I hate being bored. Do you? Boredom creeps in when you are unengaged at the task in front of you. Or when you find yourself stuck in the queue. Most of the time we are able to tolerate boredom until the emotion subsides. There are moments where we feel such high intensity of boredom that we wish to get rid of it immediately.

This ‘struggle’, or the inability to accept boredom itself, is THE issue.

How do we cope? Some surf the net aimlessly. Some engage in destructive habits. Boredom is one of the biggest triggers for relapse into substance abuse and compulsive behaviours. Boredom is the biggest enemy for people with ADHD. They can sink into low mood if they are unable to cope effectively with boredom. Managing boredom is an important life skill, even for people without a history of addictions and/or ADHD. If we manage boredom effectively, we end up feeling productive and energised. Here are some tips to combat boredom once and for all.

1. Identify triggers and warning signs

The first step to overcome boredom is to identify it. Many recognise boredom by the feeling of lethargy and aimlessness. There are other signs which we are not aware of. One warning sign is the presence of a time gap. When we have chunks of free time and waiting for it to pass, we can be certain that boredom will slowly creep in.

2. Response proactively

When we are aware that we are bored, we can decide to take action. If we react (or give in) to boredom, we end up doing mindless activities that is not helpful. When we resist, we can be sure we are reacting towards boredom. Take a deep breath to centre yourself. Mediate for a minute. Then take a moment to consider options before responding. When this decision is proactive and planned, you end up accomplishing tasks.

3. Plan in advance

Planning helps. Create a list of activities in advance. Act on them the moment you catch the triggers and signs (point 1). Make it simple and easy. You want to do it the moment you feel bored. It can be taking a walk, getting a cup of water, talking to someone or even meditate. Once we are engaged in the task, the intensity of boredom is reduced or disappeared.

4. Reframe boredom

One of the reasons that we try so hard to manage boredom is because we view boredom negatively. We could be thinking “I shouldn’t feel bored” or “I do not like this feeling”. This leads to us want to “get rid” of boredom. This ‘struggle’, or the inability to accept boredom itself, is THE issue.

Boredom is a neutral emotion. Our interpretation coloured it. This means we can change our interpretation to a positive slant. When we are bored, we could take it as a signal to engage our hobby or personal project (like writing this article). Or, we could view boredom as a moment of downtime for us to rest. When we reframe boredom, the ‘struggle’ disappeared.

5. Set up a personal project and accomplish it!

Boredom can be a sign that we are managing our life well. We have reached the “cruising” mode. This is a signal to progress to the next challenge. What will excite you? Create your own personal project! Is it to set up a consultancy firm on the sideline? Or do you want to engage in a hobby like bowling or weight training? Remember boredom disappears when we are engaged. One of the best way to engage yourself is to accomplish your own personal project. The important notion is to make this project as meaningful and rewarding (to your definition) as possible.

Share with me how these strategies helped you to kill boredom. If you know more methods, do leave a comment! Or subscribe to me mailing list for more!


Also published on Medium.

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