What Are the Health Risks of Boredom, and How Can You Avoid Them?

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Everybody experiences boredom throughout their lives. While often harmless in short instances, a constant feeling of boredom and dissatisfaction can lower quality of life and exacerbate certain health dilemmas, physical and mental.

Fortunately, we’ll discuss several strategies to avoid excessive boredom as well as ways to manage it effectively.

Can boredom actually affect physical health?

Many people view boredom as a temporary feeling we experience akin to lethargy, happiness, or hunger. That’s semantically true, but the human psyche is much more complex and doesn’t exist in singular emotional states. Being bored might be temporary, but dissatisfaction and stress linger, which can have negative effects on our bodies over many years.

The mental and physical health risks of boredom

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Boredom’s negative effects on our bodies stem from many potential sources, but some of the biggest are the mental effects of stress and depression, as well as potentially harmful behavior that boredom may drive individuals toward.

Boredom increases stress hormones

Boredom and stress both stem from many factors, and stress can even stem from an overwhelming sense of boredom and dissatisfaction. Some studies have found a correlation between persistent boredom and psychological health symptoms such as depression and dangerous impulsivity.

Stress causes our bodies to react according to several different processes in our endocrine system, in severe cases flooding our bodies with hormones intended to keep us alive from threats to our safety. Human lives have become much safer in the past hundred years, yet we still live under constant stress. How does this relate to boredom?

Boredom is often treated as a personal failing, and treatment is framed as simply “finding something to do.” However, boredom is frequently a response to environmental factors. Those with fewer opportunities and limited autonomy frequently experience boredom more. A lack of autonomy and opportunity can be found in financial insecurity and social isolation.

Older individuals may experience boredom because they lack a close community of their peers to interact with. This shouldn’t be underestimated, as loneliness among seniors is a mental health epidemic. Adolescents also experience isolation and alienation from their peers, which might simply register as frequent boredom to others.

Boredom is stressful, and sometimes the body can only respond to stress the way it was designed to. The constant straining of the body’s hormonal balance carries with it an increased danger of cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease or high blood pressure.

Boredom can lead to unhealthy lifestyle choices

Studies have found that excessive boredom can cause individuals to partake in impulsive and at times dangerous behavior they wouldn’t normally do. Adolescents were particularly at risk of this phenomenon; a study found them to be more likely to engage in destructive behavior because of their boredom and overall dissatisfaction.

In one study on boredom, when given nothing else to do in testing trials, adults shocked themselves repeatedly, using this self-injury purely to regulate boredom.

Unchecked boredom can also be dangerous for those who rely on the abuse of substances to alleviate it. It’s much easier for one to justify partaking in addictive or harmful substance use because they feel it stops their boredom.

Boredom has a strong link with depression

A consistent and recurring feeling of boredom and weariness can be a sign of a greater mental health dilemma.

One of the main groups this can affect is adolescents, who are particularly prone to suffering mentally from excessive boredom. Depression and increased delinquency were often side effects of their dissatisfaction.

This kind of boredom is likely a symptom of a greater mental health crisis that can be found across demographics, including seniors.

Ways to avoid chronic boredom and its health risks

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With all of that in mind, are there ways to mitigate excessive boredom?

We’ll provide methods for managing distressing emotions or mental health experiences. Some of these methods may be more difficult for one person versus the next, as everyone’s experience is different.

The steps to managing boredom are about finding what works for you. That being said, here are some suggestions.

Try new things or meet new people

Sometimes, boredom is stemmed from a lack of personal stimulation with one’s environment. Unfortunately, it’s common for those suffering from depression and boredom to lack the mental or physical energy to try new things. Getting past the initial hurdle of motivation, though, can have positive results.

Routines are hard to form but become easier the more we engage in them. In the same vein, finding new experiences, engaging in new hobbies, or meeting new people will be harder at first for many people, but trusting in the process will make things easier eventually. It’s possible this lifestyle change will be enough to help manage and alleviate your boredom as you find something new to focus your mental energy on.

Social interaction can be especially important. Everyone’s social needs are different, but many adolescents and seniors experience boredom as a lack of connection with others. Forming positive social connections can help those suffering to engage in activities they might not do otherwise.

Whether in-person or digital, if our social needs are being fulfilled in a healthy environment, boredom will be less likely.

Become more invested in your health

Healthy routines are often recommended for managing symptoms of depression. There’s science behind it, as our physical needs play a massive part in the quality of our mental health. Depression and boredom lead people to neglect their bodily needs, creating a difficult loop that makes them feel even worse.

The big three of healthy physical routines are diet, exercise, and rest.

Rest is usually the easiest to remedy. An irregular sleep schedule negatively affects how our brain recuperates energy. Incidentally, those who stay up late may find themselves bored more often, surrounded by darkness with few options for social interaction. Creating a sleep routine and sticking to it usually fixes this.

Physical activity is a proven method for managing the symptoms of boredom and depression. Exercise is different for many people, so you have to find a balance that works for you. If you’ve never exercised, creating that habit is very difficult. It’s important to appreciate your limits and not exert yourself too much in the beginning. Any amount of exercise is valid—the point is to build a routine to reach further and keep yourself active.

A healthy diet is heavily recommended for managing boredom and depression. Everything we eat fuels our bodies. If we deprive ourselves of proper nutrition, it has long-term consequences. Similar to exercising, adopting a healthy diet is about small steps toward a continued process. Even a simple change like drinking more water can improve our mood tremendously. Also, a proper diet discourages unnecessary eating, a common coping mechanism of excessive boredom.

Participate in mentally stimulating activities

The activities we participate in inform our lives. Unfortunately, it’s easy to grow tired of repetitive activities or usual hobbies. To combat this, it’s great to always try something new (as mentioned) and participate in activities that stimulate the mind. Learning is a crucial part of staying fulfilled.

For example, card games are a great way to pass the time, are frequently easy to learn, and are very accessible to many people. For seniors, who benefit most from mental and social stimulation, card games are a great way to stay sharp and spend time with friends and loved ones. However, even solo games like Solitaire can help alleviate boredom.

Other activities that involve the mind and body—such as drawing, reading, cooking, or writing—are equally valid. Finding what appeals to you can sometimes be daunting, but the best way to find out is by trying.

Adopt mindfulness practices like journaling or meditation

Mindfulness is about staying aware and reflective of our surroundings, circumstances, and emotions.

Sometimes, when faced with boredom, there are no activities to redirect our attention towards. Here, meditation can be a great remedy. Directing our thought processes toward contemplative goals can turn restlessness into calm.

Journaling is another good way to practice mindfulness. The act of simply writing how we’re feeling in a given moment and the sensations in our bodies can be a very tranquil experience.

Boredom doesn’t need to take over your life

While boredom may be inevitable for just about everyone, too much of it can be a serious issue. Thankfully, managing it doesn’t have to be painful or laborious. Managing your boredom with healthy activities can have positive effects on your overall mental health and livelihood.

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