When you pay attention to boredom, it gets unbelievably interesting. Jon Kabat-Zim
Chronic boredom can at times be confused with depression. Having suffered and still suffering from both, I am aware that they are rather different but might easily appear the same to other people. Boredom can be a sign of depression, but it can also be a trigger. Therefore it can be hard to distinguish between the two. Sometimes, well-intentioned people will tell you that you are not depressed, just bored. But sometimes, it can be the opposite. When I was twenty years old, I went through a period of very low mood, apathy and lethargy. Most of my friends had gone on to university but I was still at school because I had to repeat my final year. My mother insisted that I go and see the doctor. Hence I went, he diagnosed depression and gave me anti-depressant. I knew it was not depression, just plain boredom, but it was hard to explain, so I went along.
The problem is that I get bored easily. As my therapist told me during one of our sessions, I have an intolerance to boredom, which makes me prone to be despondent and seek instant gratification. So according to her, it is boredom that makes me reach for a glass of wine, while I watch television. It is boredom that makes me light a cigarette, while I am reading a book. It is boredom that makes me reach for my mobile phone and text my ex, when I am sitting on the train or lying on my bad trying to fall asleep. I need constant stimulation. My relationship with my ex-partner was full of highs and lows and I assume that it was part of the attraction. Life was never boring with him. It was a constant roller coaster of emotions. I was happy, sad, anxious, hyper-vigilant, disappointed, excited, jealous, and insecure but bored never!
I am a fairly active person and I always find it difficult to stay still. When I stand, I rock side to side. When I sit, I rock back and forth. I fidget. I get bored by routine. I often do two things at the same times. I am a restless person and I have an extremely low tolerance to boredom. There is nothing bad with being bored. I have heard that boredom can be a good thing and spur creativity. However, when I am bored, instead of taking my dog for a walk, reading a book or doing something constructive, I have the following two reactions: I become lethargic or I become restless. Whichever happens, the solution is the same and usually involves the aforementioned behaviours. The Canadian psychologist Dr John Eastwood (http://www.boredomlab.org) says that “When people are bored, they’re disengaged from satisfying activity and more likely to become internally focused in a negative ruminating cycle.” That sounds exactly like me. I get bored to death and I ruminate.
How can I build my tolerance to boredom and become a more balanced person? I guess that I need to change my reaction to boredom. My plan is to find alternative activities to the highly unhealthy ones that I have chosen up until now. Douglas Cootey, author of the blog A Splintered Mind, recommends having a Boredom Survival Kit. http://douglascootey.com/2014/02/get-rid-of-adhd-boredom-once-and-for-all.html. So I will give it a try and start assembling my Boredom Survival Kit.
Things to put in my kit:
- A notebook and pen to write or doodle
- A book of poems or mantras
- A book of crosswords
- A pack of playing cards to play patience
I hope that my fear of boredom will soon become a thing of the past and that I will be able to tolerate it and use it to be more productive and creative.