Too Many Dull Moments

Conquering Seasonal Monotony and Boredom

Posted Mar 09, 2015

Source: iStock

Thank goodness for spring! A time for new beginnings, it brings positive changes not only to the weather but also to our emotional well-being. For too many people, winters can range from simply uneventful to socially isolating. Compared to warmer times of the year, there are usually not as many things to do and fewer places to go to; sometimes just getting out of the house can pose a challenge.

Bad weather can drain the life out of you – depleting your mental and physical energy. For those of us who dwell in cooler latitudes, the winter season is more taxing and stressful than for the lucky, unaffected-by-the-ludicrous-amounts-of-snow others.

Generally speaking, winters are rather monotonous, which alone isn’t terrible. However, the caveat lies in the fact that our minds are wired to respond to monotony by inducing a state of ennui; that utter weariness and feeling of “why does it matter?” Whether it is the omnipresent white of the outside or the repetitiveness of the daily routines, avoiding potholes and trudging through the cold, monotony-triggered tedium is tough. Boredom leads to a loss of concentration, inhibited responsiveness to both internal and external stimuli, lack of productivity and inability to fully enjoy life.

Chronic boredom can dull your mind. It presents a greater risk for weight gain, overconsumption of alcohol and even mild depression.

The good news? It’s not impossible to overcome your seasonal blahs and avoid, or dispel, winter’s negative effects. The trick is to target the cause at the root of the problem, that monotony that may be stealing from you.

A recent study published in the BMC Neuroscience journal inquired into a relationship between monotony and emotional maladaptation. Its findings suggest that monotony does, in fact, adversely affect mood changes, and that disrupting a monotonous environment – through the introduction of novel objects – can help prevent the development of depression-like traits.

The beauty of “novel objects” lies in their ability to shake us up a bit. They rouse the brain, consequently elevating the levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, a mood balance–regulating chemical compound, in the blood. Plainly speaking, monotony – and consequently boredom – can be negated by a challenge, substantial change or fresh undertaking; something stimulating that will bring about a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

So, now that the end of winter is near (yes, it really is!), and everything starts to wake and breathe with new life, do you want to shake off your winter blues? Here are a few easy and useful suggestions – things you can actually do today – that will help you kick your boredom to the curb and shift your life into higher gear right this instant!

1. Start a hobby project. Write, paint, or sculpt something. Get your creative juices flowing. It might seem counterintuitive but the less skill you have, the more fun it will be. See if any of your friends and family members would like to join in or, better yet, dedicate it to someone. Having an objective in mind will help you stay focused and a project-buddy will hold you accountable to your goals.

2. Grow something. And then eat it. Gardening in general and soil bacteria – Mycobacterium vaccae – in particular are great for fighting boredom, as they trigger an increased production of serotonin in your body, which in turn enhances your mood. Yes, playing in the dirt is actually good for you! And you could get real-world fruits of your labor that you can eat, to boot!

3. Once they open again, be among the first to shop at the farmers’ market. A melting pot of fragrant aromas, vivid colors and incessant people-hum, the market is a powerful stimulus for the senses any given day of the year. Fresh, locally grown produce is not only delicious but also nourishing and nutrient-rich, and can help you fight stress and listlessness.

4. Change your look. A haircut, a manicure, a new shirt. Something that breaks up the monotony of what you have been doing for the last who-knows-how-many years. Just make it something new and markedly different. You will either love it or hate it, but you certainly will not be bored with it.

5. Take a walk. And I am not talking about a walk from your car to the shop, or from the bus station to your office. Go for a deliberate and conscious stroll, somewhere in the park or around your neighborhood just for the sake of it. Notice things that surround you and learn to appreciate them. Practice awareness of your surroundings. If you live in the Northeast, watch your step with the snow!

6.Take your jog or power walk outside. Regular exercise is most beneficial for your physical and emotional health, as it packs a double wallop of serotonin and endorphins. However, repetitive exercise is often monotonous. Swap your treadmill or elliptical for a park trail and let nature work its wonders on you.

7. Smile. Don’t feel like it? Do it anyway. It doesn’t matter whether your smile is genuine or not, holding it for a few seconds has been shown to positively affect the mood and help reduce the body’s stress response. Smiling can also give you a charge of positive energy, so go ahead and smile; after a while it will come more naturally to you.

“My life is very monotonous,” the fox said. “I hunt chickens; men hunt me. All the chickens are just alike, and all the men are just alike. And, in consequence, I am a little bored.” Don’t be like that famous fox from Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s classic tale: get out of your monotonous loop and conquer boredom. Make spring a time of new beginnings for you!