What To Do When You're Bored At Home
Reflecting on what boredom really means and how you can master your mind at home.
There’s a saying that goes, “only boring people get bored”. We’re here to respectfully challenge that notion while inviting conversation around self-compassion. As we approach the two month mark of social distancing and for many of us, social isolation, it becomes extra important to remember that what success or productivity looks like are different for everyone. Even though the results may be considered by some to be the antidote to boredom, we don’t think they should be used as a benchmark to ‘rank’ how well we performed during this often difficult time.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE BORED AT HOME: PRODUCTIVITY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Perhaps you’re spending your extra time at home crafting gourmet meals and wine pairings, you’re taking an online course to begin learning a second language, or you’re finally putting the pieces in place to get your side hustle up and running. Anything you’ve done to support feeling accomplished bears celebration, even if the only thing you’ve knocked off your to-do list is composting the dead plant you’ve been sharing your apartment with all winter. For some of us, these are check marks on our to-do list of accomplishments, and they haven’t necessarily made us happier; they simply mean that we have done more things. It can be argued that, for some of us, finding joy and meaning in our achievement is almost more important than the achievement itself. Consider this when you feel compelled to tick off as many boxes as possible in order to feel ‘productive’: what if I did one task meaningfully, and was left feeling content and without stress. Could that be enough?
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE BORED AT HOME: DOING NOTHING IS DOING SOMETHING
When was the last time you let yourself really and truly do nothing? Between partners and children, full time jobs, hobbies, at-home projects and recreational activities, it’s unlikely you’re a person who frequently finds themselves with nothing to do. Since we’ve collectively been spending most of our time at home, it’s easy to find ourselves with a case of the ‘woulda-coulda-shoulda’s’, lamenting all of things we ‘could’ be doing that we’d previously put off due to a perceived lack of time. What’s important to remember here is that just because you have more physical time in the day (what you might save by not having to do your hair and makeup, or commuting to work, for example) does not necessarily mean you have more energy or capacity with which to perform even more tasks. We need to remind ourselves sometimes that doing nothing can in fact be doing something. What if we slept in - could we have more energy to be present in our relationships? What if we didn’t do the laundry today - could we have the capacity for extra patience when our children ask for the umpteenth time why they can’t go play at their friend’s house?
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE BORED AT HOME: LEARN SOMETHING NEW ABOUT YOURSELF
We want to encourage you to look at this time in your life with a fresh set of eyes. Many people have shared that these last few weeks have felt like a period of grieving; for loss of freedom, mobility, choice and connection in a physical and tangible sense. The 5 most commonly recognized stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and the all-important acceptance. What if we made a collective choice to accept that in this stage of our lives, all is not as we had hoped it might be? Could we decide to look for the unexpected gifts we have uncovered during this challenging time?
Picture this: You’ve discovered that you have a deep well of patience, and are able to endure far beyond what you believed was your capacity. As it turns out, you are a natural supporter and you are the person in your friend group that people turn to for advice. Shockingly, you’re a natural green thumb and your new favorite hobby is primping and preening your houseplants, sending photos of new leaves to your co-workers. While tinkering in the kitchen making sourdough and dalgona coffee, you’re surprised to find your anxiety has eased and your mind has stopped racing. Imagine all you could learn about yourself during this time, if only you left your notion of what constitutes boredom, or conversely productivity, at the door.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE BORED AT HOME: MASTER YOUR MIND
In the quest to battle boredom, repeat after me: it does not matter what other people define as productive. Don’t fall victim to the ‘productivity = self worth’ trap. After all, it’s worth remembering that boredom can breed all sorts of inspiration - just ask the inventor of the pizza scissors. All joking aside, self isolation and social distancing is not a competition. For many people, experiencing financial hardships, professional uncertainties and strain on relationships is what is preventing them from a new online business degree or a certificate of completion in level one Spanish. It’s valid to acknowledge the importance of being gentle with yourself, and to pay attention to what makes you feel enough vs what makes you feel unworthy. Maybe it is the right time to unfollow that particular Instagram account that always leaves you feeling inadequate, or to leave that group chat that feels less than supportive.
Keeping mentally well and prioritizing self-compassion are important considerations in resilience and in finding meaning during difficult periods of time. Sarah Ahmed, co-founder & Psychotherapist at WellNest Psychotherapy services in Toronto, Canada shares the following when it comes to putting self-compassion and in turn, your mental health, above the perception of productivity: “Self-compassion involves extending kindness towards ourselves when we are having a challenging time. Our struggles are typically caused by factors beyond our control or from feelings of inadequacy. Many of our current situations have created a convergence of these two factors; an external global force disrupting our lives is combined with personal struggles to feel productive and mentally healthy during social distancing. In times like this, self-compassion is more important than ever”.
“To be truly self-compassionate, we must think of three key elements of self-compassion: self-kindness, mindfulness, and common humanity,” she shares.
- Self-kindness is choosing to be caring and accepting of ourselves rather than being self-critical. This allows us comfort to ourselves in difficult times.
- Mindfulness fosters self-compassion by building awareness of the present moment in a balanced manner. Being mindful allows us to acknowledge our pain instead of denying it, and also prevents ruminating on difficult thoughts.
- Lastly, common humanity recognizes that humans are flawed and constantly working towards self-growth. This component of self-compassion normalizes imperfection as a shared experience, fostering connection rather than isolation.
Tempting as it may be to throw yourself into overdrive in an attempt to stay ‘busy’ and ‘productive’, we instead encourage you to pause, take a deep breath and ask yourself in reflection: what exactly am I rushing towards? What feels right for me during this time, and can I consider that instead, regardless of societal norms regarding boredom and productivity?
If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.