A Psychologist On What Consistent Feelings Of Boredom Really Mean
The year 2020 was one of the most challenging in modern history, one that took a toll on our mental and physical health. To help you through it, we launched Experts On Call, a new series in which top-tier health and well-being experts answer your questions—however big or small—to help you find solutions, put together a game plan, and make each day a little bit easier. Don't forget, you can ask questions anytime, and we'll do our best to find the right expert to point you in the right direction. Without further ado, here's another edition of the series.
I have a consistent feeling of boredom no matter how often I take walks or read. I fear that my boredom will affect [my kids] in a negative way. I don’t know what to do to enhance my mood.
Boredom can mean a few things, depending on how it presents and persists in your life.
Given our society's general overstimulation through technology, it may take more to keep your interest because you're used to being distracted fairly easily. For some, it might mean a lack of connection to things that help you feel stimulated, purposeful, or motivated. Boredom may also be a defense mechanism used to protect yourself from more unpleasant, distressing, or activating emotions. For others, a chronic disengagement of attention could be a symptom of a larger depressive pattern.
If you're not sure where your constant boredom is stemming from, reflect on these four potential causes and decide which feels most true to your situation. Understanding the root of your persistent boredom will help you manage it most effectively.
How a parent's boredom might affect their children.
A parent's response to feeling bored likely affects a child more than the feeling of boredom in and of itself. How do you take care of yourself during or after feeling bored? Do you judge yourself negatively for your boredom? Do you find it hard to find meaning from what's in front of you? These responses can affect your self-esteem and, therefore, can have a direct or indirect impact on your parenting and relationships with your children.
Disengagement from your own emotions can also make it hard to connect with the emotions of your child. Chances are, if boredom has taken over, you may not be experiencing a wide range of other healthy emotions.
On the other hand, boredom can prompt many people to search for meaning in their lives, which can lead to deeper fulfillment and more enjoyment. This can have a positive correlation with parenting and may improve your relationships with your children and other loved ones.
How to cope with feelings of boredom.
Viewing boredom as "bad" or "wrong" can sometimes lead to reactivity and impulsiveness to get rid of the feeling. Practicing mindfulness and acceptance of a wide range of emotional states can help you feel less distress when you feel bored. This may also make it easier to move in and out of states of boredom rather than feeling stuck in them.
When you do become stuck, boredom can be exhausting and frustrating. Instead, get curious about your boredom so you can learn more about how your body is functioning and what you may really need in those moments. Ask yourself:
- How long does your boredom last?
- What thoughts do you have when boredom is present?
- Think about a time you did not feel bored. What was that like?
Journaling is another great exercise for reconnecting to or finding new inspiration. Get in touch with all of the ways that you spend your time currently: What are you doing, with whom, how often, and why? Then, get in touch with all the things that you're not doing and want to do. Start looking for opportunities to incorporate small steps toward some of those things.
Journaling can also be a useful exercise to offer yourself words of affirmation and compassion. Use this space to talk to yourself differently about your boredom and get more curious about what could be under it.
Boredom could be a profound opportunity for you to reflect and pivot the way you're currently living if it's no longer serving you. Consider the relationships you're in, your career, and the depth of your friendships, and see how they're affecting you.
It may be time to try new things and even allow them to not work. You won't know if something is a good fit unless you give it a good shot at success.
Lastly, remember that no feeling lasts forever. If chronic boredom begins to affect your mood negatively or affects how present you feel, it is recommended to seek some outside supportive resources to help understand and navigate it, such as a partner, friend, your community, or a therapist. Seeing a therapist for this is very common and a healthy way to process boredom if you're feeling stuck.
Ayanna Abrams, Psy.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist in Georgia, CEO/Founder of Ascension Behavioral Health and co-founder of Not So Strong, an initiative to improve the mental health and relationship functioning of Black women through use of vulnerable storytelling. She obtained her master's and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with emphasis on diverse populations and families. Abrams' specialties include working with college aged and graduate/professional students of color, entrepreneur mental health, and relationship and marital counseling. She has extensive clinical experience working with people of color, specifically Black women, men and couples. As a trained Emotionally Focused Couples Therapist (EFT), Abrams meets couples at the intersection of cultural identity and attachment styles in order to improve short-term and long-term emotional connection and relationship satisfaction.
Abrams enjoys providing consultation and creating mental health, relationship, and antiracism training/workshops for organizations, schools, churches, hospitals, & other media, and has been featured in the New York Times, Essence, Allure and mindbodygreen, as well as AfroPunk, Therapy for Black Girls, and Silence the Shame.