Struggling with Boredom? Welcome to Being Human!

by | Feb 4, 2024 | Anxiety | 21 comments

There is always going to be something incomplete in this life. There are going to be times of fullness, and many more times of emptiness, boredom, restlessness, and the sense that something is wrong.

Some people seek to fill the emptiness through alcohol, drugs, sex, spending, eating.

Others try to fill it with scrolling, ruminating, checking, cleaning.

The mind tries to find the answer to the sense that “something is wrong.” Is it my partner, my house, my friends, my kids, my work, my city, my health?

It’s not likely any of these things, and when you try to find the answer, you end up creating a bigger problem.

Because there is no answer. It’s just life being life. It’s humans being human. We are incomplete. We feel bored. We feel empty. We feel lonely. We feel bored. Relationships are boring sometimes. Parenting is boring sometimes. Jobs are boring sometimes. It’s just the way life is.

No matter how full your life is, there is a place at the core of the human experience that rises up and asks that we see it, sit with it, hold it. Don’t run or eat or scroll or ruminate. Just sit with the lonely-empty-bored feeling.

Eventually, something new will arise from the emptiness. It’s the nature of emptiness to give rise to fullness. It’s how a baby is born from a seed. Even before the seed, there is emptiness. In the beginning of our world, there was nothing. From the nothing, came one thing, some thing, something. And then another thing, and another thing, until eventually this miraculous world was born and continues to be born, continues to unfold in the vastness of the universe and renew itself from the cycles of emptiness.

We, too, are vessels of creation, which means we’re vessels of emptiness. It’s very uncomfortable to sit with the nothing, the bored, the lonely. It’s our nature to fill it in and fix it in some way. But however we attempt to do this will provide a temporary filler at best, a spiral of addiction or anxiety at worst.

When we stay with the discomfort, we open the pathways for something new to arise.

Perhaps, instead of reaching for the cookie when we’re not hungry, we reach for a pen.

Perhaps, instead of spiraling into a rumination cycle about whether or not we’re with the right partner, we take out the instrument we used to play as a child and try our hand at it.

Perhaps, instead of scrolling, we dance.

Perhaps, instead of binging on the stream, we light a candle and talk to a beloved ancestor.

We won’t know how the emptiness longs to be filled until we sit with it and ask. This is no small task. We do not like to be bored or empty, which is why our screens have become a global addiction. We never have to be bored again (even though to scroll is to numb our minds into a type of complacency that is worse than boredom but holds out the infinite promise that the dopamine hit is just around the next virtual bend).

To sit still is to stay with nothing. To stay with nothing can feel like a certain type of death. And we are a culture that runs from death. We will do anything to avoid the feeling of nothing-death that sits at the center of bored-empty.

But we can do it. And I invite you to try. The next time you feel bored-empty-lonely-restless, sit still. Watch it. Become curious about it. What does it feel like in your body? What does your mind reach for to avoid it? What are your go-to fillers?

Watch instead of act. No small task. Call on courage and fortitude and grace and see what happens next.

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21 Comments

  1. Such a good timed post! Today I was looking out my window and I just felt, empty, bored sort of, but not bad. However, I then felt shame and worry because of the belief that when I look outside at the sun and trees, I’m “suppose” to feel happy and if I don’t feel happy when in or looking at nature then something must be wrong. This belief feels pretty embedded, due to the spirituality in my family, the spirituality I see on social media, and my own misunderstanding. Thank you for the reminder that it is ok to feel bored, empty, lonely.

    Reply
    • It’s very much okay. Sometimes we’re just bored! The pressure to feel exalted in nature is the surest way to damper our joy in nature. We feel what we feel.

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  2. I’m so glad you posted this today. I’ve been struggling a lot with loneliness and anxiety lately that has come on so strong it’s taken me by surprise. I haven’t felt this way in a long time and it’s been hard and it feels so uncomfortable. I find myself immediately creating a list of things that will help me out of this funk as soon as possible. But it’s nice to hear that I’m not alone or in a “bad” spot, and that it will pass and I don’t need to react to try to avoid the discomfort.

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    • I’m so glad the post was helpful. šŸ™šŸ½ From acceptance, we often discover what might be needed next.

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  3. I feel tears welling up as I read ‘Just sit with the lonely-empty-bored feeling.’ I have been letting my sadness flow the last few days. I didn’t realise my heart was still feeling so broken over the loss of relationship with my ex partner. I have noticed that when I make time for myself the lonely/bored feeling is a layer above the sadness. It is a relief to feel the sadness. The lonely bored feeling is a gift that I want to become more welcoming of.

