i'm bored of everything. what next?
May 6, 2013 4:56 AM   Subscribe

So basically everything is boring. I'm not talking about depression here- I am familiar with my own depressive symptoms and I'm not experiencing them. I'm content, pleasureable things give me pleasure, I'm just bored. I mean, pleasure is nice and all, but it's not exactly stimulating.

I've been trying to find something interesting for a while now, and some things can be interesting for a little while, but it doesn't last. People aren't that interesting, even the ones that I like. Places are just places. They have animals and plants and humans and buildings in different configurations. It's been ages since I could find a book where the content seemed fresh and intriguing. I've thought of learning a new language or skill, but those tend to involve a lot of rote memorization, and I don't see much point- I have the skills I need and will use.

So I don't really know what to do to alleviate this persistant (though not constant) feeling of boredom, and I would love some suggestions.
posted by windykites to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have the time and money to travel to a foreign country very different to your own? I'm talking a no-frills bus tour of India or trekking the Himalayas or cycling across Vietnam. That'll fix it, not just for the time you're there, but for the fresh perspective.
posted by Salamander at 5:09 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I heard of a Czech proverb once, to the effect that every seven years, you should change either your job, your home, or your partner. I wouldn't take it too literally, but -- at least for the easily bored -- I think the sentiment is sound.

Move to a different country and find a new line of work. This solves the problem of "I have the skills I need and will use." Repeat as necessary. Even if the first thing you pick doesn't work out, you're still gathering valuable data on what does and doesn't appeal to you.

Try things that scare you. To a certain extent, comfort and interestingness are inversely correlated.

Finally, claiming that learning new skills "tend[s] to involve a lot of rote memorization" is an absurd generalization. Sports, arts, crafts, musical instruments... few of these tend to involve much rote-work.
posted by pont at 5:20 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Fitness. I would invest energy and time in to getting seriously fit. I often feel like you do (and for me it is related to my depression) and getting in an intense workout usually solves it. I always feel powerful and charged up, prone to doing air karate chops, and I just feel GREAT. It usually makes me a lot more engaged in normal stuff and I enjoy/appreciate everything a little more.

Plus, working out and fitness is an activity in of itself that isn't boring.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 5:25 AM on May 6, 2013 [10 favorites]

I'm sorry I don't have a direct prescriptive against boredom, but when things seem that way, I often feel better by remembering this poem by John Berryman. True, he was famously depressed, but maybe the humor and shared human-ness woven into the bored condition, in this poem, help one shake off its blues ... better for some of us than a "Just Do It!" style campaign...

Dream Song 14
Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) "Ever to confess you're bored
means you have no

Inner Resources." I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as Achilles,

who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into the mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
posted by third rail at 5:27 AM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]

Do something for somebody else. Volunteer. Pick a random good deed and do it anonymously.
posted by Ideefixe at 5:49 AM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

This is one of the most interesting questions I have seen in quite some time, for it is inherently philosophical in nature. It's quite interesting that your boredom comes across in the post itself. Further, I doubt you are alone in this undertaking. Without more details about the specifics of the situation, the best that can be said are generalities about relieving ennui itself.

Humans are not meant to be completely satisfied. Indeed, the most centred of monks take on the literally endless challenge of aligning the neural activity within the brain itself – a tedious, and literally endless task, for it is not in the nature of neurones to be aligned. Thus a life-long challenge.

Within my own circle of late, we have been discussing legacy, and what lives we are creating for ourselves. When one has reached the point where the basic needs are met, the next set of needs are psychological and spiritual. When you as a person are taken care of, you will still require a challenge to undertake, for that is what we are at our very nature – problem-solvers. Without a problem to solve, we grow... bored.

There are two lines of thinking here. One is that challenge can be discovered by going further into the world at large. Traveling. Learning new skills. Discovering new things and sharing them. The other is that one can explore depth, literally traveling without moving. The answer will be dependent on the kind of person you are. If what you seek is stimulation and excitement, traveling may be for you. If what you seek is fulfilment and recognition, taking a post in the local community may suffice.

Regardless of the method of change, the point remains that you need some form of change within your life, for to continue upon the present trajectory will most likely generate further ennui. If we were to put this in video game terms, you have passed a level with deft skill, yet are remaining the choice to continue to play the same level. All you can currently do is refine your speed at completing that level. You require a new challenge – the next level.

Often, life will present the opportunity for new challenges. Chances are there are ample new challenges immediately surrounding you. Taking a long trip to explore a new part of the world. Not looking for new people or places, but perhaps challenging yourself by developing a portfolio of output – writing, photography, etc. Or perhaps local government corruption has always bothered you, and you would like to dedicate time to working with an organisation intent of making better use of taxpayer resources.

