being bored and bad habits

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between our bad habits and boredom. When we were kids, we didn’t really have the bad habits, we were too busy enjoying ourselves and when we were bored we soon found something to do. As adults do we just fill in boredom gaps very lazily with bad habits like drinking, smoking or eating trash? Have we forgotten how to amuse ourselves in a non harming way? Is there something better we could be doing instead of numbing and dumbing out?

Here’s a brief outline of what we are talking about. It’s about a 3.5 minute read.

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‘I’m Bored’

The phrase most dreaded by mothers of young children. But do you remember saying it…

Do you remember as children the times when we said ‘Im bored” often led to the best adventures ever.

We would use our imaginations to find ourselves something to do, something to relieve our boredom and make us happy and content again.

‘I’m bored’ never led to watching telly or mindlessly eating food. Being bored led us to do or look for something to do that was fun. Something that that took all our attention. Experiences that enriched our lives.

Sometimes that would be playing a game with our friends, a card or table game indoors or an active game outdoors.

Or we would walk somewhere. There was always a goal when we were young, we didn’t just go for a walk. There was a destination or purpose to the walk and there was always fun on the way.

We would discover things, stick sticky willow on each other, try and balance on stones in the burn (stream) and inevitably get wet.

Sometimes we hurt ourselves by falling or cutting ourselves on something, an inevitable part of being unafraid of life, of when you dont think too much, you just live in the moment.

play instead of bad habits

Sometimes we would just do something arty or creative from nowhere. Colouring, drawing, painting, doing your scrap book. All normal pastimes.

I can also remember making xmas decorations, paper mache, painting eggs, making puppets and paper figure nativity scenes. We would become totally engrossed in the activity, almost meditative.

Do we just get lazy when we get older?

I think we can definitely learn a lesson from our younger selves. We would go outside, we would play, we would connect with friends and when that was all impossible because of the weather or because it was night time we would get creative.

Perhaps when we get older we do get lazy and set in our ways. When we get bored we can’t be bothered to make the effort to do something interesting or creative.

We reach for the easy answer, preferring instead to numb and dumb out by using something that provides us with instant gratification like alcohol, cigarettes, sugar. Often all 3 and often slumped in front of the telly.

couch potato

Why is just watching the telly not enough, why do we need to watch the telly while blankly eating at the same time, or drinking alcohol or smoking fags, why do we do that? Are we not entertained enough by what we are watching?

If what you are doing is not enough, perhaps you should be doing something else.

I was especially guilty of this. It’s now a rule of mine that if I want to watch telly then the programme alone has to be enough, nothing else to go with it. I must just enjoy the telly watching without further gratification.

Are our bad habits caused by boredom?

How much of our habitual behaviour is caused by boredom? Are we just bored when we reach for that glass of wine, cigarette, junk food, social media, mindless tv programme?

Are we just looking for a high… a hit of dopamine to lighten up our boring existence?

I think there may be some truth in this. But then surely we can just find something else to lighten our days, something that doesn’t harm us. Something that our child self would approve of!

Rediscover yourself, your imagination and your creativity

Instead of distracting ourselves with wine and other mindless activities we could be having fun and getting creative.

Not something difficult that we don’t enjoy. We have been at work all day it needs to be something enjoyable.

We could be playing with our children, playing with our friends (sport, dance, a shared hobby), working on our life long passion…

A deep and meaningful conversation with a friend or loved one, a sunset walk, dance class, dancing on your own even for just for 10 minutes to your favourite music in your bedroom…

Could that be enough to take the edge off. Would it stop some of our habitual behaviour.

creative play instead of bad habits

I would suggest that in moments of quiet boredom (when its not appropriate to do something active) then doing something creative would be called for:

Writing , painting, drawing… anything creative can be so soothing, relaxing and really fulfilling.

What about working on a project that is also your passion, your dream, instead of reaching for the fags, booze and junk food. I believe in these moments of boredom we could be reaching for our dreams not our vices.

Even while sitting with the telly on, just pick up a note pad or sketch book and just write or draw, right there , sitting on your couch, It might amaze you how you loose yourself in it. How happy it makes you feel. Even just for a short while.

And sometimes its just ok to be bored. just to sit and stare out the window, allowing our minds to wander.. I find these are the times when I actually come up with the best ideas. Not because I’m trying to but they just seem to pop out of nowhere.

Studies have shown that actually, boredom does make for a more creative mind. For more on this concept click here.

Just be happy

My dad used to always say to me “just be happy lassie”. It was infuriating at the time but I have to admit, he had a point.

We need to stop looking elsewhere for our happiness and start looking inside ourselves. Creativity can help you with that.

Art of any variety is the ultimate form of self expression. No matter if its ‘good or bad’ (beauty is in the eye of the beholder anyway so who can judge). Be spontaneous, don’t try to be perfect. Creativity is in us all, it is truly a gift and its such a shame that so few of us use it as adults.

We are encouraged to use our creativity as children but if we are not ‘good’ at in in the conventional or commercial sense we seem to then be discouraged going into adulthood.

But thats not what art…creativity is about. It’s about expressing yourself. We must self express. When this is squashed we can become bored, depressed, anxious, unhappy and sometimes addicted to all the wrong behaviours.

We numb ourselves, we lose ourselves in these behaviours so much that we are no longer present. There is nothing left of us anymore.

Just be YOU, you are enough.

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Further Reading

Click here for more ideas on healthy habits

Click here for more on quitting bad habits

Learning to Love Yourself

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I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestion, comments and questions below.

5 Responses

  1. Loved this post. I was just sat here pondering my previous addictions to smoking, drinking and drugs. I have overcome all 3 of these things but there’s just one pesky habit that is in the way of me – food! Impulse eating. I think, how did I quit 3 addictions but I can’t quit this one?! I reminisce on the impulse feeling felt with all bad habits/addictions…its the same trigger – BOREDOM! why do we gravitate to instant gratification instead of doing something more fulfilling. I am going to make a poster of all the things that interest me/likes to do and stick it to the kitchen door. Next time I feel like going to eat, ill see if I can train my mind to get addicted and impulsively do something more creative and productive and self boosting instead.
    Thanks again – completely relatable.

    1. Glad it resonated Kayleigh. I’ve also quit alcohol and cigarettes and I’ve completely got the food under control too. My Healthy and Loving It coaching program could be a good fit to help you with the food!

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