    I sometimes feel myself worrying about if I will be okay when I start back at work this week, teaching and coaching clients. I have needed more time than I let myself have these holidays, needing to work to keep money coming in. It felt like being on an unhappy wheel that depleted me yet I only noticed that when I got the chance to stop and wind down through various layers of being and feeling. My cycle coincided with being onstage last Sunday, and I actually asked if I could finish singing early and go home. I need to be in this drifty, liminal space I find my soul asking for at this time and yet, I am worried that I will not be able to be there for my students. Even so, I have just gone through my monthly calendar for the year and made notes of when my cycle is due so that I can rest the first three days. I want put my needs first so that I can feel more myself. I hope this helps. Thank you Sheryl.

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    • It’s beautiful the you’re attuning to your body-heart needs, Natalie, and allowing space for the grief and rest.

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  4. Thank you for normalising this bored feeling, Sheryl!! I am on the cusp of another transition; from the wonder of pregnancy and birth and 12 months of maternity leave, to returning to work, to the gym, to the “outside world” and it is stirring a lot internally. While my baby sleeps, i have all this extra time to sit and feel ‘bored’, and some days when there is nothing left to do but just ‘be’, it can be so tempting to scroll, or to watch TV. Even reading, as innocent as it is, has become an escape from the emptiness and restlessness for me lately. We have spent the last 4 days holed up at home with COVID, and I’ve been forced to sit with the boredom even more so, unable to jump to attention and act. Its a scary but exciting opportunity to just sit with it all and I am embracing the moment to trust my body and see what happens. It has given me a chance to feel things I haven’t had the courage to feel for a little while – grieving my mum, grieving past versions of me, grieving the ‘life’ that I had before and in doing that, I’ve been able to see my way forward more clearly. It does take courage and fortitude and grace to just ‘be’ sometimes, and to be conscious of that is a gift.

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  5. Beautiful! Thank you, Sheryl!

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    • “Grieving old versions of me” really struck a chord. I feel motherhood really asks this of us, and it never really stops. My eldest son is about to turn 8, and I realize I have to grieve versions of him as a baby, toddler, young child, as well as versions of myself as his mother at all these stages. It feels heartbreaking sometimes.

      The transition from a one-year maternity leave to “back to normal” is such a big one – maybe big as the one from pregnant to new mother in some ways, even though it is rarely spoken about. May you embrace the emptiness of this new stage and meet your feelings with compassion and curiosity.

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      • (This was a reply to Sarah! I entered under the wrong comment šŸ™ƒ)

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        • (Celine/Emma 1404)

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  6. Oh Sheryl, this one is ever so timely. Just last night, after the daily chores were completed, I felt extremely exhausted, in all ways. Sitting down for what felt like the first time the entire day, emptiness appeared. With a side of sadness. The peanut butter and crackers in the kitchen whispered my name with their familiar magnetic pull. Yet I asked myself what I really need and nothing appeared. I grew more sad. So I googled “philosophies about emptiness”. When delving into that digital space didn’t hit the spot, I remembered that I’d not practiced the piano today (just as you write, last month I returned to this childhood instrument for the first time in 35 years). I decided to not judge, just try and play with exhaustion on the bench next to me. I practiced for fifteen minutes and reunited with a smidgen of lightness. Did it banish the emptiness? Not exactly. But it was a thin layer of salve that brought me to a more pleasant feeling alongside the emptiness. Took both of them to bed and called it a night. There really is something to allowing things to just be.

    Reply
    • This is so beautiful, Regina. Thank you for walking us through your process as you accompanied yourself from emptiness/sadness to something with a bit more lightness. I LOVE that you’re playing the piano again!

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  7. this is a very healing post for me. thank you so much.

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  8. Such an important post and this is something I am trying to learn.

    I was wondering if anyone had any recommendations for dealing with depression, as this is how my boredom/anxiety/etc manifests itself. It feels wrong to sit in the depressed feelings

    Reply
    • It’s a delicate dance between honoring the need for stillness so that underlying grief can emerge and trusting when action is necessary. Sometimes depression is a call to express grief. Other times it’s a call to get up and move.

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      • Thank you so much for your reply.

        I think I need to name a morning alarm ‘get up and move’ because it’s so true. As an introspective and sensitive person it’s easy to want to be consumed by the grief more often than not.

        I’ve been struggling with unemployment and my first ever pregnancy throughout winter so it’s been harder than usual, but I have to trust I can still take action in some way every day.

        Love & thanks to you Sheryl

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  9. ā¤ļø

    Reply

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