Boredom—it’s something we probably all experience at some time or another, but some people are more prone to it than others. Let’s start off our boredom discussion with a definition. While there is no single agreed-upon definition, I like this one:
“Boredom represents a negative experience commonly arising in situations deemed deficient in meaning, interest, and challenge, and is thought to motivate us to remediate these deficiencies by modifying behaviors or situations.”Struk, Carriere, Cheyne, & Danckert, 2015
The authors cited above developed a test to measure boredom called A Short Boredom Proneness Scale, which consisted of the following items:
- “I often find myself at ‘loose ends,’ not knowing what to do.
- I find it hard to entertain myself.
- Many things I have to do are repetitive and monotonous.
- It takes more stimulation to get me going than most people.
- I don’t feel motivated by most things that I do.
- In most situations, it is hard for me to find something to do or see to keep me interested.
- Much of the time, I just sit around doing nothing.
- Unless I am doing something exciting, even dangerous, I feel half-dead and dull.”
Who gets bored
Some research has suggested that males are more prone to boredom than females, and boredom proneness tends to decrease with age, with people being more boredom-prone in their late teens compared to their 20s. People with higher levels of self-control who are better able to self-regulate their emotions, cognitions, and behaviours tend to be less prone to boredom. Self-control tends to increase with age, which may be why boredom becomes less of an issue.
Depression, hostility, and spontaneous mind-wandering were also associated with boredom proneness. Deliberate mind-wandering was not linked with boredom, and the researchers suggested that difficulty directing and sustaining attention could be the reason for the link to spontaneous mind-wandering.
When might we get bored?
I can think of a few different kinds of scenarios where boredom can occur:
- when you’re stuck in a tedious situation you can’t get out of, like listening to someone speak about something completely uninteresting
- being stuck waiting somewhere with nothing to do
- being at work with no work to do
- doing uninteresting tasks
- continuing to read/watch a book/show that doesn’t interest you but you feel like you’ve put in the time already so you might as well finish it
- wanting to be stimulated but not being able to come up with anything that does the trick
- wanting to do something in particular but being unable to for some reason, and anything else seems so much less interesting in comparison
- not finding any interest in things you try doing
- being unable to think of anything to do
It seems like there are two broad types of situations in which boredom might occur. One is when there are situational constraints that limit what you’re able to engage in at a given point in time. The other is more of an internal issue, with difficulty generating ideas or interest even when there are no external limitations on what you can do. Situational boredom strikes me as something that’s likely to happen to anyone, whereas internal boredom seems like it could depend more on personality and thinking styles.
I used to have a hard time keeping myself entertained at work when there was no work to do. Aside from that, though, I’ve never been particularly boredom-prone. I’ve always liked reading, and that was an easy thing to do if nothing else happened to present itself. I used to do a lot of solo travelling, and there was a fair bit of down time on planes, trains, and automobiles, which I was fine with. While I don’t have a particularly vivid imagination to roam about with, I am comfortable hanging out in my head.
I don’t need a lot of stimulation to keep me amused. I spend the vast majority of my time at home alone (aside from the guinea pigs), and usually I don’t have much of a problem keeping myself occupied. I’m good with low-key activities and even just sitting watching the guinea pigs or watching the birds outside my window. Repetitive and monotonous tasks can actually be a nice way of doing something without needing to come up with the energy to engage my brain. I did a ton of colouring while I was in hospital recently, and I found it was a very easy way to pass the time.
I suppose I experience boredom sometimes with depression, although I’m not sure that it’s entirely the same thing. The apathy runs deeper, and even things I normally like, including the guinea pigs, lose any shine. Sometimes things that normally occupy my time become aversive, and it’s hard to find a way to pass the time that isn’t actively unpleasant. When it gets like that, time passes very slowly. I don’t usually think of it as boredom, though, because it’s less not having anything to do and more not wanting to do anything.
So that’s me; now it’s over to you. Do you tend to get bored easily? In what kind of situations do you find boredom hits the hardest?
50 thoughts on “Are You Prone to Boredom?”
Ow interesting one! I feel more bored as I’m depressed as the things I usually love to do just aren’t exciting for me during these times. It’s then that I feel more urges to eat to “at least do something with my time”… I love gaming, reading and watching TV. I also have my loyal gall with me so I don’t really need to be bored… But sometimes I just don’t feel like doing any of the things I usually like and that’s when I eat or start dreaming without any goals… 😊
It’s definitely hard when depression dulls the normally positive things. 💕
I liked the dichotomy between intrinsic and extrinsic boredom. Intrinsically, I rarely get bored. Extrinsically, I regularly get bored, as having two little meep-meeps running around distracts me a lot from things I want to do, small or large, like reading a book, building stuff, photography, filmmaking, etc.
Agreed. The depressive boredom is something different. I experienced it not really as boredom, but rather a general unwillingness to do stuff. A lack of (finding) joy. Having no energy to do anything.
I don’t get bored at work either. Even when the work is maximum boring. I’ll find something interesting.
Two little meep meeps – love it!
That’s definitely a positive that you never get bored at work. I doubt many people can say that.
Great post! I think I fall into number 8 unless my imagination is super involved in a project or I’m busy at work.
Boredom seems to be a theme among the ADHDers who’ve commented on this post.
I’m not surprised, it’s frequent with BPD as well. Chronic emptiness is dangerous.
