Are you feeling bored with life? Do the things you used to love doing now just feel like a chore? Even when you get the opportunity to try something new and exciting, does it inevitably underwhelm? You aren’t alone in those feelings. Despite living in a time of nearly limitless entertainment options, plenty of people feel bored most of the time. It’s getting to the point where it’s practically an epidemic of tedium. Few people seem to really be having any fun or enjoying simple pleasures.
What’s the reason for this? Well, the British writer G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.” The 90s band Harvey Danger said something similar in their hit “Flagpole Sitta”: “If you’re bored, then you’re boring.” The point they were both making is that, generally, feeling bored reflects your mental state, not your actual situation. You can stop believing life is boring. You just have to make the choice and take action.
Does that mean you need to start swimming with sharks and base-jumping off of skyscrapers? Perhaps, but probably not. To stop being bored with life, the first step is realizing that boredom is a subjective experience, not an objective one. From there, you need to take actions that break you out of your comfort zone. That could mean trying new things (like base jumping), or it could mean aiming for a more meaningful life. Finally, you need to learn to appreciate the good things you already have in life. Ready to stop living a dull life? Then keep reading.
Why Do You Feel Bored with Life?
If you had enough money, you could live a life where you were never, not being entertained. With a computer, a smartphone, and a tablet, you could always be connected to people online. You could buy every gaming console and invest in the most advanced VR and AR technology on the market. You could subscribe to every single streaming service and have access to a lifetime’s allotment of movies and TV shows. Does that sound like your idea of a perfect life?
I’d bet good money, even if constant entertainment were attainable, it wouldn’t keep you from being bored with life. That’s because boredom isn’t about a lack of things to do. Chances are, you have a room or apartment full of entertainment you’ve grown tired of. You know, kids used to absolutely go wild for playing with a stick and a ball. Yet, for the last century, society has devoted itself to building ever newer and flashier forms of “fun” technology. It hasn’t resulted in a utopia of pure entertainment, though. Instead, we’ve turned into an ADHD generation who is unable to just sit and enjoy one thing at a time.
This situation isn’t really your fault, especially if you’re in your 20s or 30s. You grew up with the internet and the countless entertainment options of the 21st century. It’s similar to how children who eat a lot of processed sugars don’t enjoy the natural sweetness of any fruit. Once you’ve been inundated with bright, flashing screens, a ball-and-stick game is never going to entertain. But just because you can’t control when you live, that doesn’t mean you can’t control your perspective.
Change your subjective experience of life
This movie is boring. It’s boring to read books. That band is boring.
My least favorite criticism of anything, whether it be books, movies, music, or anything else is, “It’s boring.” That’s not a statement about the work itself, it’s a statement about the person saying it. Was that movie actually dull, or were you only giving it half your attention because you were on your phone? Is reading a book actually boring, or are you just struggling to sit quietly and contemplate deeper things? Are you in the state of mind to even enjoy anything?
That last question is really about life in general. If you think your life is boring then the fault lies with you. You’re not trying hard enough to find things in the world that are engaging. Or, you are finding those things, but you’re not giving them enough of your attention. If you’ve started finding everything to be uninteresting, you have to accept that the problem is within yourself. Your subjective experience is not an objective statement about reality. In other words, if you’re bored, then you’re boring.
So, how do you break away from your subjective reality and experience other perspectives? You have to get out of your head, for starters. There are many ways to do this. But throughout human history, one tool has helped us do this better than anything else: Art.
Let art help you escape
The pleasure of good art is that, while you’re experiencing it, you get to live new lives. This has been true from the beginning of human civilization. Even as art has advanced into new forms, it’s remained a fact. Whether you’re reading a book, watching a movie, or gaming, art is a window into new worlds. If you’re a younger guy, your art form of choice is probably something digital. Games and online videos tend to be popular with young Millennials and Gen Z. But what if your favorite art forms are boring you? What if the thrill is gone?
Branch out. Believe it or not, people who enjoy reading books or watching foreign films aren’t being pretentious. (Well, some of them aren’t.) Many people enjoy those activities because they offer insight into the perspectives of others. Reading, in particular, is uniquely able to transport us beyond ourselves and awaken our creativity. It allows us to step out of our world – out of our own heads, even – and experience something utterly new. And it stretches our imagination, while we do it.
That’s just one suggestion. There are countless others. Go see a play. Find a local bar with live music and check out a band you’ve never heard before. Visit a museum or explore an art gallery. Or, here’s a crazy idea: try making art of your own. It doesn’t matter what form you work in, just unleash your creativity. If you already create art, but you’re feeling uninspired, try a new medium altogether. It may open up something completely unexpected within yourself.
What if you are finding all art and entertainment boring at the moment? What if nothing you do is offering you a spark of joy? Maybe it once did, but it doesn’t anymore. Maybe you’re finding that all of your favorite activities, whether creative, athletic, or intellectual, no longer evoke anything in you. It’s time to consider that you might be struggling with your mental health. You may, in fact, have depression.
