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When Boredom is the Enemy

By on November 7, 2016

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They say idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. There is some truth to that proverb.

For me, this doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to get involved in criminal or immoral activity, however with nothing to occupy our days and nights, we are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior that will negatively affect our own lives. We are also likely to feel guilty for “wasting time” and being unproductive. No one likes the feeling of being useless.

Experiencing chronic boredom reduces our quality of life. It contributes to feelings of unworthiness. It causes apathy and can create the sense our lives are meaningless. Whatever zest we’ve had for living, that flame that makes life worthwhile, can be extinguished by the lethargy that accompanies boredom.

We all feel bored at times. It’s part of our human experience, but boredom can become problematic when it’s chronic- for example when one becomes disinterested in socializing with old friends, develops an apathy toward activities they once found enjoyable, and/or begins to experience a pervasive sense of restlessness that seems to have no remedy.

Chronic boredom can be intertwined with depression. For one, feeling bored allows us too much time to ruminate about the past and its regrets, as well as to obsess about current worries.

If we are already prone to depression, this effect can be toxic, as those who suffer from depression can be easily triggered to feel guilt over minor transgressions from the past.

Feeling bored not only drags an individual into a depressive spiral, once the person is down at the bottom, boredom helps to keep him or her there.

So, does boredom actually cause depression, or is an already depressed person more vulnerable to experiencing boredom as a result of their depressive symptoms? Both are probably true, but trying to decide what causes which isn’t crucial to finding effective strategies to break the chain.

Various studies support the notion that boredom is correlated with depressed mood or “negative affect”, which can include feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, and loneliness. These are symptoms common that those suffering from clinical depression also experience.

Researchers also found that boredom can be related to aggression, hostility, and anger. Impatience was another noteworthy quality they found to be related to boredom.

On the flip side, those with a lower tendency toward experiencing boredom have such qualities as assertiveness, a sense of purpose, life satisfaction, and persistence. Surely, this must be no surprise to the reader.

Okay, so we’ve identified these aspects of boredom, as if we needed research to confirm what we already know is an unpleasant experience!

So, what’s the remedy? Do we have any control when boredom creeps into our lives?

Armed with knowledge about what contributes to boredom and how it can influence our mood, we can look for interventions that will help break the cycle – break the hold it has on our day to day life. Once we are aware that boredom is a problem, we can start to look for solutions instead of being a victim to it.

One simplistic solution is getting involved in an activity you enjoy. For some, that’s easier said than done, especially in a case where the bored person is struggling with clinical depression.

In such a case, an activity “buddy” may help enough to get you moving. Activity tends to have a positive snowball effect. By starting small and becoming engrossed in something other than our own inner thoughts, we open a space for positivity to plant itself and grow.

In the upcoming article, entitled “Tips for Combating Boredom”, we will review concrete ideas for breaking out the boredom cycle.

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