How to manage boredom

Last reviewed on 5 October 2020

Struggling to enjoy anything you do? Finding it hard to motivate yourself? Not sure where to direct your energy? After months of restrictions due to coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s no surprise that you might be feeling bored. Even though you know you’re social distancing and having a different daily routine for a good reason, the days could be blurring and feel very monotonous.

If you’re hearing “I’m bored” a lot in your household or if you’re troubled by boredom yourself, the Good Thinking team has created this short guide for you. As London’s digital mental wellbeing service, Good Thinking can also recommend NHS-approved apps that help to reduce anxiety, lower stress and boost low mood, such as MyCognition PRO, My Possible Self and Be Mindful. If you’d like to give your mental health a check-up, use the Good Thinking self-assessment tool.

1. Be open about your feelings

Boredom affects people in different ways so it’s useful to acknowledge your thoughts and feelings. You might feel restless or frustrated, tired or apathetic. You might also experience other emotions, such as sadness, loneliness and anger. If you have an existing mental health condition, you might be prone to boredom and really struggle with it.

One of the most important things you can do at the moment is communicate as this can help to improve your mood. Let your family and friends know how you’re feeling and encourage them to open up to you too. Use WhatsApp, FaceTime and other ways to stay in touch.

If you’re concerned that your boredom is becoming something more serious, like depression, there is help available. You could start by taking the low mood quiz here on Good Thinking so we can recommend NHS-approved wellbeing apps.

2. Get productive

If you’re normally out at work all day and busy with family, friends and hobbies the rest of the time, the current situation might be particularly challenging and you might need to find new ways to combat your boredom. It’s time to regain a sense of control, keep your mind active and get a boost of dopamine.

Start small – watch something on Netflix that’s outside of your comfort zone or take a different route during your daily walk/run/bike ride. Then go bigger – find a new game to play as a family, start reading a book or spring clean the house. You might find it useful to draw up a schedule and set yourself some short-term goals.

Try to balance on-screen activities with other things so you’re not always on your phone or other devices. If you have kids, focus on doing things in short bursts – like learning a TikTok dance together or building a fort – and discuss setting some goals and rewards for achieving them.

Studies show that boredom can be a trigger for binge eating, smoking, alcohol and drug abuse – try to find more healthy distractions instead.

3. Reframe your thinking

Did you know that boredom can actually be good for you? When you’re bored, your mind is more likely to wander and help to spark creativity. So, find somewhere quiet to sit, turn off your phone and simply be bored. You might even like to use a mindfulness app or some soothing music to get you in the mood.

There’s a lot of pressure, especially on social media, to transform ourselves during lockdown (learn the guitar! teach yourself Spanish! take up knitting!). But it’s OK to simply see this as an opportunity to slow down. A time to appreciate our loved ones. A moment to reflect.

As one journalist wrote recently, “Bored is a blessing I gratefully accept... So long as quarantine is necessary to stay healthy and safe, “bored” is the best I can hope for.”

Good Thinking resources

Good Thinking self-assessment

Good Thinking (How to look after your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak)

Good Thinking (How to develop a new healthy habit)

Good Thinking (How music is good for wellbeing – podcast)

Good Thinking (How to deal with tension, conflict and domestic abuse)

Good Thinking (Why a micropause can help your mental health today – podcast)

Good Thinking (Supporting the whole family through the pandemic – podcast)

Good Thinking (How to connect with nature to boost your wellbeing)

Other resources

BBC Reel (The benefits of boredom)

CNN (This downtime may have some benefits)

Healthline (What is boredom?)

Time Out (101 things to do at home)

YoungMinds (20 children’s activities for 20 minutes)