Often feel bored lately? What is the meaning of boredom for you personally? Is it as bad as you think, or could it be useful?
What is boredom, anyway?
We like to think it’s that we have nothing interesting to do. And in some situations – trapped in a delayed train, stuck with a few more hours before the end of an office day without any work left to do — this can be true.
Yet often, particularly in today’s wired world, we are bored for quite the opposite reason. We are overstimulated and oversaturated. After an onslaught of choice and information, we suddenly feel uninterested in anything at all.
Are some people naturally more prone to boredom?
Yes, it seems so.
Research at York University, Canada identified two types of personality that have a tendency toward boredom. The first is the sort who continually seek new experiences. The second is the type who feels the world is dangerous and stick to their comfort zone, even when it’s too comfortable and bores them.
If you are an adolescent, you might feel bored because your teenage brain is still developing. Your frontal cortex, which aids with self regulation and self-control, is not quite fully formed. You can’t see a way to move yourself out of uncomfortable situations.
And if you’ve had a traumatic head injury or are suffering psychiatric illness, these too have been connected to higher levels of boredom.
When the meaning of boredom is an important message
But have you been bored more than usual lately? Have a sneaky feeling your boredom might be about something else entirely? See if any of the following could be the culprit.
1.You aren’t listening to your values.
If you haven’t clarified what things truly, deeply matter to you? And you aren’t aligning your choices and life with them?
You will end up in situations where you feel like you are constantly pushing against yourself. Because you are. In an effort to be like others or please family, you are going against your own values, and it’s exhausting. And yes, boring.
2. You feel you are being controlled.
This might be another reason why teenagers have a strong tendency to feel bored.
If we feel that our options are being limited by someone else? We can refuse to do what is on offer in order to assert our independence. And by doing nothing, we end up feeling bored.
This can be the case if you are in a codependent relationship or a controlling relationship.
3. You need to set a goal and take action.
Sometimes a feeling of boredom is a clear sign that we are treading water instead of being proactive. The meaning of boredom here is that it is time to look at options, choose a clear direction, make it a SMART goal, and make it happen.
4. You are avoiding something.
Not wanting to make a decision? Avoiding a difficult situation or conversation?
Avoiding things can also cause anxiety, which leaves us too caught up in fearful thoughts to do things that interest us or bring us joy.
The best way forward is to face what we are avoiding. If it’s too overwhelming, seek support. Either a good friend, family member, or, if you feel there is no one to talk to, consider counselling.
5. You don’t know yourself.
If we had a childhood where we always had to be pleasing to gain the love and attention we needed, or experienced trauma? We can end up an adult with little sense of self.
This can mean that we are overwhelmed by decisions so don’t make any, until nothing happens and we are bored. Or that we are always doing what others want, and inside a part of us senses it’s not our own desire and feels bored.
6. You are actually mildly depressed.
When you say you are bored, is it that you can’t think of anything to do? Or is it actually that all the things you usually like seem strangely far away, like something other people do? And takes energy you don’t feel you have anymore?
Boredom is because we perceive we lack external stimuli that interests us. Depression comes from within. We can’t find the incentive to be interested in anything, and feel numb and disconnected.
[Not sure if you are depressed or just stressed? Take our free Depression Quiz.]
A study at Canada’s University of Waterloo, led by boredom expert James Danckert, showed a direct link between being ‘high boredom-prone’ and having symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
So if you are often bored, get frustrated, and struggle with focus, you might want to try our free quiz, “Do You Have Adult ADHD?”.
When boredom is a good thing
Are you the type who never slows down? Who fills any spare time with endless little errands and tasks? And do you claim it’s because you ‘don’t like to be bored’?
In this case, boredom can be a good thing. It is a space to be with yourself and face up to the thoughts and emotions that all your ‘busy’ has been about hiding from.
Often these thoughts and feelings are not the giant monsters we are worried they are, and processing them can be a surprising relief. Mindfulness can be a great practise here. It helps you accept your thoughts and feelings as they come, without judgement.
Is my boredom really such a big deal?
According to the latest research, the meaning of boredom can mean poor mental health. A 2019 study at Washington State University reports that people who naturally experience boredom more than others are more prone to anxiety and depression.
Think your boredom is about deeper issues it’s time to deal with? We connect you with top London talk therapists. Not in the city? Use our booking site to find UK-wide registered therapists or online counsellors you can talk to from anywhere.
Still have a question about the meaning of boredom? Post below in the comment box.