Boredom! This may not seem like a mental health issue, but we are seeing an increasing number of clients whose presenting issue in counseling is boredom. The current pandemic has created a loss of social support, the inability to enjoy seasonal activities, the loss of interaction with co-workers, isolation at home, and all of this has created a perfect storm for boredom. The result is that many people are filling their time with less than satisfying activities like more time on social media, TV binge watching, video games, pornography, and alcohol. The danger is that boredom can easily become depression and depression can lead to suicidal thinking.
Boredom is not new. One of the seven deadly sins in Christian theology is acedia or boredom. Apathy, ennui, sloth, idleness, are all descriptions of boredom. They all describe a form of emptiness that is not easily satisfied. Boredom is not just the result of having too few activities, but of having activities that are neither meaningful nor challenging. Your day may be full of activity, but there is nothing that challenges you or feels purposeful. The result is boredom. If this describes you, what can you do?
I believe that there are several things that you can do that will help to address boredom. Not all of these will work for everyone, but you might find some things that work for you.
Review your daily schedule and see where the empty places are that invite boredom. In the ancient Christian monastic tradition, acedia was called the sin of the noonday. They found that about noon was a time of lethargy and they encouraged vigilance during that hour of the day. When in your day do you find yourself becoming most bored? Become intentional about looking at those times and filling that time of the day with activities that challenge you.
Add some new activities to your day. What are some things that you have wanted to explore or try? Years ago, I took a continuing education course in calligraphy and I enjoyed writing special quotes in a special handwriting. I recently found one of my old pens in a drawer and I have been thinking about renewing my calligraphy skills. Is there something that you want to start, or something that you want to learn, or a new hobby that you want to try? If you are bored, now is the time to start.
Set some goals to get tasks done. What is needing your attention? Have you been needing to sort your library, or rearrange your closet, or clean the oven, or reorganize the pantry? Make a list of those tasks and set some goals around getting those done. Allow various times during the day to get those done.
Join an interest group. Reading groups are meeting online. Bible Study LIFE Groups are meeting online. There are interest groups for just about any interest and I am sure that you can find one to join.
Try doing the same things in new ways. For example, if you are using a home office, try moving the furniture around to give the room a new feel. Think about the things that are on your desk that are meaningful and take away anything that is not meaningful. Make the space your own. Maybe you can add art to your room or family photos. Small changes in that space can change the way that you feel.
These are just a few suggestions to address boredom. If you try these and you find that your symptoms are only getting worse, you might want to talk to a healthcare professional to make sure that the boredom is not becoming depression. I do believe that we can find ways, even in the midst of this pandemic, to give our days meaning and challenge.