As a woman over 60, you want every day to be fresh, vital and filled with joy. You try hard to keep negativity at bay, and are disappointed when you have feelings of boredom.
In fact, most people are bored at one time or another during their lives. It is such a commonplace emotion that it is thought to be harmless, and easily solved.
There isn’t a lot of sympathy for those who are affected by this state of mind. If you say you are bored, there is often an outpouring of advice about activities you should do. You are told to get a part-time job, volunteer, find a hobby, exercise, or change yourself in some way.
But that is a shallow approach, and doesn’t help at all. Boredom is painful, and if it is chronic, can be dangerous. No one who has experienced the stress of sustained boredom wants to keep on feeling that way. To address it in your life, you need to understand it.
Boredom has two faces: one in which you sink into helpless lethargy, and one in which you become restless and anxious. Both can lead to depression and destructive behavior.
Researchers have only recently begun to study boredom and have come up with a definition.
Psychologist John Eastwood (University of Toronto) discusses boredom in terms of attention. A bored person, he claims, doesn’t choose to have ‘nothing to do’. He or she wants to be stimulated, but is unable, for whatever reason, to connect with his or her environment.
This is a state he describes as an unengaged mind. “In a nutshell,” Eastwood says, “It boils down to boredom being the unfulfilled desire for satisfying activity.”
That explanation ties boredom to activity, and suggests that the solution is within easy reach. In other words, if you change your activities, you can change your boredom. But it is never that easy. Sometimes circumstances change, and are beyond your control. Perhaps you have recently retired, and suffered loss of social contacts. Or a partner may have ended your relationship, leaving you feeling stranded, alone and bored.
You may find yourself oscillating between lethargy and anxiety. Your mind may go round and round in a negative cycle. You may try to address these feelings by eating or drinking too much. You might start gambling, buying things you don’t need, watching endless hours of television, or even sleeping too much. Today, these activities may take the form of surfing the net or looking for stimulation in electronic media.
These novelty-seeking activities may give you only temporary relief. They may prevent you from looking deeper at what is so stultifying in your life. By constantly distracting yourself and not paying attention to your feelings of boredom, you are closing off the path to your emotional awareness. It is only in having awareness of yourself that you will find solutions.
When you become bogged down with chronic dissatisfaction, nothing you try seems to ‘take hold’ and keep your interest. You may have to take several different approaches to understand the nature and roots of your boredom. Here’s how you can start:
Do a behavioral cleanse, starting with removing your most readily available methods of distraction. You might begin by cutting down on television viewing or time spent on social media. Your next step could be changing your sleep habits. This continues until you have addressed every one of the things that keeps you from exploring your boredom. You can then begin to introduce more positive activities, like visiting a gym or taking a walk in a park.
Allow yourself to look back into the past. Feelings of nostalgia are associated with seeing your life in a broader perspective. Memories can take you back to a time when you felt vigorous and alive, and life in general had more meaning. This may be a good time to organize old photos and mementoes. This can remind you about the dreams and ambitions you had in the past.
We have become a world of strangers and have turned away from each other because of necessity. And isolation is a breeding ground for boredom. You may feel that no one is connected with you. It may be that no one calls or visits you anymore. It will take an effort, but you will need to take the initiative yourself – to call, write, and socialize.
In her inspirational book, The Gift of Years, Joan Chittister comments on isolation. She says, “There is then another reality to be reckoned with when we bemoan our isolation that so often comes as we get older. It is ourselves.”
Nothing will alleviate your boredom more quickly or effectively than discovering a sense of purpose. Your 60s are a time of life when you may not have career plans. This offers a perfect opportunity to explore the interests and passions you may have had in the past, but didn’t act on.
Begin by asking yourself what you love. You can start taking steps to find something that inspires you. It may take some time, but try to find an activity that enthralls you. When you can spend hours doing something without lifting your head, you will have entered a state of flow. There is no room for boredom when you are fully engaged in such a way.
Boredom is dangerous. The destructive behaviors you might indulge in while bored can affect your health or shorten your life. A bigger danger is that it blocks your passage to a sense of fulfilment in later life.
Are you prone to boredom? Are you bored once in a while or frequently? What distractions do you indulge in to avoid feeling bored or depressed? What have you tried to do to deal with your boredom in a healthier way? Please join the conversation!
I love your explanation of boredom, l can relate so well to it. I’m aware of many things one can try to alleviate boredom but l find it an enormous challenge to get engaged with different activities due to my mood always being below par even though lm on anti depressants.
I totally relate to you, Rose, and I love this article. It’s realistic and explains boredom in a way that is deeper than than the the usual,
“Well if you’ve bored, go do something about it!” Ugh.
To me that is the fallback parental explanation or response of the 70’s generation to their children. It’s not so easy when you’re 63 and and your entire life has always been programmed from school to career, to marriage and children. It’s a much bigger issue now for me than when I was 12 and the summer days were long. My 60’s boredom is a far different animal than my adolescent one. (Sorry for mixing my metaphors!).
Yet, as Rose mentioned, it is hard to fight depression when you can’t find your way to something you are passionate about. Lethargy and depression soon kick in and it is very hard hard to shake them.
Thank you, Diane, for this very realistic and thoughtful article on boredom. It makes me feel understood which is a feeling that has been hard to come by. I feel encouraged just by being heard in the thoughts and ideas you have shared.