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Feeling bored usually happens when nothing in your environment captures your interest or attention. Boredom might start with your mind, but it can quickly affect your body and emotions too.
For example, you might feel restless or fatigued and your mood can plummet. Boredom is one of the things people with ADHD fear the most and will go to great lengths to avoid it.1
Common Signs of Boredom
How many of these sound familiar?
- You hang up the phone if you are put on hold; even if you were in the middle are resolving an important issue.
- You eat something, even though you aren’t hungry.
- You phone a person you don’t like that much, just to have someone to talk to.
- You delay going to bed until you are completely exhausted to avoid the boredom of lying in bed waiting to fall asleep.
- You create an argument with a service provider or someone you love.
- You act in a potentially dangerous way. For example, you overtake a slow driver even if it's not completely safe because driving behind them is boring.
The opposite of bored is interested, energized, and cheerful.
Adults with ADHD are always looking for things that are new or stimulating because when they are interested in something, the executive functions of the brain click into gear and the brain works well.
When a task is dull or mundane, not only is it very hard to mentally stay engaged, there are other negative consequences too. For example, daytime sleepiness where you fall asleep in the middle of an activity even if you got plenty of sleep the night before. Some people experience depression if their environment isn’t stimulating.1
How to Avoid Boredom
Get to know yourself and your favorite ways to avoid boredom. Boredom busters include trying the new and different, spending time with people, doing adrenaline activities, taking risks, problem-solving, adding movement, being ‘hands-on’, etc.
When you know your favorite ways, design your life around those things, so each day is interesting for you. This includes your job and how you approach the tasks in your job description, your hobbies, and as well as how you do the mundane tasks of life; such as housework.
Life is full of delays, so have a variety of activities on hand. For example, if you are flying, take a magazine which is visual, a book that you can get engrossed in, as well as a puzzle book.
Don’t leave things to chance and hope there will be a good movie to watch or that you will be sitting next to someone entertaining.
Use a Timer
Using a timer can make even the dullest things interesting, as it creates a sense of urgency and excitement. Play games with yourself. For example, see if you can do all the washing up in 15 minutes.
It is good to have a self-awareness that you don’t like feeling bored and so you can do what is in your power to avoid it. However, don’t become too fearful of being bored that you will do anything to avoid it.
This is how accidents happen. If you are bored, it is empowering to know you can sit with it for a few moments.
Meditation and exercise are two daily habits that help you to endure unexpected boring parts of your day.
How to Tolerate Boredom
Unfortunately, boredom is not something that can always be avoided. It is important to learn how to find ways to cope during these times in order avoiding behaviors that may not be adaptive or appropriate for the situation.
Find a Focus
During moments when you find yourself faced with boredom, look for something that you can focus on. Is there a problem you are facing that needs to be solved? Make a mental list of possible solutions. Finding a mental focus during these dull moments can help keep your mind off your boredom and use your time constructively.
It can also be helpful to engage in brief moments of mindful thought. Pay attention to how you are feeling at the moment. Spend a few moments just focusing on your own thoughts as they happen. Try focusing on your own breathing. If you find your mind wandering, bring your attention back to the present moment.
If you find yourself really and truly bored with a dull, daily task (folding laundry, doing the dishes, etc.), try just letting your mind wander.
This gives you the ability to think about things that bring your joy or spark your interest, while still completing those monotonous jobs that simply need to get done.
A Word From Verywell
ADHD can be dealing with boredom particularly difficult, but finding ways to cope with dull moments can help. Being prepared can be one of the best tools for coping with boredom.
When you have ADHD, keeping your attention on a task often means that it needs to be something you are interested in, that you want, or that you find challenging. When boredom hits, turning to an activity you enjoy or that presents a challenge can help give your brain the stimulation you need.