We all hate to be bored, even though evidence suggests it can do wonders for your creativity. 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. According to one perspective, “Boredom most often results from repetition, routine, and laziness,” says psychologist Vivian Diller, Ph.D. “So any activity that adds novelty and stimulation alleviates boredom.”
On that note, boredom might be an indicator to seek activities that bring more positive stimulation. “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, Psy.D., 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.
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.
The thing is, we're are all different; what may be engaging to one person isn’t going to be the same for the next. To find the best activity for you, 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.” That said, Diller and Henderson share some basic thought starters on things to do that you might find will shake up your usual routine and boost your mood in the process. Read on for 30 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 and Memphis have 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 with one of our favorite language learning apps.
- Volunteer for an organization that champions 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 of hours.
- Get inspired by watching TED Talks—some will even make you happier (and smarter.)
- Create a playlist of songs from your favorite artists, or a playlist full of a genre you don't typically listen to.
- 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, if that sounds overwhelming, watch an online video on basic knife skills)
- Catch up on much-needed sleep.
- Play interactive games 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.
Mann S, Cadman R. Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative? Creativity Res J. 2014;26(2):165-173. doi:10.1080/10400419.2014.901073