If your chronic boredom is so deeply ingrained that nothing relieves it, it’s possible you’re depressed. Finding activities you once liked no longer enjoyable is a classic symptom of depression. Feelings of sadness are, of course, another of the main indicators of depression, but there are more. Other symptoms include trouble sleeping, lethargy (being tired all the time), negative thoughts, and even weight gain or loss. You may even lose sexual desire, or experience a reduction in sexual pleasure.
Meeting with a therapist or psychiatrist can help you understand your depression, including the causes and how to treat it. You may just need to have someone to talk to, or maybe you’ll need medication. Every person is different, and what works for you won’t work for everyone. But the one thing that never works is just ignoring it. If you’re depressed and you’re feeling overwhelmingly miserable or bored with life, get help. Those feelings of depression and boredom don’t have to be permanent. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Add More Excitement to Your Life
Let’s say you’ve tried exploring art and you’ve gone to therapy, but you’re still bored with life. It is probably time you break out of your comfort zone and add some variety to your “boring life.” Your boredom might just be a result of you being stuck in a status quo. If you’re currently inactive, or you’re stuck in a rut, engaging in new activities is an absolute must. More specifically, you need to try things that are far outside your normal wheelhouse. The world is full of new opportunities.
Get out more
I don’t know your personal situation, but, if I had to guess, I suspect you don’t leave your home often. The people who complain that “life is boring” tend to be the people who never step outdoors. And, I get it, you might not be an outdoorsy type of person. But that doesn’t mean you should refuse to ever walk out your door. Especially if you can’t stop feeling bored with life. Refusing to ever move beyond the twenty-foot radius of your bed is going to ensure you will always feel bored. So get moving.
It's a big world out there and there are countless activities you can get engaged in. I was being tongue-in-cheek earlier when I mentioned swimming with sharks, but, also, that’s not a terrible idea. Okay, I don’t literally mean actually swimming with sharks (unless…). I just mean, do something that scares you. Think about the things you could do that you don’t because it gives you anxiety. Yes, that could mean thrill-seeking adventures. But maybe it just means going to a nightclub or joining a social group. I’m aware you might deal with social anxiety, but that’s all the more reason to give it a try.
I speak from experience, by the way. I was never the most socially gifted teen. When I reached my twenties and moved far from my hometown, I had a choice. I could either stay in my apartment and become isolated, or I could push myself and try new places. Especially early on, that meant going places entirely on my own. That wasn’t always comfortable, believe me. But by forcing myself to go to bars, clubs, and public events on my own, I escaped my comfort zone.
I still struggle with social anxiety. Sometimes I need a little whiskey courage to help me feel comfortable in public. After all these years, though, I no longer dread being on my own in social situations. I know that if I’m not enjoying it, I can just leave; at least I got out, though. If you’re feeling bored, maybe you need more excitement in your life. Maybe you should go swimming with sharks. Or, maybe, you just need to get out more and grow your social circle.
Try new things
You should try new things. That probably sounds like obvious advice, but it’s only obvious because it’s so clearly a good idea. This goes hand in hand with getting out more. Taking up new hobbies and exploring different activities is an excellent way to quell boredom. It’s also a surefire way to meet new people. Perhaps the thought of going to a bar by yourself and trying to meet strangers gives you hives. Then try finding a fun activity where you’ll be compelled to meet people—and they’ll be compelled to meet you.
Thanks to the internet and websites like Meetup, finding things to do outside the house is easier than ever. If you enjoy the outdoors, you can find hiking groups and even mountain climbing clubs. If you’d prefer a more intellectual pursuit, there are book clubs, philosophy groups, and language exchanges. Actually, learning a new language is an excellent way to develop a hobby and make friends. If you’re an awkward conversationalist, just blame it on it being your second language.
It all comes back to this: if you’re bored with life, you have to get out of the house. And by “get out of the house,” what I mean is, get out of your rut. Find anything at all to break the routine and ignite a new passion in yourself. You can dismiss people who are really into hobbies as nerds or dweebs. But they’re enjoying themselves, and you’re sitting at home reading an article about living a boring life. Are you really in a position to judge?
Pursue a more meaningful life
Perhaps you’re not bored with life because you don’t have anything fun to do. Maybe it has nothing to do with depression or a lack of options. Maybe you’re bored with life for the simple reason that you aren’t living for anything. You’re merely existing. From minute to minute, you’re passing through your life with no purpose or meaning.
Feelings of boredom are often actually masking a deeper malaise, feelings of purposelessness, and emptiness. When you don’t have any larger motivation outside yourself, it’s easy to feel like nothing matters. And if nothing matters, it’s hard to get excited about anything. In such a situation, boredom is nothing more than a symptom. You can treat it with new activities and shiny distractions, but it will keep coming back. Because you aren’t treating the underlying cause.
