Is your life not very stimulating? Do you have too much time on your hands and are starting to get depressed? Have you retired early and now regret it?
Whether you’re 24, 44 or 64, I suggest that you take a look in the mirror and ask yourself: “Am I bored?”
And what is boredom, anyway? When you have nothing particular to do, aren’t interested in what’s going on around you, or you feel that a specific relationship/activity/situation is dull or tedious, you probably feel bored, e.g., blah, listless, restless and a bit anxious.
Boredom isn’t depression: it’s an unpleasant lack of stimulation that leaves us craving relief. Boredom is also a paradox: some research studies have found it to be a disruptive state of mind that damages our health; yet other research suggests that without boredom we couldn’t achieve our creative feats.
What to do?
We all experience boredom from time-to-time, it’s a normal part of life. But if you find yourself bored a lot of the time: it’s time to take some action. Sometimes boredom is actually an inability to focus your attention on something. ADHD and ADD sometimes look like boredom: it’s hard to concentrate and you’re always looking for new stimuli.
Boredom even happens to the Fabulous People: are you cynical and jaded? Is nothing ever exciting/fabulous/good enough for you? “Ennui” is another word for this. “I’ve done it all and seen it all” is your mantra. However, few of us actually have done it all and seen it all. But we may feel like it.
The opposite of boredom is feeling excited, alive, energized, enthusiastic. How do we find this emotional place?
Any time we feel stuck in a repeating pattern, boredom may set in. But, since we can’t always avoid repetition, what can we do? We can counter-balance the repetitious, boring parts of our lives with their opposites. Ask yourself:
- What makes me feel alive?
- What am I enthusiastic about?
- What dreams did I give up on?
- What’s the most boring part of my life? How can I change it?
- What am I passionate about? How can I get more of this?
Answering questions like this let us know what our lives may be lacking.
The COVID pandemic has been a big wake-up call for many of us. During the pandemic, especially at the beginning, millions of people found themselves thinking: “Is this what I’m going to do the rest of my life?”
The pandemic has been a real boon to eliminating boredom. It forced us to take a good look at our lives and see what we love… and what’s missing.
Millions of Americans left the workforce (quit or retired) during the pandemic. Now, many of those folks are bored to death and looking to do something that has meaning and purpose. Nearly 7 in 10 workers who retired during the pandemic are considering returning to work, according to a recent CNBC survey.
I have quite a few friends and clients who retired early. And – no surprise – after they went through their bucket lists of traveling, gardening, home remodeling, and reading that pile of books by the bed, many of them are now bored.
If you’re thinking of retiring early, give some thought to how you’ll keep your life stimulating. You might like to work, just not as much. Consider transitioning from full-time to part-time, or full-time to a consulting position. This gives you a chance to “sample” retirement.
If you want more meaningful activity in your life – whether you’re retired or working – you could volunteer. As the election approaches, I have joined “postcard-writing banks”. I’m also considering volunteering at my local elementary school to help kids with reading. Yes, I am still working full-time. But sometimes I get a little bored with my life too and want to switch it up a bit.
Don’t wait until you’re retired to deal with your boredom. Do it now, so that the next forty, fifty or sixty years of your life are as exciting and rich as possible.
—Michael Kimmel is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in helping LGBTQ clients achieve their goals and deal with anxiety, depression, grief, sexually addictive behavior, coming out, relationship challenges and homophobia. Contact him at 619-955-3311 or visit lifebeyondtherapy.com.