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Is Boredom Dangerous?

Boredom is a part of our daily lives.  Routines are developed due to our brain’s natural attempt to use as little power as possible when dealing with repeated tasks.  Routines are helpful when managing daily activities in efficient ways but can lull us into overlooking important information at times.  This is why pilots do not memorize their check lists.


 Routines can seem safe for us control freaks but over time can create a dullness in life that sucks the joy out of living.  Being bored with what you are doing can be a regular struggle and get you into trouble if not dealt with intentionally.  A good rule I have tried to live by is to never make an important decision when sick, tired, hungry, lonely or really emotional (angry, sad, euphoric).  I think “bored” should be added to this list. 


When we are bored our minds wander.  This can be a great opportunity to get creative if we place some healthy boundaries around our thoughts.  The danger is when our minds drift to ways to add some excitement into our lives in that moment.  If we are bored and hungry, we can overindulge in food and drink which can derail our health.  If bored and lonely, we can entertain imagined relationships rather than actually taking steps to create healthy companionship.  If we are bored and really emotional, let’s say angry about a comment from a coworker, we can exaggerate all the weaknesses of that person and list all the things we wished we would have said that might have made us feel better in that moment but probably ruined a relationship.  If bored and really sad, our thoughts can lead us to do things to numb the pain or even harm ourselves because we lack healthy perspective in that moment.


Because boredom happens regularly in our lives, we need strategies to intentionally deal with it in healthy ways.  The first step is to become more aware of when we are bored.  This could be as simple as a periodic reminder on our phone to check our thoughts.  Checking in with an accountability partner can be helpful and grow a relationship at the same time.


The next step is to address the boredom through intentional actions.  These can be as simple as just getting up and moving.  I have a client who works from home and resets his mind at the top of every hour by taking a lap around his house.  I like to knock out a few pushups beside my desk.  Another intentional action is to regularly think about your thinking.  Review what you are telling yourself, especially if really upset or low.  Ask yourself if it is true.  Many times, we exaggerate what is going on by catastrophizing what is going on.  If it is true, ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful in this situation.  The key here is not to just identify unhelpful thoughts but to also replace those thoughts with what is helpful.  Like considering what you can be grateful for in that moment or planning some constructive next steps to take.  When facing a difficult conversation, I like to remind myself of my life motto: “don’t be a nice guy, be a good guy.”  When stressed I quote to myself Philippians 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing…”   It is also healthy to remind myself that I only have the grace to deal with right now, not tomorrow or even my imagination.  Having these helpful thoughts ready and available at all times helps keep me on the rails and out of most ditches.


Finally, I made a realization a few years ago that has helped me battle the extremes in life.  If I am bored, I need to find out what more there is for me to do.  If I am stressed, I need to realize I am doing more than I have capacity and figure out what needs to go or how to get help.  This is a pretty simple idea, but I have found the simple things tend to work best.

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