Action & Boredom
July 30, 2014 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Not really sure how to say this, but I have been adding some hobbies and other things to my life but am finding it hard to keep doing everything. I have traditionally never been someone who gets bored very easily but I find myself in this position a good portion of the time right now.

I have all sorts of things to be grateful for and yet I am struggling with taking action in my life. I have been working out, studying music, reading and doing volunteer work. So I feel like I am adding back all of these positive things in my life but am struggling to build up any momentum or motivation.

I feel relatively decent, but can't figure out why I can't stay in a positive place where I feel like I am making progress? Been screened for depression and addressing that on multiple levels. Just don't know what it is and how to fix this?
posted by nidora to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you learning an instrument ("studying music")? If so, you should record yourself practicing on general principles. Then if you feel like you are not making progress, you can go back to an recording from a few months ago, and, you will often find that you are indeed getting better.

Assuming that you aren't actually trying to do too much, and I don't think you are ("working out, studying music, reading and doing volunteer work"), you could try to do what I try to do, which is attempt to make sure that I do SOMETHING every day. Maybe one day I only have time to play guitar for 5 minutes - that's OK. 5 minutes of sitting down and playing a song with concentration, and taking satisfaction in that, is a real thing, it's fun, it's good for you, and it will keep you from having that feeling that you're kidding yourself that you really are learning to play guitar. Same thing would work for reading. Working out, you probably need a bigger commitment every day, but even a 30 minute walk or some stretching is better than a complete blow-off day. Volunteer work may be more like a once or twice a week thing, to give the feeling that you are staying in contact with it.

It is hard to find the balance between pushing yourself to improve, and being nice to yourself and realistic about how much is possible on top of the demands of daily life and work. I find that the above program works pretty well for me. If I catch myself thinking some depressive "I suck and I do nothing" thoughts, I can immediately disprove that: I did this, this and this, shut up brain, I do not suck and I do so do things.
posted by thelonius at 10:28 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is it boredom, or frustration? It's always tough to balance pushing your skill and knowledge enough that you're outside simple repetition, yet not too far into a I-can't-do-this frustration zone.
posted by scruss at 10:32 AM on July 30, 2014

I hope this will be a helpful answer:

Early on, when taking up something new like a new instrument or exercise routine or even therapy, you are motivated, the activity is fun (most of the time), progress is quick, things are great! Later on, the amount of progress you make versus the amount of effort you put in begins to shift and then it's easy to feel as though you are doing and doing and doing and getting nowhere. It's easy then to lose hope and start slipping into malaise/boredom. So you can jump to something new and chase the initial high, or you can stick it out and start documenting the incremental positive changes.

But how to document it?

Every day, sit down and write out one (or two or three or ten) positive thing or something that made you happy or something you are grateful for or something that made you glad just to be there to see it. Write it in as much detail as you can and write every day. In a month, you'll stop feeling hokey about doing it. In three months, you'll start enjoying it. In six months, you'll start realizing that it's changing your life and making it easier to see positive things or happy things or things that you are glad to have been a part of. In a year, you'll start to crack and when you look through that crack you can see you, wondering how it was that you were ever the kind of person who would ever feel negative about your awesome life. Keep writing. You'll feel glad about putting effort into such a positive thing as your own life (rather than feeling meh about putting effort into such a meh thing as your own life).

I look for five things a day. And sometimes I slip up and forget. And sometimes I just say them out loud instead of writing them. And I've only been doing it for a year, but it's made me realize that chronic low level depression is a habit as much as it is anything. And habits can be changed.

Also: Good on you for being proactive about seeking help for depression.
posted by GoLikeHellMachine at 11:53 AM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

What are you working towards?

With the music, is your aim to ultimately join a band? Play at a concert? Write a piece and have it recorded? Teach others?

With the volunteering, what has it taught you that you can perhaps take to other places and spread the wealth of knowledge? Have you seen any gaps in the provision of the services you volunteer in, that you could design a way to fill?

With the working out, do you aim to do a particular run, ride or event, perhaps sponsored? Do you take part in team activities, do you help others to get started in your particular activity?

There are two things missing from your post: what you are aiming towards, and how you are passing on this gift of knowledge that you are acquiring. These are two things that may well help you to achieve more of a feeling of motivation and accomplishment.
posted by greenish at 12:16 PM on July 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

So I feel like I am adding back all of these positive things in my life but am struggling to build up any momentum or motivation.

One perspective - perhaps one way to gauge how to proceed with these new pursuits is reflecting on whether you're enjoying them? Hobbies are hobbies because they bring one personal satisfaction just by virtue of doing them. If you end up feeling pressure to make "progress" (which will often deplete motivation), as opposed to feeling pleasure from these pursuits, I'd say that defeats the whole purpose.

Perhaps consider exploring and dabbling in other hobbies, then "return" to your current ones, when you feel like it? Or if you have a serious commitment to your current pursuits, set more lenient expectations until you find the right groove?

Good luck. :)
posted by tackypink at 8:10 PM on July 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm using beeminder to make myself practice piano every day. It's embarrassingly effective because of the pledge cost and there's satisfaction in seeing my safe zone grow. Without it, I think I would only noodle around once in a while as much as I enjoy practicing once I'm actually there, because there's always something else I need to be doing more in the moment. This way I feel like I've got to practice or it will cost me money so it's an Acceptable Priority, even though it is only for my own pleasure.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:47 PM on July 30, 2014

Do you have a goal with this stuff that you are working towards? I think it would help to have a milestone to celebrate (read 2 books a month, write a song in 60 days, train for a marathon in October, etc).
posted by WeekendJen at 7:49 AM on July 31, 2014

Response by poster: Truth be told, I don't have goals with most of these things. I have been attempting to try and distract myself from other things, and I don't think that it is working.
posted by nidora at 8:53 AM on July 31, 2014

« Older Time to get a new job pt. 2   |   Pixel light, pixel bright...ah me. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.