Well-Being//

How to Identify the Difference Between Boredom and Loneliness

Understanding your emotions can help you take actionable steps to connect with others and protect your mental health.

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Fizkes/ Shutterstock
Fizkes/ Shutterstock

Over the last few months, a lot of people have been confined to their homes to curb the spread of the virus. While some people are living with family, friends or roommates, others might be living alone. Many of us might be missing our friends, family members and relatives – and at times, we might find ourselves feeling lonely, isolated, or even bored. 

Regardless of whether you are living alone or with other people, it is possible that you may be feeling lonely right now. Loneliness is the experience that takes place when you don’t feel satisfied with the quality of your social interactions and would like to be more connected to others. You may feel lonely even when you do have people around you but do not feel emotionally connected to them. 

If you have been living by yourself, or have been away from other people, you may be feeling isolated. Maybe you are self-quarantined or living in a containment zone. Being alone and physically distant from other people can make you feel socially and emotionally disconnected.

This lack of social connectedness can be a risk to your physical and mental health. When you do not feel socially connected to others, you might find it more difficult to deal with stressful situations. Loneliness can also cause sleeplessness along with increased levels of stress, depression, and anxiety. In fact, loneliness has been linked to poor immunity too – a concern that is alarming given the current state of the world.

Another common emotion that many of us are experiencing is boredom. Amidst the lockdown, for many of us, life has become dull, repetitive and monotonous. You might have lost interest in the things or people around you. The human mind is curious and likes being challenged and finding new things. Without enough mental stimulation, it is likely that you may get bored more often now than usual. 

When you get bored, you may frequently get distracted and may find yourself daydreaming. You may even spend more time scrolling through social media or binge-watching shows in an attempt to find something that is interesting and engaging. It’s likely that you may mistake your boredom for hunger or even tiredness. However, having a snack or taking a nap may not be enough. 

We need to identify these feelings of boredom or loneliness and then take proactive action to feel better.

What you can do

Structure your day
When you live alone you may be tempted to do as you please. However, having a structure or schedule can help you feel more present and focussed. Create a new routine for yourself to follow, and incorporate time not just for work, but for chores, leisure, social interactions and me-time too.

Start a new ritual
Find an activity that will help you cope with the current scenario and make it a ritual (ie do it daily) to help yourself stay calm. This can include journaling or even something as simple as having a cup of tea in the morning or a hot shower before bed.

Change your perception
There may be times when even talking to others may not be what you need. It can therefore be helpful to change the way you think about your isolation or boredom. Think of this alone-time as an opportunity for you to learn more about yourself and pick up new skills if you want. Reframing your perspective on the situation can help you tackle these distressing emotions more easily.

Reconnect with old friends
Reach out and talk to old friends via phone, messages, social media or video calls. This can help you feel connected even though you might not be in their company.

Bond with your family
If you are with your family, try to spend time with them. You could try doing chores with them, watch shows together, or even start new family rituals like having a game night once a week or eating breakfast together every morning. If you have regular conversations with them about your life, their life, and the world, you can collectively manage your anxieties and negative emotions.

Focus on your hobbies
You may have a hobby that, over time, you might have dropped or forgotten. Reconnect with these old hobbies to alleviate your loneliness. Maybe you enjoyed painting, or you own several books you have always wanted to read. Use this time to indulge in these hobbies. This can help you stay engaged as well.

Focus on your health
If you are isolated, you may have a lower immunity and higher susceptibility to falling ill. Prioritise your health by eating balanced meals, exercising regularly, drinking plenty of water and getting adequate sleep. This also means taking any medication you are on regularly and avoiding alcohol, caffeine, nicotine or other substances.

Maintain hygiene
Being isolated or away from other people may make you feel that there is no need for maintaining hygiene. This tendency becomes worse if you are feeling depressed as well. However, it’s crucial to maintain hygiene during this time. Brushing your teeth, bathing every day, and changing into clean clothes are all essential for your well-being. If finding the motivation to do this is hard, make a to-do list with these hygiene items and ensure you check them off each day. You could even ask someone to hold you accountable for this by checking in with you regularly.

Avoid procrastination
When you are bored, you might find it hard to do something to change your mind’s state. This can lead you to procrastinate an important or necessary task. Sometimes, the best way to beat boredom is to push yourself to just do an activity or chore that is pending. Focus on how good you would feel if you completed the task and use that feeling to motivate yourself to overcome procrastination.

Spend time in your own company
When you feel bored, take the time to introspect and better understand yourself. Try to identify what it is you actually would like to do. Reflect on your life and try to understand the things that are important to you. How can you make time for them in your life, during or even post the lockdown? Alternatively, you can begin brainstorming and planning for things you have wanted to do but have not had the time for. Identify your life goals and break them down into small actions you can take to achieve them, starting today.

Take a break
When boredom hits you while you are engaging in a task, take some time off. Take a break from whatever is making you feel bored and do an activity you enjoy. If you are bored of washing vessels, take a break and dance to your favourite song; if you are bored of work, talk to a coworker; if you are bored of studying, take a break and do yoga. This will help you feel refreshed when you come back to the task at hand.

It is important to understand that feeling bored or lonely is a part of life. While it may not be enjoyable, it is something that we all have to deal with from time to time. Learning how to work through boredom, loneliness and isolation can equip you with important skills to lead a happier and healthier life.

References:

Boredom: Causes and Treatment. (n.d.). Retrieved from Healthline website: https://www.healthline.com/health/boredom#prevention

COVID-19 Lockdown Guide: How to Manage Anxiety and Isolation During Quarantine. (n.d.). Retrieved from adaa.org website: https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/covid-19-lockdown-guide-how-manage-anxiety-and

Dealing with isolation. (2018, February 8). Retrieved from Mental Health Foundation website: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/guide-investing-your-relationships/isolation

Eight Reasons Why We Get Bored. (2017). Retrieved from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/science-choice/201706/eight-reasons-why-we-get-bored

Novotney, A. (2019, May). Social isolation: It could kill you. Https://Www.Apa.Org. Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/monitor/2019/05/ce-corner-isolation

Robinson, S. (2019). Isolation Has Profoundly Creepy Effects on The Human Body And Brain. Here’s What Happens. Retrieved from ScienceAlert website: https://www.sciencealert.com/isolation-has-profound-effects-on-the-human-body-and-brain-here-s-what-happens

What Is Boredom? (2012). Retrieved November 21, 2019, from Psychology Today website: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/ulterior-motives/201209/what-is-boredom

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