The other day I had to take my three year old with me to my doctor’s appointment. Of course, the doctor made me wait what seemed like an eternity and I was bored out of my mind. Not so for my three year old however as she was having a great time treating the waiting room like an amusement park as most kids that age tend to do. Isn’t it amazing to watch a toddler’s inborn ability to find fun in just about anything they do? Unless a little one is hurt, sick, hungry, or over-tired they are quite proficient at finding ways to stay amused with life on a pretty consistent basis. It seems to me that most very young children are born experts at relieving boredom in such a variety of ways which can be so fun to watch. Sadly however, for most of us, we get older and life can get repetitious and at times mundane depending upon our situation. For many individuals, as we get older our ability to overcome boredom may be much more of a challenge.
Unless you have the wonderful gift of “finding the fun in anything” or you somehow have a life that is filled with a constant flow of endless excitement and adventure, then otherwise a degree of boredom is to be expected. Are you one of those rare individuals who can still find joy even when waiting on long lines or sitting in traffic or who can still have a great time while at the dentist or who can hum a merry tune even when scrubbing the toilet? If that is you then the rest of us need to take a lesson from you, myself included. For the rest of us mortals who are prone to bouts of boredom from time to time what can we do?
Getting back to our toddler example, consider the fact that we teach our young ones not to alleviate boredom by being reckless, self-endangering or destructive. Parents make sure to redirect their young children from preventing boredom by scribbling on the walls with crayons, or by flushing random objects down the toilet, by climbing up the wall unit or by painting the family dog, for example. Realistically, the rules for adults should not change when it comes to alleviating or preventing boredom. Simply put, just like with toddlers, when we are bored, that does not make it OK to be reckless, impulsive or self-destructive. Taking it a step further, when dealing with the added challenge of a mental health or substance abuse issue, so often boredom can be a doorway into engaging in our negative thinking patterns and behaviors. If it isn’t allowed for our toddlers and children to be destructive when bored, then really it still is not acceptable for adults either. There is a lot a great stuff we can learn and practice in order to eventually vanquish boredom like goal setting, being creative, taking an interest in helping others, experimenting with new ideas and hobbies, etc. Realistically, however boredom still may rear its ugly head in our lives from time to time especially for individuals recovering from mental health issues or addiction. With many mental health and addictive disorders, boredom is known as a very challenging trigger. Regardless, it is a step in the right direction in the change process to remember not to "give ourselves permission” to go down a path that we know that we should not go down, simply because we may feel bored for a short while. If this rings true for you then perhaps it is good to remind yourself each day that:
Boredom is a just another fork in the road, choose wisely…