.

But not all activity is created equal.  Frenzied activity at work, plus a jam-packed social schedule, a demanding exercise routine, and not a moment for yourself can be just as troublesome.  So what's a person to do?

Often, when I have clients who come in feeling restless, lost, confused, and unmotivated, one thing I do is ask them about the things they love.  What brings them joy?  Passion?  Fulfillment? In session, we explore ways to make sure these things have a prominent place in their lives.  For example, a (pretend) marketing rep comes to me feeling lonely and disconnected and tells me that they spend most evenings at home in front of the television.  Maybe it turns out this person has a secret, unfulfilled love for drawing.  I would encourage my client to make a trip to an art store, explore drawing classes and commit to spending an evening or two a week to drawing.  It's a simple, yet surprisingly effective step toward reenergizing a person.

More and more I see people who have gotten away from the things they love.  We are a culture of achievers, where financial success is synonymous with success in general.  Many of us have forgotten that life is also about play, passion, creativity, laughter, risk and love.

Often...not always, but often, I see boredom in people not because of their circumstances, but because they have lost their way, they've misplaced what they love.

While I by no means am suggesting that getting a hobby will cure you of depression, I do believe that refocusing energy into the things that light us up will change your life for the better, even if it's just a tiny bit.

But what about that boring job, you may ask me?  I have found that devoting yourself to things you love to do, when you have the time to do them, makes doing the things you don't like doing more bearable...because guess what?  At 5pm you're headed to your drawing class.

For those of you who are more visual learners...close your eyes.  Imagine yourself as a body of water, with the ability to move, adapt, and overcome obstacles.  If you sit still, ruminate and settle, what happens?  You grow murky, unclear, stagnant.  Consider your life's passions as the spring water that injects movement and life into you - they give you clarity, energy, and strength.

So, are you bored?  Are you the stagnant pond, or the flowing stream?  What do you want to do about it?