Signs of Boredom

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on December 03, 2020

What is Boredom?

Boredom is an emotion or signal that lets you know that you are doing something that doesn’t give you satisfaction. Boredom could tell you two things: that you are not fully present and engaged in your current task or that your task is not meaningful to you.

Boredom often includes feeling like your tasks are useless and not challenging. If you feel that you are forced to do activities that don’t serve a purpose or have meaningful goals, you’re more likely to have negative emotions towards the tasks.

Boredom is based on attention. Someone who feels bored may not feel stimulated. You may feel unfulfilled and not able to feel a connection to your surroundings. Boredom can appear in two ways: lethargy (feeling tired) or agitation (feeling irritated).  

Signs of Boredom

Boredom can manifest when you’re unable to focus your attention. This can be because you are consumed by multiple stressors in your surroundings. If you’re stressed out about something else, and your present situation is overly-stimulating, you may feel bored. This happens because you can’t focus on anything but what’s stressing you out. 

Continued

Boredom can show itself in many ways, but these are a few common experiences: 

  • Lack of interest in activities
  • Unable to stay interested for more than brief periods
  • Unable to rest or relax
  • No feeling of excitement
  • Difficulty staying motivated

There are multiple reasons for feeling bored, and it is not an uncommon feeling. In fact, people who feel bored may be frustrated or stressed for other reasons leading them to feel more bored.

This can occur when you feel like you have no control if you’re waiting for something or have to rely on someone else to get your task done. Boredom happens when you do not have control of your situation. 

Boredom becomes an issue when it keeps you from completing necessary tasks or decreasing your quality of life. If you have anxiety, you may be more prone to depression after experiencing long periods of boredom. Your boredom could be related to depression if you have the following symptoms:

  • Hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Evading opportunities that would help you feel engaged
  • Blaming yourself for your boredom

If you have these symptoms, you may want to consider talking with your doctor. They will be able to help you distinguish between depression and boredom and help you get treatment. 

Dealing With Boredom

Here are four methods that you can try to resolve your boredom:

Regulating Cognitive Demands

Try to only take on tasks that you can mentally handle. Do not overwhelm yourself with too much stimulation. 

Adjusting Cognitive Resources

Try to see what your stressors are and what your mental capacity is for taking on new tasks. Make sure that you feel well-equipped to handle the responsibilities and don’t overload yourself.

Managing Goal Values

Journaling is a good way to understand what your goals are and what tasks are the most meaningful to you. This will help you focus on activities that have meaning to you, stimulate your mind, and keep you engaged. 

Switching Activities

This is the easiest way to solve boredom because it stimulates your attention and helps you focus on new activities. 

Once you’ve discovered the root cause for your boredom, there are other activities you can try to stay engaged. These activities include: 

  • Finding a new hobby
  • Joining a community group
  • Considering a new career path
  • Exercising
  • Spending more time with friends

Support and Resources

Boredom can make you feel sad, tired, hopeless, uninterested, irritable, and many other difficult emotions. It can be hard to change your circumstances when boredom has reduced your focus and initiative. If boredom is impacting your quality of life, it may be time to look for support. Consider finding a therapist or psychologist to help you overcome boredom and find purpose and passion in your life.

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

American Psychological Association: “Never a dull moment.”

betterhelp: “Boredom and depression: can one lead to another?”

Current Directions in Psychological Science: “Why boredom is interesting.”

Mayo Clinic: “Depression (major depressive disorder)”

Motivation and Emotion: “The state of boredom: frustrating or depressing?”

Psychology Today: “What is boredom?”

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