I often think that boredom is hugely underrated as a motivator of human behavior.
There are several multibillion-dollar industries devoted to keeping us entertained and making sure we never get bored, whether it’s TV, fashion, travel, or sports.
And what’s the biggest punishment of being sent to prison? More than bad food and the isolation from the people you love, it’s the boredom that comes from having no control over your life.
Boredom is dangerous. And yet we often act as though it’s nothing more than a minor nuisance, when in fact, it can have a hugely damaging effect on our well-being.
But boredom also has a way of creeping quietly into our lives. Sometimes, it can be hard to realize that your problem is boredom and not something else.
Here are some signs of people who have grown bored with life.
1) They have no hobbies
Think about it: the whole point of having a hobby is to stop you from getting bored.
Most people who go for hikes in the woods aren’t trying to become professional mountain guides. Most people who play music aren’t trying to be rock stars. Most people who cook have no interest in being chefs.
Instead, people develop hobbies to keep themselves entertained.
They do these things because they enjoy doing them, and because staying active and engaged in something you are interested in keeps you from getting bored.
People who are bored in life don’t do any of that. Often, they may think hobbies are a pointless waste of time. In a way, that’s true.
But if something makes you happy, it’s time well spent.
2) They aren’t interested in learning anything new
One of the best ways to stay engaged with the world around you is to stay curious.
Learning new things is a great way to keep yourself from getting bored, and it also makes you a smarter and more empathetic person.
You can learn new things by reading, or by watching documentaries. You can also learn new things by talking to other people and getting to know their perspectives.
But when you lose that curiosity, you’re on the road to a boring life.
We are all endlessly curious about the world as children. It’s those people who let that curiosity die in them who end up being bored.
So if you know someone who never seems to ask questions or want to learn anything new, it’s a good sign they are bored with life.
3) They don’t stay active
I’m not saying you have to be an athlete. After all, I’m a long way from being an athletic person myself.
On the other hand, humans are made to move. And if you don’t, boredom easily creeps in.
I’m not the type of person who would ever enjoy going to the gym or running to stay healthy. That’s just not me.
Instead, I stay active by hiking in nature or playing sports. Not only do these activities keep me at least somewhat fit, but they are a great way to stop me from getting bored.
Sometimes it’s hard to force yourself to go out there and do something, even if it’s something that you enjoy. And people who are bored with life let that resistance stop them from doing activities that might keep them entertained.
4) They are restless
At the same time, bored people are often restless.
They may not want to do anything in particular. But they won’t be content just sitting there, either. Instead, they may:
- Have a hard time sitting still
- Pace up and down
- Have trouble sleeping
“Sometimes, an unpleasant state of mind is necessary when routine ways of being and doing have sucked the novelty out of life,” says psychologist Nicole S. Urdang.
In other words, restlessness can be a way of forcing us to confront our boredom and try something new.
5) They don’t make time to socialize with others
I’m not a very social person myself. In fact, I’m a classic lone wolf who is happier in my own company most of the time.
But even the most introverted person needs some social interaction. Although I don’t have a lot of friends, I do have a few that I can call on whenever it feels like life is getting stale.
Interacting with other people has all kinds of mental health benefits for us. And a good chat or doing a fun activity together is one of the best ways to stave off boredom.
But people who feel bored with life rarely do any of this. Instead, they stay isolated in their boredom – which only makes things worse.
6) They don’t have goals
Over the long term, boredom can suck all the joy out of life. And it can also have a devastating effect on a person’s motivation.
Scientist Simone Redaelli writes that boredom often comes from achieving our goals. When we are chasing something, it’s easy to get caught up in the quest.
But the happiness and sense of accomplishment we get from meeting our goals doesn’t last forever. And once it fades, boredom can often set in.
That’s when it’s time to find some new goals.
It doesn’t even necessarily matter what you want to achieve in life. What matters is the attempt.
When you have nothing to strive for, it’s easy to get bored with life.
7) They are threatened by change
Sometimes, boredom comes from a person’s hidden fears.
Living a boring life means you are not challenging yourself or stepping out of your comfort zone. And one of the reasons for that is that you may be afraid of change.
Change is scary for all of us. While we may all want better things, we are afraid to lose what we already have. And when people let this fear prevent them from trying new things, they soon find themselves becoming bored with life.
8) They are pessimistic
Unfortunately, boredom can be sticky.
What do I mean by that? Well, boredom can often lead to depression.
Neuroscientist James Danckert points out that while boredom and depression are different emotional states, there is a strong correlation between the two.
One of the most dangerous things about depression is that it robs the sufferer of their belief that things can get better, or even their desire to lose their negative feelings.
That’s why people who are bored with life are often pessimistic. They are not engaged with the world around them, and they often stop believing things will get better.
That makes it difficult for them to try any of the things that might help them become interested in life again.
9) They aren’t interested in other people
We all have something to learn from each other. But someone who is bored with life sees other people more like objects than fully-fledgedd personalities, and they don’t feel like they have anything to gain from them.
Other people can be endlessly frustrating, infuriating, annoying, and, yes, boring.
But when you lose all interest in other people, you’re headed for a boring life. Even people you don’t like can teach you something, even if it’s only how not to behave.
And once you lose interest in others, life becomes a lot more dull.
10) They always do the same thing
Some people are creatures of habit.
They order the same food from the same restaurants. They watch the same TV shows over and over. They are locked into their routine, and nothing seems able to shake them out of it.
The thing is, we all need a little variety from time to time.
Whether it’s setting off on a trip around the world or something smaller, like visiting a new restaurant, doing new things is how we keep engaged in the world around us and stop ourselves from getting bored of life.
If you know someone who refuses to branch out and try new things, it’s a good indication that they may be suffering from chronic boredom.
Shaking off boredom
We tend to think of boredom as a passing state that can easily be shaken off by distracting ourselves.
But that’s not always true.
Sometimes, boredom has deep psychological causes that rob the joy out of living and make someone disengage with the world.
Keep an eye out for the signs of someone who is chronically bored.
And if you can, try and help them rediscover their passion for life.