Why Boredom Can Be a Good Thing and How to Utilize It

Published on: 19 Feb 2021
woman sitting at desk

If you’re anything like me, a common theme of your text messages with all your friends is complaints about how bored (and tired) you are. Life just seems to lack excitement these days. Combine isolation with being stuck at home and you’ve got a formula for boredom. We’re used to living such busy lives, and now that our lives are a lot less busy and we’ve been robbed of our social lives, we have a lot of time on our hands that we don’t know what to do with. Boredom ensues.

Many of us view boredom as a bad thing, but can we switch our mindsets and actually see it as a good thing?

Why Boredom Can Be a Good Thing

Hear us out: boredom can be good for you. “Boredom can be a great indicator that we need to recharge but still be engaged,” says Talkspace provider Elizabeth Derickson, MSW, LCSW. “Being bored is like our brains telling us it has the energy to do something, but it wants to do something fun.”

Since the feeling of boredom can weigh heavy on us, it can also serve as motivation to get up and actually do something! Research backs this up. A 2019 study referred to boredom as a “little-known way to spark creativity,” after finding that in study participants, boredom increased productivity and idea generation. 

Basically, when we’re bored, we’re lacking stimulation in one way or another. Motivation to get rid of the boredom causes us to seek stimulation, and that’s where the good stuff comes from.

How to Cure Boredom 

Many of us try to cure boredom the same way: by turning on Netflix and mindlessly binge-watching a show while simultaneously scrolling through our social media feeds. Despite this “stimulation,” we’re usually still left feeling bored and even empty. Why? These activities aren’t actually very engaging.

Derickson says that there’s certainly a time and place for long naps and binge-watching, but they usually are not the best cures for boredom. She encourages clients to think of activities that can engage our minds or bodies, that are enjoyable and active. You want to find activities that get you occupied and in a flow. When you’re actively engaged, you’ll notice that boredom just isn’t a feeling anymore. 

Can’t figure out what you should be doing? Derickson has some advice. “If you are really stuck on ways you can get into the flow, think back about things you did as a kid,” she says. “Did you color, do puzzles, or listen to music? For many of us, the things we did as a kid are natural ways to cure that boredom.”

There isn’t a universal way to cure boredom (sorry!) because what’s enjoyable for one person might be boring to the next. Finding what cures your boredom might take some trial and error, so you will need to have some patience when it comes to finding your personal cure. But once you find the activities that work for you, it will be worth it. 

It may also be hard to find the motivation to get up and do something when you’re so used to just drowning yourself in TV shows and Instagram. After all, engaging in an activity does take more effort than sitting on the couch and rewatching every season of Friends for the third time. Hype yourself up and remind yourself that in order to cure your boredom, you need to stop doing the usual. It’s time to think outside the box, deviate from the norm, and get those gears of yours turning. 

Here are three guidelines for curing boredom:

  • Figure out what you’re craving
    Derickson suggests asking yourself, “Do you need to move and be more physically active or do you need to be engaging in a cognitive sense?” Take it from there — maybe you need to go for a hike; maybe you need to find a particularly immersive novel to disappear into.
  • Be curious
    Allow yourself to wonder about new things. Open up your mind and welcome curiosity as a positive tool. What have you always been interested in? What is something that you’ve always wanted to learn?
  • Don’t be afraid to be a beginner
    Escaping boredom can lead us to try brand new things, things that we’ve never thought of trying before. The fear of failing or not doing something perfectly can hold us back from trying new things. However, embrace being a beginner and approach the situation as a great opportunity to learn. 

20 Different boredom busters 

Still in need of ideas? Don’t worry — we’ve got plenty for you. Whether you prefer to be mentally active, physically active, or both, here are 20 ideas you can do by yourself or with others in your household.

  1. Coloring
  2. Paint by numbers
  3. Needlepoint and embroidery
  4. Journaling
  5. Reading a book
  6. Researching a topic you’re interested in
  7. Learning a new language
  8. Working out
  9. Doing yoga
  10. Meditating
  11. Going for a walk or run
  12. Building Lego sets
  13. Cooking or baking
  14. Video chatting or calling friends and family members
  15. Playing interactive online games with friends 
  16. Listening to a podcast
  17. Taking an online course
  18. Doing puzzles
  19. Creating home projects for yourself
  20. Playing an instrument

This is by no means an exhaustive list! There’s so much you can do today — yes, by yourself, and yes, at home. 

So next time you’re feeling bored, remind yourself that boredom can be a good thing — it may be the thing to motivate you to take on a new challenge, get active, or take on a novel pursuit. Allow yourself to let ideas flow freely. Boredom and the resulting motivation and curiosity can take you to places you’ve never been before.

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