Boredom is Anxiety’s Best Friend

Why we become easily bored

We usually become bored when we have no purpose. It’s also when we usually don’t have things that interest us.

When we’re suffering from anxiety, one of the first things we usually stop doing is participate in our interests and hobbies. This is because during the fight or flight response, the last thing we want to do is enjoy ourselves. It’s all about getting away from a danger so we can feel and be safe.

Remember, the brain cannot tell the difference between a real and imagined threat. So, in anxiety disorder, it thinks there’s a threat when there really isn’t.

This is why we lose interest in the things which we really used to enjoy doing. The brain doesn’t want to be engaged in hobbies because it thinks it needs to deal with a threat, so the last thing it wants to be doing is playing the guitar or watching a movie.

I’m not saying that we should quickly jump to do an activity every time we feel the feelings of boredom. Because that will just make us feel constantly restless and come from a place of resistance.

I’m recommending that we find things that grab our interest. One of the worst things we can do when we are suffering from an anxiety-based disorder is be idle.

The reason for this is that when we’re idle, we are allowing the anxiety the chance to creep in. Boredom encourages anxiety because boredom creates feelings of agitation and restlessness.

Remember our brain is constantly scanning our internal world and external world for danger. If we don’t give our mind something interesting and something which we perceive as fun, then it will create problems out of thin air, because this is what the mind does.

As one of my old anxiety mentors, Charles Linden, says – the mind needs something to chew on and when it isn’t getting that food, it finds it’s own food to chew on.

Basically, it defaults back to anxiety, because it would rather feed on “anxiety provoking food” than nothing at all because nothing isn’t going to satisfy it.

This is why it’s so important that we do reintroduce the things we’ve stopped doing. In order to heal/recover from anxiety, we need to show our brain, through our physical behaviours, that there’s no reason to be anxious.

What better way to do that than do the things we love doing.

Taking our time out of our day to focus more and more on our anxiety is just telling our brain that there’s something to be afraid of. We are keeping ourselves in the disorder by focusing on anxiety.

Here’s how to never feel bored ever again

So, in order to break this spell of the mind creating more anxiety as a result of not having anything more engaging and interesting to focus on, we can create a list of things which we really enjoy doing.

This is a much more enjoyable and healthier way to spend our time than just doing nothing at all. Now, I’m not saying that doing nothing at all is inherently a bad thing, it’s not.

I believe we all need moments in our lives when we are doing nothing. Periods where we’re resting and rejuvenating. This helps us to recover.

It’s just that in an anxiety-based disorder, doing nothing at all is probably not the best idea. When we are doing nothing, we are more likely to revert back to old behaviours. The sort of behaviours which gives the anxiety more fuel.

Whilst we shouldn’t blindly force ourselves to distract our focus away from anxiety, it’s helpful to have some sort of routine where we know what we’re doing.

Knowing what we’re going to do is important because it gives us a sense of purpose. When we don’t have purpose, it makes our lives feel less meaningful and fulfilling.

My suggestion is to have a list of activities you enjoy doing. What I like to do is use a post-it note and write a few things I would like to do on that day. In the past, it used to be things which were more geared towards leisure activities.

Now though, it’s more geared towards what I do online – writing articles, sharing them on social media, making videos, sharing them on social media, replying to emails, replying to messages on social media, sending emails, helping out in the online community etc.

I still make time for leisure activities, I just don’t do them as much as I used to. Simply because I don’t have enough time in the day.

Here is an example of what my list would look like when I was reintroducing the things I enjoyed doing before I gave them up.

Enjoyable activities

1) Learn new song on acoustic guitar
2) Read fiction
3) Listen to music + Sudoku
4) Walk along the beach whilst listening to an audiobook
5) Play video games
6) Listen to a podcast whilst working out
7) Draw + paint whilst listening to music
8) Watch a movie

Notice that I haven’t created a rigid sort of plan to do these activities. I just give my full attention to one activity at a time, and when I’ve had enough of one activity, I’d move onto another without any rush or forcefulness. If I want to spend a little while doing absolutely nothing, that’s fine.

