Blah? Meh.
April 1, 2016 12:08 AM   Subscribe

Sometimes, like right now, I'm in a (mental) place where there's nothing I have to do, and nothing I particularly want to do. How do I decide what to do? Does this mood have a name?

I could work (on 15 different things - at least half of them challenging), or paint, or go out to dinner, or watch a movie, or walk along the beach, or clean house, or garden, or read, or move my furniture around, or surf the internet, or write, or ... but nothing appeals. There's nothing I should do, no urgent task I'm avoiding. I'm not sad or lonely or stressed or hungry or tired, I'm just ... blah. I don't feel like sex, or food, or alcohol. I'm not after activity suggestions (but feel free if you have some). I just want to want (to do) something.

Possibly relevant but don't get too caught up in this:
I am on the spectrum, self-employed and single. I'm introverted but I went out twice this week with different groups of friends doing different fun activities that were delightful. I do experience regular bouts of depression connected to my perimenopausally-wonky menstrual cycle, and sometimes anxiety, but that's not a thing right now. We're heading into autumn but you can't tell by the weather, it's beautiful one day and perfect the next.It's 5pm, Friday.
posted by b33j to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Does this mood have a name?
ennui, I think
posted by thelonius at 12:15 AM on April 1, 2016 [24 favorites]

Sounds to me like you are bored. There's nothing wrong with boredom. I remember reading a book about it a few years ago which alleged that boredom is actually quite important - it's how you learn to challenge yourself, soothe yourself, come up with something to make that itchy, uncomfortable feeling go away. It might be something you're trying to figure out, or it might spur your creativity into inventing a new culinary delight or game or theory about space time. Who knows?

I always get a bit fratchy and restless around the changeover seasons, spring and autumn. Not sure where in Oz you are, but it's been just a glorious day here in Melbourne - and now it's clouding over, the wind is picking up and I'm wondering if I did my bit to induce rain by watering the garden earlier. This changeover time is unsettled and I find that often induces a similar unsettled, restless feeling in myself. I reckon if you can, find a way to use it for good. Get something useful done if you can't think of anything else, because that is often a way to spur you to think, "bugger it, I don't want to [do dishes/vacuum/whatever] I want to THIS" and then your problem is solved.

Can't remember if this was the book I read, but it sounds like a promising one nevertheless.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:17 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

(In fact if you google benefits boredom you will find lots and lots of articles and blogs and studies done showing that yep, boredom is actually a known tactic for inspiring creativity. Peer-reviewed studies and everything. So go stare at a spot on the wall until you find yourself frantically thinking of all sorts of crazy things to do instead.)
posted by Athanassiel at 12:22 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I experience this a lot. I think of it as inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest. To break it, try the smallest, easiest thing that still engages you: washing the dishes, going out for a coffee, reading an engrossing book or listening to some especially energetic music. Doesn't matter if it's productive as long as it wakes up your mind.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:20 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

It does sound like you're bored, but it also sounds like you're too much in your head.
Get into your body.

Are you working out regularly?

I always recommend this to my clients who are caught in inertia.
While waiting for your brain to decide on your next step(s), start working out, and give your body something to do. The chemicals associated with feeling good, breaking a sweat and exercising usually jumpstarts the good thoughts, and they usually decide on the direction to go soon afterward.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 3:47 AM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

While there's a vote for ennui, this might be something along the lines of "option paralysis" or "analysis paralysis" ( ) whereby doing one thing means that there's ten other things you can't do, so the overall effect of doing nothing is almost the same as if you'd bothered to do something anyway, there's still so much left that's not done.

As per comments above, the best thing is just to do something. A technique I've had some success with is writing down everything I could do with doing, be clear to myself how much of it I'm going to do ( clear ten emails, close ten tabs, do everything I scribbled down on the sheet of paper on top of my pile of notes ), assign each a number, and then roll the appropriate number of dice. That way it's something of a surprise, and the decision is out of my hands - and I have to finish that task before I get to do anything else.

Of course one of the options should be "nothing", just sit and watch random TV or similar... but if that option, and that option alone, doesn't feel right... roll again :)
posted by DancingYear at 4:01 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

I get like this and I find picking one two or three minute task that just gets me off the couch really works.

I sometimes leave myself something simple like making the bed or taking dishes out of the dishwasher for a point in the day where I feel this way so I know I have an immediate "completed" feeling available and the accompanying rush of motivation that follows.

If that doesn't work, I typically make a therapist appointment because that's where my depression begins.
posted by scrittore at 5:45 AM on April 1, 2016 [4 favorites]

A technique I've had some success with is writing down everything I could do with doing, be clear to myself how much of it I'm going to do ( clear ten emails, close ten tabs, do everything I scribbled down on the sheet of paper on top of my pile of notes ), assign each a number, and then roll the appropriate number of dice.

I was just coming in here to suggest nearly the exact same thing. Well, I use a deck of cards rather than dice as my randomizing device, but same basic idea. A possible variation is to limit by time rather than by a specific amount of things — say you're going to work on whatever comes up for ten minutes (or five, or fifteen, whatever works for you). If it takes you less than that time, great. Otherwise, after ten minutes if you feel like you're in the flow and want to keep working on that, then go ahead; if not, go on to the next random thing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:18 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by mmiddle at 7:29 AM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think the name for this feeling "ennui". I also call it "I fell in a couch and now I'm stuck"
My strategy is to call someone (using a headset or speakerphone) or start a podcast. Human voices get me moving- usually it turns into me puttering around, tidying up, and then launching into an actual life task. Silence = stillness for me; voices are my brain's fuel.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:09 AM on April 1, 2016 [3 favorites]

posted by praemunire at 9:45 AM on April 1, 2016

When I'm in this space I consider it useful to leave my place and take a walk. Short walk or long walk, doesn't matter. Just leaving my place and being outdoors for a bit is often enough to shift my perspective. And if I'm in the same place when I get back, well, at least I've had a walk.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:38 AM on April 1, 2016

The only problem with doing nothing is if it starts to become a norm, like anytime some opportunity comes up that you might be interested in, if you start to get anxious (as most new things make people feel), it's so so so so much easier to just .... do nothing.

If you start to find yourself being lulled into excessive nothingness doing (which you are probably concerned about, since you asked this question), try flipping a coin. If it comes up heads, do nothing. If tails, do something from your list. I would probably say to do the hardest thing, since things don't get easier if you delay, but that's up to you. At least then, you've got a chance to do nothing and an equal chance to do something.
posted by jasper411 at 12:49 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

posted by fox problems at 2:37 PM on April 1, 2016 [2 favorites]

Malaise. No solution really. Take a walk or a nap or stare at the wall for 20 minutes.
posted by deathpanels at 4:24 PM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

When I run into this (and I'm not short on rest or basic self care), I just make a choice and do the thing, no matter how I feel about it. Sometimes it doesn't work out and I need to abort, but I'm usually glad I went ahead with whatever thing, even if it wasn't all sunshine and smiles.

If making a choice from a list is too hard, there are apps (e.g. Last Piece) that can make the choice for you.
posted by moira at 5:15 PM on April 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

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