Children say they’re bored. Teens say it. Adults often talk about boredom. Being quarantined hasn’t helped the problem, so let me offer some sincere advice for getting a life and squelching boredom.
Boredom: “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
The only time I’ve ever been bored in my life was when I was too sick to read. Now that, my friends, is boredom! Hours passed, and I wasn’t able to do anything at all. I always pity those who can’t read and write. How much they miss! For me, reading is the first thing I do in the morning and the last I do at night. I read a lot … and fast. I absorb a lot of useful, distracting, educational, and totally useless information each day. (I’m not proud of the useless stuff. But, you’ve been on social media, too….) Writing is akin to reading, except that it’s output instead of input—and it’s a lot harder to get right. I am constantly working on bettering my writing. (Please say you notice.)
“Being weary and restless” is a normal result of working and thinking. Boredom is getting to that point because of “lack of interest.” Sad, indeed.
Let’s address the problem of “lack of interest” and make some practical applications and helps after that.
I fully believe that children, teens, and adults are bored because they have too much, not too little. Why do women go for “shopping therapy” when there’s not a thing they actually need? Why are children bored when they have two hundred toys in their room—and a back yard to play in? Why are teens bored, while they are constantly texting and chatting with friends? Why are men bored, even though they’re working all the time? I believe it’s because we aren’t content. We’re not engaged in real life.
The Apostle Paul spoke of contentment—while under house arrest and suffering depravations and cold. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Philippians 4:11). But godliness with contentment is great gain. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1 Timothy 6:6, 8).
The author of Hebrews admonished: Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5).
So, how can we change into content, happy individuals who have something profitable to do and aren’t at a loss? Let me share seven principles that might help you.
- Less is more. This goes for almost any area in life. Less junk, food choices, furniture, clothing, less on one’s calendar, less activities for children, kitchen gadgets, etc. Less is better. When your parents were young, there simply was a different culture, yet they grew up knowing how to play and enjoy life. They read, hiked, biked, and traveled. They had actual—not virtual—friends with whom they laughed, talked, and visited. (They still have those same friends, by the way.) They knew how to put together old and new. Eclectic style was fine—and homey. They bought quality clothes but less of them. They understood how to mix and match. They weren’t minimalists, but they understood the value of having what you enjoy but not too much. That went for activities, too. Your parents didn’t overcommit themselves or you, and you got to grow up with family times, make memories, have free time to run around outside and be a child.
- Contentment can be learned. The Apostle Paul said so, and it’s true. If you’re not content now, with what you have at this moment, you’ll never be content. Contentment begins in the heart, with knowing Jesus. Once your heart is satisfied, you can begin the process of learning to be content in any situation.
- Teach your children alternatives to boredom. When a child says, “I’m bored,” he needs something to do—hands on and brain engaged. What would interest your child? Your artistic child might need paper and markers. Your musical child might need to be reminded to practice piano. Your mechanical child might enjoy getting out some Legos or K’nex. Read your children a book. Or, maybe they’d enjoy helping you in the kitchen or helping Daddy with a car repair or washing. Involve your children with you in life, and show them what to do when they’ve lost interest in other things.
- Unplug. You may have noticed I haven’t recommended handing your kids a tablet, putting on a movie, or uploading another video game. It’s absolutely fine to see a movie as a family or play clean video games sometimes, but the best way to learn contentment is to be away from gadgets for chunks of time each day. Really live. Really connect with others. Really enjoy doing normal life skills and work. And, for kids, really enjoy making up their own play.
- Learn thankfulness. If you really want to be content, you’ll have to learn to be thankful. Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20). In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name (Hebrews 13:15).
- Make a mental (or physical) list of possible activities you enjoy. When you’re bored, what can you do? Take a walk outside—with your phone or camera. Look for beauty. Read that book you haven’t gotten to. Write an encouraging note to someone. Organize meals for next week. Visit Aunt Polly. Bake brownies. I don’t know what makes you happy, but I’m sure you can come up with at least five or six options for when you’re feeling like you need to change things up—and not be bored. You could even make lists for your children of possibilities they may not have thought of.
- When you don’t know what to do, ask the Lord. If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5). He will help you think of something that’s profitable.
God wants us to be content.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation (Psalm 68:19).