I know I have something to look forward to in between these little breaks of doing nothing. This isn’t coming from a desperate and needy state of mind. There is no struggle involved here.

I would also have another list on the back of the post-it note. This would include all the chores I would need to do that day.

Things like cleaning, hoovering, taking the bins out, cleaning the chicken coop out (yes, we have chickens 😊) washing up, cooking dinner, emptying the dishwasher etc etc.

I used to despise doing this things, but now I see them as an opportunity to feel more productive. It helps me get into a productive frame of mind. This goes a long way because it’s the perfect mindset to be in when I’m about to write and/or make a video.

If you’re able to, see if you can do all of the “chores” first so you get that accomplished feeling. Trust me, this will create a nice little balance. Then, when you’ve got your chores out of the way, you can enjoy yourself by engaging in your interests.

The mindset to give up

Whilst you’re doing a certain activity, don’t expect it to make your anxiety go away. Don’t expect it to get rid of your anxious thoughts and sensations. The more we expect something to go a certain way, the more disappointed we feel.

Have no expectation whatsoever. Put no pressure on yourself to feel better. Put no expectation on the activity to conjure up some form of magic trick that cures your anxiety.

Expect nothing from it. Just do it because it’s something that you’ve always enjoyed doing. This way, it will feel less forced and more natural. This is how things should be.

Also, what happens when we think that doing stuff will get rid of anxiety, is that we actually put more focus and emphasis on the anxiety. It’s the rebound effect, or what’s also known in psychology as ‘Paradoxical Intention’.

In my opinion, it’s just the wrong approach because it will get you in the mode of running away from something. What we don’t want to do is give off the impression that we’re trying to escape from something. This is why I don’t really agree with blind distraction. Because distraction, in my opinion, is a form of resistance.

People use many types of distraction. Things like alcohol, overeating, spending many hours watching porn, excessive shopping, drugs, gambling and many more types of distraction. This actually doesn’t help, at least not for long.

We want to act as if there is truly nothing wrong. So, let me ask you, would we usually participate in these types of behaviours if we weren’t trying to escape from something? I don’t believe we would.

Whilst this is easier said than done, and it will be hard at first, we need to live like we used to. Before we spent the majority of the day fixating on our thoughts and feelings, googling our symptoms, talking to other anxious people and reading how helpless and anxious they feel on forums, comparing ourselves to how we used to be by looking at old photos. Basically anything that involves the subject of anxiety.

By stopping this, we will reprogram our brain. It will eventually learn that there really is no threat in our environment because it will get the message, through our behaviours, that all it’s safe to relax again.

So, remember to start doing the things that you’ve gave up. I know it’s not easy at first because we feel anxious and nothing grabs our interest. But be patient. Keep at it and you will see changes.

Something I nearly missed out…

When the feelings of boredom show up, don’t try and force them away. Don’t resist them. If you’re currently resisting feelings of boredom, accept this to. Whatever you accept will take you into peace as Eckhart Tolle would say. Every feeling we experience should always be allowed to be there. There’s nothing helpful being in fight mode where we try to get rid of every feeling. This just causes more internal suffering.

No longer try to escape from your feelings of boredom. Sit with them. This experience might be uncomfortable and frustrating, but just bring an ‘inner yes’ to it. Gently redirect your attention to something which you want to do whilst you are marinading in this state of surrender. See what happens.

I hope this post can help in some way. After all, I only share what has helped me.

Your feedback is always greatly appreciated

Until next time.

Lawrence Gregory

Hi I'm Lawrence. I write about what has helped me heal/recover from high anxiety and panic attacks. Everything I share here comes from personal experience and what I've learnt from others. I write with honesty and with readers in mind, so you'll never see me share something I haven't had any experience with myself.

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