I hate being bored almost more than anything else in the world. Sure, there are worse things. Pain and loss are definitely much worse than boredom. But boredom strikes all the time, every day, whereas most of the time pain and loss are occasional visitors. And I’m the type of person who gets bored all the time. The feeling is not restricted to those days when you have nothing to do and wander the house trying to decide if daytime television is worse than staring at the wall. I get bored even on those days when I am busy.
In fact, on the days when I have a lot of stuff to do, you can pretty much guarantee that I am bored. It’s the busywork, the everyday activities that bore me the most. Showering, paying bills, grocery shopping, doing the laundry, walking the dog, watching television, cooking, eating. These are all activities that bore me to tears.
And the trouble is that I can’t get away from them. You can’t stop showering, not unless you want to live away from everyone else, and perhaps away from yourself. You can’t stop cooking unless you want to starve. You could stop television watching but sometimes that’s as much a social activity as it is one that fills idle moments. All of these activities are necessary, normal things that you do every day to live and survive. And they’re so boring that I wonder how I manage to stay awake through them.
This is why I travel. When you travel, these activities are suddenly harder. Doing grocery shopping in a country where you can’t speak the language and none of the products are labelled in English is a vastly different experience to going to the shops at home and automatically tossing the usual suspects into your cart. Eating when you have no idea what the meat is and the vegetables aren’t recognisable is more of an adventure than getting take out at the usual place. Travelling makes even the most boring chores interesting.
So when I don’t travel, I tend to get bored. Things at home don’t hold the same level of interest for me. I get bored and I wander around and do less because I’m bored and that makes me even more bored. It’s a vicious circle. And to get out of it, I’ve had to come up with a number of tricks to keep myself occupied. Here are just a few of them.
1.Study something. This is probably just for enormous nerds like me, but when I’m at home I like to go to the library, choose a book on something I’ve never learned about before, and read it. If I’m interested at the end of the book I find another on the subject and if I’m not, I find a new subject. Simple and you learn a lot this way.
2. Plan my next trip. This is a no-brainer. Even if you don’t know when you’ll be able to go, you can still plan it. You can look at flights, plan a trip around good deals and then research the location. Fun.
3. Have projects. Whatever you’re interested in, do it, is the simple version. If you work, then plan to get better qualified for it. Set up a side income through a hobby. Make something, get fit, learn a language, play an instrument. Anything you enjoy doing, set it up like a work project and do it.
4. Interact. This is a big one for me. I can get so caught up in my projects, in my work and the things I’m trying to accomplish that I can forget about other people. Interact with the world and not just with acquaintances over coffee. Find people like you, who think about the same things and like to talk about the same things and spend time with them. Nothing stimulates your mind like new points of view.
5. Try new things. This is a big part of travel and it’s something you can bring home with you. When you travel you eat new things, go to new places, and meet new people. And it’s fun and exciting. And then when you go home you spend time with all the same people, at the same restaurant. You even drive the same way to get there. Try new things. New places to eat, new suburbs, new shops. When I travel, I like to get on a bus and just get off again when I see something interesting. Try the same thing at home, you’ll be surprised by what you find.
6. Stay connected to the world you left behind. This is a real problem when you go home. You find yourself sliding back into the rut you were in before you left, the person you were when you were overseas falling away. This includes the people you met, the lessons you learned, the strengths you honed and the weaknesses you overcame. All of that work can just slip away. Don’t let it. Remember where you’ve been, remember what you learned there and what you became. And do everything you can to hold onto that version of yourself.
What are your strategies for overcoming boredom in day to day life?