I Am Bored, Therefore I Eat

How boredom eating can change your brain and how to change it back

Posted Jun 29, 2012

We’ve all said it at one time or another: I’m bored.

There are two types of boredom. The first is garden variety boredom also known as the “blahs,” an acute state of lacking in pleasure/enjoyment. It is usually temporary, with some people experiencing bouts more frequently or prolonged than others. This type of boredom typically can be remedied when you discover a source of pleasure or enjoyment. Imagine you are sitting, staring at the TV, feeling bored. Then a good friend calls and says, “Come on, over, we are firing up the barbecue!” You are immediately excited-- boredom resolved.

The Slippery Slope

Interestingly, how we go about relieving our garden variety boredom can actually cause us to develop anhedonia.

Here are few strategies to keep the boredom away while ensuring the pleasure centers in your brain remain healthy:

1. Dump the Junk. Food that is high in sugar, fat, and salt, should be eaten only minimally-- not a mainstay of your diet. Make a special effort to avoid these foods when bored or feeling bad--this is where you can really start messing with your brain chemistry.

2. Build An Arsenal. The pleasure you experience in life should not come from one single activity, but rather from many activities. Remember it is an over-reliance on one thing that paints us into a pleasure corner, slowly narrowing our brain's ability to enjoy other things. By putting enjoyable activities into your day, you can buffer yourself from using food as your “go to” boredom cure.

3. Remove Monotony, Insert Variety. We all have routine activities that we cannot remove from life but can end up becoming monotonous and boring. To avoid monotony, add variety to some aspect of these activities. For example, if you exercise, you might plan a workout once a week in an entirely new environment. Eat dinner occasionally in a different room or outside. Adding variety to routines can give your brain multiple sources of stimulation, which helps beat down the boredom.

Creating a fulfilling and stimulating life requires a balance between finding pleasure within and outside the routine of life. If you are stuck in a rut of boredom, constantly stretch yourself with new and different activities that give your brain a reason to light up…so that it doesn’t end up going dark on you.