Breaking Up with Boredom

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“I’m just…bored” is something I’ve been hearing a lot lately. Whether it be from myself, clients, colleagues, or family members, it seems like everyone is struggling with increased boredom these last months. Though it has certainly been boosted by the COVID-19 pandemic, boredom is far from a new experience. This is especially true for people who are working to reduce or quit their tobacco use. 

What is boredom?

To me, boredom is one of those concepts that everyone seems to have an idea of what it is, but when we try to define it with words it’s suddenly difficult to explain. Because of this, having specific definitions can come in handy as we work to combat boredom. This month’s blog and livestream used a couple specifically:

  1. Boredom is “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest…”
  2. “…attentional failure (i.e. being unable to successfully engage attention w/ an activity) and or perceived lack of meaning can lead to boredom…”

COVID-19 impact

“…perceived lack of meaning can lead to boredom…” is something I’ve been thinking about more often as we continue to find ways to deal with COVID-19 and public health responses. For nearly the last year, we’ve all been dealing with changes to our daily lives in one way or another due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re staying home more, changing the ways you connect with others socially, have developed a new routine, or maybe even completely stopped having a routine, change as has been unavoidable. These changes have also had their hand in influencing the amount of boredom we face. While boredom was not created by the pandemic, the pandemic has certainly resulted in an increase in the amount of boredom one might experience daily or weekly. Additionally, it may leave many experiencing something similar to “Groundhog Day” syndrome given the lack of opportunities for new or exciting activities. Even with hopeful changes coming our way, increased boredom will likely continue for longer than we hope.

Boredom and tobacco reduction

While boredom is common and maybe in some cases welcome from time to time, too much boredom can be challenging, and this especially true for someone who is currently trying to quit or reduce their tobacco use. People often smoke when they’re bored and this is for a few different reasons including:

  1. Boredom is emotional trigger (i.e. people are used to smoking when they’re bored and therefor when they experience boredom it is the natural response to light a cigarette)
  2. Smoking gives people something to do when they’re bored
  3. They have no alternative distractions
  4. Smoking is already on their mind 

Because of this link, someone experiencing an increase in boredom in their daily life will likely also experience increased opportunities or urges to smoke. 

It’s also important to note that boredom is not only a trigger for people to smoke and can also be a result of reducing your tobacco use. Tobacco use is something that takes up a pretty decent amount of time throughout your day. On average, it takes someone 5-6 minutes to smoke a single cigarette, which opens up about an hour per day for those smoking ½ of a pack per day and two hours for those smoking a pack a day. Those who smoke cigars might be smoking anywhere between fifteen minutes to one hour per cigar depending on the type and brand. Tobacco use also takes up specific times of your day (i.e. post coffee, first thing in the morning, post meals, before/after activities, etc.). While this may not seem like much, having that much additional spare time suddenly can be challenging to deal with. This is why we try to work with our clients to find ideas for alternatives to smoking, distractions, and other ways to stay busy as a part of their quit plan as they work on their own tobacco reduction/cessation. 

Combating boredom 

This month’s blog and livestream tpoic is a result of clients dealing with boredom, and part of the hope was to offer both a deeper understanding of boredom as well as ideas to help people cope with and combat their boredom. For this I focused on two ideas: daily routines/structure and activities to keep the hands and/or mind busy.

In our very first livestream last year we discussed the idea of a “quarantine routine” and ways to help maintain structure in your daily life. Though it’s been nearly a year since I wrote the accompanying blog, the tips offered can definitely help support your daily routine – and also combat boredom by giving yourself consistency in your day to day life. It may even give you something to look forward to. 

You can also check out the ideas below for activities to incorporate into your daily or weekly routine:

  • Video games – a great way to keep your hands and mind occupied and potentially a way to connect with others if you have friends or family who also play the same games
  • Learn to knit or crochet! You don’t even need needles!
  • Games on phone such as Hearts, Sudoku, Euchre, or Words with Friends – especially if you want to keep your hands busy while watching TV/movies
  • Board games 
  • Schedule weekly calls or video chats with loved ones – or have a “virtual dinner”!
  • Journal
  • Plan “movie nights” with friends where you watch the same movie even if you can’t be together
  • Get moving! Whether you’re interested in dancing it out, yoga, walks, chair exercises, or more traditional forms of exercise this is a great way to boost your mood and keep you busy! You can find just about any type of workout on Youtube. You can also check out our HOPE program videos on our Facebook and Youtube pages.
  • Puzzles
  • Draw, color, or paint
  • Take up meditation
  • Listen to podcasts 
  • Organize your space
  • Give your home a deep clean
  • Reading – most libraries are offering virtual events and book downloads as well as other pickup services!
  • Virtual exhibits/events/etc.
  • Cooking/baking – you could even set up some sort of exchange with close friends to share the best recipes and results
  • Write letters to loved ones or your future self 
  • Make a bucket list or a list of all the things you want to do when it’s safe to
  • Try out a new hobby you’ve been interested in
  • Start an at home yoga practice

As with everything else, making massive changes all at once isn’t necessary to deal with your boredom. Planning out a couple activities/ideas (whether they’re on the above list or not!) to try the next time you find yourself experiencing boredom is a great way to start. Keep necessary supplies or even a list of your chosen ideas near your tobacco reduction supplies or somewhere easily accessible/viewable so they’re readily available the next time boredom sets in. 

Dealing with boredom while trying to quit or interested in finding out more about Unified’s Tobacco Reduction services? Contact our tobacco reduction team:

Detroit
Amber Jager – (313) 316-6226
ajager@miunified.org

Ypsilanti/Jackson
Caitlyn Clock – (313) 316-7561
cclock@miunified.org

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