The theme is that if you have achieved stability for your own needs, the next level of psychological/spiritual needs may well be contributory. What would you like to give to the world around you? What would you like your mark to me? What is a broad legacy that you would like to leave? What is the first step in leaving that legacy?

These are fundamental investigations that get right to the core of what your own life means to you. How do you want to spend your time?

One thing to look for is psychological flow. Where do you not even notice the time passing? Where does your interest self-renew? What could you literally pursue, without ever tiring of it?

Most people have these interests deep at heart, only they are themes rather than specific activities. Venture Capitalists love talking to entrepreneurs, and sitting at the edge of innovation. There is a lot of tedium to that work, but it self-renews. There are always new entrepreneurs and new ideas. Teachers love taking students from Point A to Point B. Over the course of a year – or more – they literally watch the capabilities of another human develop. And then there is another class of new people to take on that journey.

Politicians sit at the confluence of a multitude of requirements and needs. Limited budgets. Dynamic constituencies. Changing macroeconomic factors. Demographic shifts. Every day is a new challenge of allocating scarce resources according to a structure – the will of the people, or a legal framework. Scientists working on dementia research toil endlessly looking for tiny incremental gains. They crack a DNA sequence. They verify someone else's research. Their funding is expanded or cut off.

The commonality is self-renewing. Musicians are driven by writing songs. Technology changes, and they have a new portfolio of sounds. Filmmakers by telling stories. There will always be more stories to be told.

The commonality of all of these is that they all interface with the external world, which is dynamic and constantly changing. If one sits along with a pile of money, one will become extremely bored, for there is not the requirement of adapting to external change. That is why they invest in small businesses, or undertake philanthropic causes.

I always recall Bill Gates, at the apex for fortune and corporate power. He had literally achieved all that he could as the head of one of the world's leading companies. Now what? What do you do when you have de facto won the game? You need a new game. What is infinitely more complex and difficult than writing software? Improving the health of people without access to financial resources. Eradicating malaria. Eliminating poverty.

When Alexander wept for there were no more worlds to conquer, he missed the trick that one does not have to remain a conqueror. There is no remit that required Bill Gates to remain a software magnate. Or Bloomberg to remain the head of a company. There is nothing that says you cannot embark upon a new course, and take on a new challenge. If you have succeeded at all current challenges, what is the next challenge?

It may be as simple as reading to children. Offering your time to provide affection that they lack – and really makes a difference in their lives. It can be as complicated as undertaking the new career as a college professor, starting from scratch and moving the goal post thirty years out.

It doesn't matter what you decide to do – what challenge you decide to accept – I guess what I'm really hearing is that you have reached the limit where you can live your life for the purpose of your own satisfaction. You are now at the point where you have to look outside, as consider how you can use your skills and capabilities to make a greater contribution to the world around you.

And if you do not want to contribute to the world around you, you can sit for the rest of your life i the peaceful task of aligning your neurones, a quest that is noble in its inherent peacefulness.
posted by nickrussell at 6:22 AM on May 6, 2013 [29 favorites]

I am feeling EXACTLY like this today, and I don't know if it's depression or boredom, but what helps for me is:

-Go for daily walks/runs! I do this and I often dread it but come back feeling so refreshed, it's more fun with happy soulful music or an audiobook

-Try something more extreme, maybe your comfort zone has expanded so go outside of it! I'm talking about things like bungee jumping and travelling alone, that sort of thing

-Throw yourself into things you are mildly interested in e.g. if you are into knitting knit extravagantly, or if you are into food cook something delicious

-Make art! Draw/write/dance/make music get into doing it every day and it helps jog your motivation

Basically just try something new, if you are bored of everything you already know.. This is an opportunity to learn and explore and live, your boredom means that your comfort zone has expanded, I think so you might as well take advantage of it!
posted by dinosaurprincess at 6:27 AM on May 6, 2013

What are your passions? Could you teach someone about one of them? Watching the proverbial lightbulb of understanding flicker and then burn brightly over someone's head as a direct result of your actions and instruction can be pretty damn exciting, especially when you're teaching them about something you feel strongly about, and/or a skill you would like to perpetuate in the world (like reading/writing -- you could volunteer to be a Big Brother/Big Sister).

Nthing fitness -- you can change up your routine based on what you love and hate, and watch/feel your body get stronger as the weeks tick past, and if you're doing something stationary, you can read a book, listen to an audiobook, dissect the lyrics to a new record, or make a watercolor painting as you exercise.

