We all get bored from time to time. We all have those moments when absolutely nothing seems like fun. We get tired of the daily grind, we don’t have any good ideas for breaking out of our cycle, and even the things we know we enjoy somehow just aren’t very appealing. Generally speaking, the feeling passes soon enough and we re-engage with our activities and our friends or families.
Boredom Can Be Problematic
But for those dealing with a mental health disorder, recovery from a substance use disorder, or both, spates of boredom can be problematic. As a result, it is important to have some strategies for staying engaged with life when you feel boredom creeping in.
Why Is Boredom a Problem?
For those struggling with a mental health disorder—like depression or anxiety—boredom can lead to some bad habits of thought. Left to its own devices, your mind might spend its time ruminating about the past or worrying about the future.
Going over and over past mistakes, embarrassments, and the like is a common practice for those dealing with mental health issues. It is a self-defeating cycle—and one that you are particularly susceptible to if you spend lots of time disengaged and bored. Similarly, constant anxiety about the future—which may arise when we are bored and unfocused—can undermine your ongoing mental health.
The problems are similar if you are in recovery for a substance use disorder. The negative habits of thought that may arise when you are bored can contribute to ongoing negative feelings. In turn, those emotions could tempt you to return to drug or alcohol use as a strategy for blotting out those feelings. It is clear, then, that avoiding ongoing boredom is an important strategy for avoiding a relapse.
How Can You Avoid Getting Bored?
We have already acknowledged that all of us get bored from time to time. But if we cultivate a variety of interests and activities, we are far less likely to spend lengthy periods trapped in an ongoing state of boredom. When we are engaged with something we enjoy, it is much, much easier to keep boredom at bay.
Those interests and activities could take any of a number of forms. There is almost no limit, for example, to the kinds of hobbies you might explore. No matter what you like to do or what interests you, odds are there are ways to turn those things into a fulfilling hobby. And in some cases, that hobby may be part of a recreational therapy approach to treating mental health and/or substance use disorders.
But maybe you really aren’t much for hobbies. You might have trouble staying engaged with anything that doesn’t seem to have a clear, meaningful purpose. While we might argue that hobbies have a clear purpose—providing space for recharging and enjoyment—we also understand that some people think of such things as wasted time.
If that sounds like you, you may be better served by volunteering for an organization or cause that is important to you. For example, you might get great satisfaction out of volunteering at a food pantry or an animal shelter or a youth program. There may be opportunities in your faith community, in your local school system, or in community-health-focused nonprofits. Getting engaged with this kind of service can help take your mind off of your workaday world while still providing you with the feeling that you are accomplishing something with your time. Happily, this kind of service in the community can boost your mental health and support your recovery, so it is an excellent solution to the issue of boredom.
Whether you take up a hobby or find a way to serve others (or both), we would encourage you to invite your friends and family to participate. Loneliness, like boredom, can be a problem for those in recovery from addiction and/or mental health issues. Finding ways to spend more time with the important people in your life can be a real benefit.
Beating Boredom Does Not Mean Being Busy All the Time
We should be clear: we are not suggesting that you fill every last moment of your life with activity. In fact, our society’s obsession with being busy offers its own challenges to mental health. The mind and body need time to rest and recharge—and that means slowing down and taking some time for yourself. The key is to use that time for things you find important and enjoyable rather than allowing inactivity to lead to boredom and its potential consequences.
There Is Nothing Boring About Getting Help
At Peak View Behavioral Health, we get excited about helping our clients improve their lives through the treatment of mental health disorders, substance use disorders, or both. With compassion, expertise, and evidence-based approaches, we can help you (or a loved one) make the positive changes that will allow you to get more out of life—and to stave off boredom going forward. After all, a life well lived is seldom boring.