We all hate to be bored. We live in the era of FOMO and are constantly looking for ways to keep life exciting. But a lot of the time, we mistake doing nothing for boredom, when truly being bored is actually so much more than that. “Boredom most often results from repetition, routine, and laziness,” says psychologist Vivian Diller. “So any activity that adds novelty and stimulation alleviates boredom.”
“People aren’t struggling with a lack of things to do, but rather too much of things that don’t bring much satisfaction or joy," says Lindsay Henderson, PsyD, a psychologist who treats patients via telehealth app LiveHealth Online. It’s “why finding something that brings you happiness is important to all of our lives,” she says.
We are all different; what may be engaging to one person isn’t going to be the same for the next. Henderson says to make a list of things that will personally engage you and complement your lifestyle. “For example, if your work keeps you isolated or sedentary, try being social and active,” she says. “Alternatively, if you interact with others throughout most of the day, try something a bit more solitary, like painting.”
In other words, we should look for activities that do more than just get us out of bed or to pass the time; we need activities that really change up our routine and stimulate the brain. That is the true key to finding something that will make us happy. “This is basic Psychology 101: Activities that meet our needs and desires lead to satisfaction and happiness,” says Diller. “If we ignore this basic desire for stimulation, we tend to feel less alive and happy.” Both Diller and Henderson have given us basic thought starters on things to do that will not only keep us from being bored but lift up our mood, as well. Here are some of their recommendations.
- Go for a run (check out the best running trails in the U.S.).
- Take a walk.
- Find an exercise class you’ve never tried before but have always wanted to.
- Sign up for Book of the Month Club to find a new book to read.
- Listen to a new podcast—our editors can’t get enough of these ones.
- Attend a lecture.
- Go to a new museum (San Francisco has some good ones).
- Go see a new movie—or stream these ’90s favorites.
- Go through your Facebook and call up a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while.
- Travel to a place you’ve never been to before.
- Go out to dinner with friends.
- Find a new place to eat out.
- Start a hobby (we’ve got 101 ideas for you) that has nothing to do with your current occupation or skillset.
- Keep a journal.
- Start a DIY project at home.
- Learn a new language à la Aimee Song.
- Volunteer for an organization that fights for a cause you’re passionate about.
- Go to a comedy show and discover new comedians—we’re constantly seeking out the life advice of hilarious women.
- Turn off your cell phone for a couple hours.
- Watch TED Talks—some will even make you happier (and smarter).
- Create a playlist of songs from your favorite artists.
- Go see a band play live.
- Buy an adult coloring book.
- Clean and organize a room in your home that you’ve been meaning to get to (see how to do it in an hour).
- Take a class to improve your craft.
- Find new websites to visit based on your interests with StumbleUpon.
- Learn a new recipe (or how to cook in general).
- Catch up on much-needed sleep.
- Play games (not in love) like charades or Heads Up! with friends.
- Learn fun trivia about your favorite TV show, movie, hometown, or anything, really.
- Start and complete a puzzle.
Next up, 96 things to do when you’re bored.
This story originally appeared on Byrdie.