I really really hate the feeling of being bored. I guess when looking at it from outside I think one could get an impression that I lead a very monotonous, uninteresting and heavily routine-based life, but that’s absolutely okay with me as I still have a lot of interesting stuff to do and even when I don’t, my own brain can keep me occupied for quite a while in favourable circumstances. So thankfully I rarely experience the internal type of boredom. I am an avid daydreamer, I guess you could say a maladaptive one to an extent, with a very rich and lively Brainworld, or should we say Brainworlds as there’s worlds within worlds really, I also just generally like to think, imagine stuff, observe people, play with words and the synaesthetic associations that I have with them, have an inner monologue going on etc. I believe when you have a reduced sensory input, it’s a lot easier to get understimulated so your brain has to think about ways of stimulating itself from the inside.
Sadly situational boredom is more difficult to eliminate and it’s really really awful. I usually feel it in all sorts of peopling situations. My brain will keep me going for a while, as I can obviously still think, imagine and analyse things, observe people etc. but that alone won’t sustain me for long, especially if there’s nothing particularly interesting to observe, and I can’t go deep into my Brainworld because I don’t want to get so involved in my Brainworld that I could zone out around people as I’m a control freak and want to know what’s going on around me when I’m not within my comfort zone. Also a lot of the time in such situations I am also anxious at the same time and that naturally has some inhibiting effect on my imagination/creativity because I can’t focus more fully on whatever I’m imagining. Higher anxiety makes it also more likely that, instead of entertaining me, my brain will suck me into a never-ending cycle of rumination, or depressive thoughts, or the thing I call sensory anxiety, or will make up weird and not necessarily helpful things and stuff like that. The combination of boredom and anxiety, by the way, is a really awful sensation, because you’re sort of over- and understimulated at the same time without being able to do much about either, which I find literally physically overwhelming as a result because on one hand I feel really tired or even exhausted, while on the other there’s all that energy and tension bubbling away in me that I can do nothing with that makes it difficult to keep still and if I have to go like that for some longer period it often actually makes my muscles hurt afterwards. I’ve also started experiencing situational boredom in connection with my migraines which have gotten worse in the last couple of years. If I can, I try to sleep through a migraine, but sometimes it’s just not possible or I’ve reached my sleep limit, and then I often end up bored because I feel like doing something, yet at the same time feel too lousy to do or focus on anything meaningful, even as simple as listening to an audiobook. But at least that doesn’t come along with anxiety so while it’s massively frustrating, it’s not as awful.
I guess to an extent situational boredom is triggering for me or something, because I had to deal with that as a kid when I had a surgery, after which I had to spend over six weeks in bed and had very limited contact with the world or ways in which I could pass the time, which was a really scary experience and made me feel like I was going totally crazy and now when I’m forced to experience it a lot it makes my overall mental well-being go downhill really quickly. I also generally experienced this type of boredom a lot as a child because being blind the amount of things I could do was limited, and I haven’t always had stuff like books or technology to keep me occupied with something actually interesting, meaningful and brain-nourishing. Therefore, having experienced stuff like this a lot, even if not in any extreme circumstances, I think in a way things like sensory deprivation and being totally cut off from the external world are a lot worse tortures to subject people to than physical ones. I don’t get how some people consider even short-term sensory deprivation relaxing. :O For me it really doesn’t take long in complete silence and stillness before my brain goes wild. 😀 So in a way it’s like the same thing that makes me immune to internal boredom makes me maybe not necessarily more prone to but less efficient at dealing with situational boredom, if that makes sense.
I agree that boredom and the depression apathy are two quite different things.
I can see how boredom while peopling and unable to go deep in your head could be a big issue.
Bored easily. We talk about in therapy that the sexual abuse was so sensorily stimulating that it’s like addiction. We keep trying to get back to that, crave it, need it. But can’t ever get there. PJ doesn’t let us be too risky, and Sitka likes delusions so that was how we entertained us for most of life. Now that we’re trying to be present, we have more boredom. Hopefully we will get interested in each unique moment. For now, though, we’re traumatized and running to or from most experiences
Does getting out into nature help moments to be more interesting?
Usually yes. You know us very well. That meets our needs to be seen/heard, to be known, for connection. Thank you
Immersion in nature engages us. But it doesn’t necessarily contribute to giving life meaning or purpose, which keeps us depressed and bored
That makes sense.
Thanks for the post. I don’t find myself getting bored much at all. I tend to love having nothing to do but vegg out. I don’t even need a book to distract me. That said, perhaps there are negative impacts to me for liking to vegg out? I have never really thought about it? Is vegging out a sign of relaxation or a sign of avoiding something else somewhere? Don’t honestly know….:)
I’m all for vegging out time.
I’m bored easily but not in the way that nothing entertains me. In the sense that I have to be doing something all the time. I find reading or scrolling on social media or playing games on my phone very entertaining, though the social media part is sometimes soul-sucking. I get bored doing housework so I usually listen to podcasts while I do housework. I used to find studying boring so I would hurry up and try to get over with it. I enjoy different activities like board games, but since I got married and my physical activity decreased, I find doing something physical boring. I get tired or bored easily and want to go back to my phone. The few times I was without my phone, I was extremely bored, but I had my laptop so it was fine. I do read books but lately I’ve been getting bored of physical books and resorting to ebooks instead, though I can’t read them in pdf form, only epub.
Having a phone or other devices to use can definitely make boredom easier to manage.