You could teach yourself a particular word or phrase in a bunch of different languages for a fun party trick -- that wouldn't be so much rote memorization because the accents and styles of different language can vary wildly. I taught myself how to count from 1-10 in ten different languages one summer.

Put on a charity fundraiser using the skills you have. I like to bake vegan stuff, so when I was feeling adrift in a sea of ennui and generalized dissatisfaction, I decided to start throwing vegan bake sales, and I'm now on my third year. They're very stressful but very fun, and NEVER boring.

There are always random acts of kindness to do. This Saturday is the Stamp Out Hunger food drive, could you go shop for some of your favorite non-perishable foods and then donate them all? They would definitely be appreciated.

Build something with your hands. Ana White has a ton of awesome blueprints/plans/instructions on how to build furniture, including a bunch that are designed for absolute beginners. Making something from scratch with your own two hands can be satisfying in a way that no other activity can touch.

If you have a reliable mode of transportation, navigational system (atlas or GPS), food, and gas money, just start driving -- get on the freeway and go, taking exits that look or sound different, strange, or exciting. Visit some unique places on Roadside America. Google [your city] + underground, weird, urban exploration, etc.

Travel somewhere that is guaranteed to provoke a desperate sense of gratitude and awe in your very bones. For me, this place is Zion National Park in Utah, but it can really be anywhere. Sit with your face pointed at the warm and beautiful sun, collect some Vitamin D, and quietly marvel at all of the weird little quirks, coincidences, and random collisions of interstellar dust that had to happen for you to be where you are right now. Pretty damn cool.

I hope some of these suggestions are at least a little helpful, good luck!
posted by divined by radio at 6:32 AM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I get super bored, too, and it is quite different from depression. And when you're bored, it's really hard to get un-bored, because you often don't have any idea of what might hold your interest (if you did, you wouldn't be bored!), plus you tend to hold high expectations of the things around you.

It helps me to start small, by going somewhere that might have interesting things and not expecting too much of them. This can be as minor as walking through the park or reading a few pages of a new blog. It's okay for things to be interesting for fifteen minutes, or to interest you on only a superficial level. Most things are like that. It sounds like you will ultimately need something long-term to sustain you, but if you don't know what that might be, the best thing to do is keep trying all the short-term things. Don't force it; allow yourself to lose interest, and move on to the next thing.

I once read about a concept called "the library angel," which is what happens when you wander into the library unsure of what you want, and the very first book you open has the answers you need. Googling that phrase brings up a lot of woo-woo bullcrap, but sometimes you do stumble upon the right book by chance. It's not because there's an angel, it's because you're in the library and surrounded by thousands of books - many of which could have something you want or need - and chose to open one. The more potentially interesting things you have in your path, the more likely you are to find something that sings to you.
posted by Metroid Baby at 6:50 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you live somewhere with dreary weather? If so, travelling or moving somewhere with blue skies and sunshine might perk you up.
posted by Dansaman at 7:57 AM on May 6, 2013

Do something you're afraid to do. Not something dangerous necessarily, but something that just scares you. I once took a series of group cooking classes taught by an old-school chef who brought the verbally abusive professional kitchen culture into the classroom. She shouted insults at us whenever our work wasn't up to snuff, but often didn't give us enough time, tools, or skills to do the job right. We were in a panic for three hours straight. But boy did we learn. I was never bored. I often operated completely out of my head. I accomplished miracles sometimes. And I was high for hours afterwards, just having survived the experience.
posted by markcmyers at 10:26 AM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I recently started weekly piano lessons and I love it. For $600 you can get a decent digital piano (including the bench and stand). You can find a piano teacher through your friends or AskMe, or, if you happen to live near Seattle, I can recommend my teacher. I already know how to play guitar and the recorder, but it's great to learn a new instrument and to use a part of my brain that was withering.

(My teacher just asked me to take part in the recital -- a bunch of eight-year-olds, and me -- and I think I'll skip that.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:40 PM on May 6, 2013

I was suffering from this exact thing last year. I decided to go full rush into fitness with a distinct, achievable goal at the end ( fit into a vintage outfit) and while it look forever to get over the hump , like months, I found I really liked working out and ticking off my Goals Met list and I even took lessons, which I never thought I would enjoy at all but it turns out middle school gym class is not how adults behave when they're payng good money to say, learn how to box.

So, fitness goals. I recommend them.
posted by The Whelk at 5:02 PM on May 6, 2013

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