Accepting Difficult Emotions Part 6: Boredom

This article is part of a series on accepting difficult emotions. I hope that this series will contribute to understanding and accepting some of the more challenging aspects of the shared human experience.


Everyone experiences boredom. Boredom is typically experienced as a lack of something. For example, you might feel bored when you are not interested, when nothing motivates you, and when few options seem available. Boredom is accompanied by physical feelings of inattention, mild emptiness, and dull low-level pain. 

Purpose and Meaning of Boredom

Boredom can be developmentally appropriate and even necessary. Disengagement is an important sign that we should find more fulfilling, exciting, or meaningful things to do. With children, boredom encourages engagement with new activities and the learning of new skills. In adolescence and early adulthood, sitting around with a group of friends trying to find a direction is essential to identity exploration. In middle age, having children leave home is an impetus for reexamination of how we want to contribute to the next generation and use our reservoir of strengths, talents, and resources. In old age, disengagement can spur on the “life review” or the process of searching through one’s memories to accept the totality of one’s life. Boredom is an invitation to search for a higher meaning at every stage of life! 

Ways to Deal with the Emotion 

Boredom is like a barometer of engagement and interest. Fighting against or trying not to feel boredom on occasion is normal. However, it may be helpful to listen and attend to the signals that boredom is sending to you. Here are things to keep in mind when you are feeling boredom:

Values clarification

If things are not drawing your attention, you may be in the wrong place. If you are not sure what direction you are moving or what interests you, boredom is inevitable. Do some soul searching about who you want to be, who you want to help, and what has deeply satisfied you in the past. 

Establishment of non-mood dependent behavior

Dullness, boredom, and disengagement are easy to fall into when lying on the couch or staring at the ceiling. It is easy when you have fallen into the habit of zoning out in front of your computer or television to continue in that space between attention and disinterest. Get out and do something, anything! You have no chance of seeing, doing, or discovering something interesting if you are stuck in the same place. It may require significant effort to override an initial drive to remain inactive. However, most of the time, it gets easier to motivate yourself once you have gotten yourself moving. 

Treating underlying conditions that lead to feelings of boredom

At times, feelings of boredom can indicate other issues. Disengagement, disinterest, and lack of attention can be a sign of some underlying mental health conditions. Depression, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and anxiety can all interfere with sustaining attention. Without sustained attention, it can become tough to be engaged in any activity. Treating these underlying conditions can help reduce proneness to feelings of emptiness and boredom. Therapy can also help clarify your values, explore identity issues, and deal with life transitions that can make engagement difficult. 


By: Christopher Grandits, PhD


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