Most people are already dead. Their minds are constantly preoccupied in past thoughts and resentments, and future worries and plans. We go about our days fully absorbed in any thought, recollection or feeling that pulls us away from completely tasting life as it is right now. And most of us don’t like challenging and pushing ourselves to the limits of our soulful capacity: instead we make our lives as comfortable, numbed-out and sheltered as possible, as though we’re already lying in our graves. We’re surrounded by the living dead … we are the living dead.
My partner said these words a few days ago. It was a balmy night and the sun had just set. Mosquitoes buzzed around us pricking the back of our hands as we mused over the monotony of human activity in front of us.
“This is as alive as you will ever feel,” Sol said suddenly, and I realized he was completely right. Although watching cars go back and forth wasn’t exactly glamorous or fascinating, I realized that it didn’t have to be. You don’t need to travel to some fancy location to feel alive. You don’t need to go on an expensive vacation to feel joyously awake. You don’t need to have the perfect job or perfect life to taste the experience of Being.
But as usual, we think that external situations and fixes will soothe our chronic boredom, our existential angst. And so we go chasing after the next form of stimulation – and the next, and the next – until we end up with depression, or some other form of mental or physical illness.
If you are a chronic boredom sufferer who finds life mostly an insufferable and tedious string of predictable events, keep reading.
6 Ways to “Recycle” Chronic Boredom
You may not know this about me, but I suffer from boredom quite a lot. I can understand people so well that socializing – which also follows a predictable pattern – has little interest for me (although I do enjoy connecting deeply with others on an emotional level). Routines and habits also bore me, people’s drama bores me, celebrations bore me, food bores me, traveling bores me, romance bores me, and I even bore myself at times.
Chronic boredom has been an awkward little companion that I’ve carried around for a long time. I like to picture boredom like a piece of spat-out-gum that has the nasty habit of lodging itself under the shoe of my life, making everything so damn annoying. Wherever you walk, it’s as though you’re always aware of this imperceptible presence that sullies the experience with its infuriating stickiness.
But although chronic boredom can feel impossible to shake, I have managed to emerge from the grave of the living-dead life to learn and grow from the experience. I want to share with you what has worked for me in the order of relevance/ importance below:
1. Use your chronic boredom as a wake-up call (here’s how).
Whenever you feel yourself lapse into that state of apathy and lethargy, pay attention. You will almost always find that the cause behind your boredom is taking life for granted. Feeling bored is like saying “Yeah yeah. I’ve been there, done that, seen that before. None of this is good enough. I need more, I WANT more.” But do you? Have you really seen, done, or experienced every nuance of the present moment before? In my experience boredom is the perfect wake-up call because it reminds us that we are lapsing back into our living-dead state of existential monotony. When we feel bored it is as though our soul is reminding us that we are living too much in the past or future, and not living each day as though it is our last.
I find that the best cure for chronic boredom is acceptance – but not the passive kind. Accept your state of unhappiness and remember that it is serving as the perfect wake-up call, but also balance that with actively seeking to reprogram your mental restlessness.
2. Let your chronic boredom reveal to you what you’re unhappy about in life.
Not only does chronic boredom reveal that you’re not appreciating the present as it is, but being bored also points to some deeper form of discontentment in your life (but not always). Perhaps you need to quit your dead-end job and find something better suited to you and your dreams? Perhaps you have too many draining commitments, and need to “cut away the fat” from your life? Perhaps you aren’t taking enough risks, or you’re taking the easiest path when you would benefit from the harder path? When you ask “Why don’t I find any joy in life right now?” and pursue the question until it’s answered, you might be surprised by your answer.
3. Is ingratitude your frenemy?
I often find that my boredom comes as a result of forgetting to be thankful for what I have. When the mind is in the habit of constantly finding gratification in a future-orientated thought or feeling, present moment life can never quite feel “good enough.” Not only that, but when we take for granted what we have, we often expect it to be even better than what it is capable of being by imposing our beliefs, desires and expectations onto it. For example, if you feel bored in your relationship right now, have you ever considered that you might be taking your partner for granted? Of course, there are many other causes for feeling unhappy in relationships, but one common cause is ingratitude. If you only had one hour left with your partner, would your feelings towards them change?
Ingratitude is like a frenemy (friend/enemy) because it fools us into believing that there is something perpetually “better” than what we have, while at the same time causing us great unhappiness.
The best solution I’ve discovered for ingratitude is stopping everything you’re doing for a few moments and savoring your surroundings. I like to find at least 5 things I’m thankful for, e.g. “… for the fresh breeze,” “… for how considerate my partner/friend/co-worker is,” “… for this comfortable chair,” “… for the challenges that help me grow,” etc.
4. Your habits might be suffocating you.
Human beings quickly make close friends with habits because they provide structure, organization and a sense of security. But not all habits are made to be kept, and in fact many of the habits we religiously keep greatly contribute to our feeling of chronic boredom. It was only the other day when I realized, “WAIT … I don’t have to only exercise in the afternoon? I can actually exercise in the MORNING as well?!” It sounds ridiculous, but this actually blew my mind because I had been so ingrained in a pattern of living that all other options became non-existent.
Consider what habits might be weighing down on you, or what routines could do with a spontaneous makeover right now.
5. Poke yourself with the stick of proactivity.
Being comfortable in life has its light and dark side. On one hand being comfortable can be really enjoyable and refreshing – but on the other it can breed laziness, apathy and emptiness. If you want to get the most out of life you need to poke yourself with the stick of proactivity. By this I mean that you need to be vigilant and provoke yourself to action when you feel as though you’re lapsing into boredom. Yes, this might be uncomfortable and even annoying at first, but it is the only way you can break the cycle of tediousness.
How can you do this? Do this by thinking of one thing you can “poke a stick at” in your life. That may be learning how to make your own DIY shampoo, or watching a movie genre you’d never consider watching, or learning to kayak, or brushing off the dust from your old forgotten book manuscript, or even learning how to be a tourist in your own country. There are many ways to get yourself up and running again.
6. Learn how to enjoy the small passing moments in life (here’s how).
Learning how to enjoy the small passing moments in your life is about firstly developing the ability to be present. Pulling yourself away from your incessant mental chatter can be very hard, but as you slowly learn how to purely experience each present moment, you will also learn how to appreciate the small joys in life. Focused breathing, solitude, introspection and mindfulness meditation are all effective ways of learning how to be self-aware and present. Once you put your mind to it, you will start enjoying even the most subtle experiences of life like the gentle reverberation of leaves against the wind, ants crawling across the floor, distant traffic in the background and the silence of the night.
Chronic boredom is an experience almost everyone goes through in life at one point or another. Yes, you might be super intelligent, and yes, you may have experienced a lot, but the full spectrum of life can’t be limited to your ingrained perspective, conditioned beliefs, or narrow body of experiences. Opening yourself up to learning from your boredom requires humility and also the courage to be wrong in the face of your hidden judgments and misconceptions about life.
Are you a chronic boredom sufferer? What have your experiences been and what advice can you offer to others dealing with the same problem?