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Why Am I So Bored?

By Eric Dean JD, MBA, MA, MA, LPC, CADC

Since the beginning of the pandemic, one of the most common concerns I hear from my clients is that they feel bored. I think we have all felt bored at some point in our lives, but what is boredom exactly? In this post I will describe boredom and review the pros and cons.

Generally, boredom sets in when three conditions are met:

  1. We feel a lack of stimulation;
  2. We perceive that we are unable to find stimulation in our environment; and
  3. We feel unfulfilled or unsatisfied.

Boredom has a negative connotation, but it does not have to be negative. As I have stated in previous posts, emotions are not good or bad in and of themselves and boredom is no exception.

Pros of Boredom

Boredom is not without benefits. First, it can motivate us to seek novelty, including activities and hobbies that could expand our perspective and catalyze creative thinking. For example, I know folks who, strictly out of boredom, took free online classes, which they enjoyed and applied to their careers.

Boredom may also engender self-reflection, which would otherwise be difficult to do when we are constantly stimulated. For example, when we are engaged with the tasks and responsibilities of our job for long hours, there is not much room or time for meaningful self-reflection. Idle time paves the way for us to focus on the bigger picture of our lives rather than the minutiae.

Cons of Boredom

There are also several downsides to boredom. One is that it can lead to impulsive and risky behaviors as we try to extinguish it. The more bored we feel, the greater stimulation we seek. This can be especially harmful for folks who have a high sensitivity to reward, including those who struggle with substance abuse. Chemicals provide an efficient way to reduce or eliminate boredom as the effects are fast-acting, strong, and predictable.

Boredom may co-occur with emotions such as anxiety or sadness, which will impact how we experience and respond to it. For example, folks who feel low anxiety while bored may engage in meaningful self-reflection, but others who experience high levels of anxiety and are prone to depression may engage in negative, internally focused rumination, when unstimulated.

In today’s digital world we have many sources of powerful stimulation at our fingertips in the form of text messages, emails, notifications, social media, games, shopping, and news. When bored, we reach for our cell phones for quick relief. While there are positive aspects to technology use, many of us have an unhealthy dependence on it for stimulation. The information we consume on our phones to relieve boredom may cause additional stress and worry. Thus, instead of managing our boredom, we have essentially replaced it with other challenging emotions. Furthermore, overreliance on external sources of stimulation will limit our ability to internally regulate our emotions. 

Final Thoughts

Remember, emotions are signals and indicators that provide us with important data on our experiences. When we label certain emotions as “bad” we are making the situation worse. For example, if we feel bored and view it as negative, we then feel anxious about the fact that we feel bored.

Keep in mind that when we are highly stimulated for long periods of time, other activities, in comparison, may feel dull. Asking ourselves whether we are truly bored or just less stimulated, can help us reframe boredom from an emotional state to be avoided to a signal that we are content and calm. A Symmetry therapist can help with this process.

So, let’s get started – call Symmetry Counseling today at 312-578-9990 to get more information about individual and couples counseling in Chicago


Weir, Kirsten. “Never a Dull Moment.” Monitor on Psychology, American Psychological Association, July 2013.

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