Now, before you think I’m about to recommend you join a church or the local cult, let me be clear. I believe a meaningful life can be achieved without turning to spirituality or religion. If faith in something does motivate you, then that’s fine. But even if you’re an atheist or agnostic, that doesn’t mean you must be a nihilist who lives for nothing. Religion doesn’t have the sole claim to purpose and meaning. Everyone’s journey for purpose will be unique.
Start your journey
If you’re bored with life, it could simply mean you need a new hobby. Or it could mean that you’ve been living on autopilot for too long and you need real direction. There is no time like the present moment to start your journey to something more significant. The type of meaningful life you’ll choose to pursue must be up to you. I wouldn’t dream of trying to tell someone I don’t know what should or shouldn’t matter to them. I would, though, like to offer some perspective.
I grew up very religious and was a true believer for many years. Around the time I went to college, I lost my faith and moved away from all religious activities. While that marked a significant change in my personal life, it didn’t fundamentally change who I was. From childhood, I was raised to believe that we should help people and care for the less fortunate. I internalized the “Golden Rule” (treat others how you want to be treated) and that all humans have value. Those beliefs remained even when my faith didn’t.
Sure, I was initially taught those values from a religious perspective, but they aren’t inherently religious values. After all, the Golden Rule has appeared in countless religions and philosophies throughout human history. It’s really just common sense. As I began my journey away from religion, I maintained a core set of values. That’s what you need. Wherever your personal journey may take you, whatever you end up supporting, you need core beliefs and values. People without core beliefs tend to be easily misled and pushed toward dangerous (or simply silly) philosophies.
What are your core beliefs? What matters most to you? What is something that you believe in more deeply than anything else? Whatever that is, that should guide you on your journey to a more meaningful life.
Don’t be afraid to wander
“Not all those who wander are lost.” That’s one of the most famous quotes from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. It can be interpreted in different ways, but I like the simplest interpretation: it’s okay to be on a journey. It’s okay to not know exactly where you’re going or where you are at every moment of your life. Chances are, if you’ve read this far, you have felt a bit lost in your own life. It’s more than just being bored with life; you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing at all.
I’m here to tell you that’s okay. Life itself is a journey, and like any good journey, there will be wrong turns, detours, and changing plans. I know there are influencers out there who say you need to be planning for retirement at twenty years old. They will tell you the best way to live life is to work constantly when you’re young. Then you can retire in your 50s (or even 40s). And, you know what, for some people, that probably is the best life. But it doesn’t have to be for everyone. It wasn’t for me.
I’ve embraced life as a never-ending journey. It’s a little scarier and a whole lot riskier, but do you know what it categorically is not? Boring. As you’re on a personal journey to discover a purpose for your life, don’t be afraid to hit roadblocks. Whether you’re 18, 38, or 58, it’s okay to start over and pick a new direction. So long as you’re holding onto your core beliefs and still moving, you’re living life right. Because at least you’re living your life. Not everyone is doing that.
A meaningful life is better than a boring life
Whatever is going on at work or in your personal life, you can still pursue a greater purpose. Your job might provide that purpose, and if so, I hope it’s rewarding. Likewise, maybe your romantic or familial relationships are the most important thing to you. Either one is great, and I hope they help you break out of the doldrums. If, however, your work and personal life are unfulfilling, that doesn’t mean you should just roll up in a ball.
My advice: Look for ways to help others. That could involve volunteering for a charity or community outreach program, like a soup kitchen or Big Brothers. Not only will this help you get out of the house, it’ll give you a sense of purpose. There are few things more rewarding than helping others in need. And that sense of purpose and meaning that comes from it will help you stop feeling so listless in life. Volunteering forces you to stop wallowing in self-pity and start thinking about the value of life, both others and yours.
There are countless opportunities out there for helping others. It also doesn’t have to be just about people. You can volunteer with an animal rescue or help maintain a community garden. For all you animal and nature lovers, there are plenty of opportunities and organizations you can join. Or, just start something on your own.
I won’t list all the possible charitable or volunteer options that are available. If you put in the effort, you can surely find something that fits your interests in your area. It will help you get out of your funk, and it will get you out of the house. Plus, if you are struggling with your mental health, research shows volunteering can actually help relieve depression. It really is a win-win solution.
Appreciate what you have
My final piece of advice, if you’re bored with life, is to just take stock of what you have. You probably have it better than you realize. Certainly, there are some people in this world who would give everything to live a boring life. But I don’t want to make this about comparing your life to other people’s.
Instead, I just want to urge you to try to appreciate the good things in your life. You might not be living the life of a rock star or having non-stop adventures. Very few people are. But if you have some good people in your life and can afford a few simple pleasures, you’re winning. More than likely, this is just a temporary funk in your life. And if it’s not, you now have some actionable things you can do to help end the boredom.
Remember: boredom is a choice. Choose to be anything else.