Today I found myself pondering this very question.
Does boredom drive depression?
What follows is by no means a scientific article or designed to answer the question in any definitive way, I am merely putting my thoughts into words.
How does one find excitement in the mundane? How can I get excited about my future? How is it that I can help other people become energized and take control of their own lives when my life seemed unbearable a year ago? Asking the questions made me think deeply about my life.
The truth is, I am not bored with my life. Since I stopped working almost a year ago, I have not been bored. Sure, at times I might find myself wondering what to do in the moment, but I can assure you that those moments are very brief and extremely few and far between.
How though do people who work normal day jobs that they do not find satisfying, other than for the paycheck at the end of the month manage to bring a level of excitement into their daily lives?
I recall working and my one of my main experiences of work was the constant level of stress. I traded my days of stress for days of excitement. I traded a secure income for the opportunity to live life on my own terms. How could I explain the difference between excitement and stress I wondered?
On a physiological level can our bodies distinguish between stress and excitement? I guess a quick Google search will tell me the answer, but I am not looking for scientific answers, I am looking for answers within. Answers that are possibly unique to my own experience and have no bearing on the cold hard facts put together by the smart people in white lab coats.
Can our bodies distinguish between stress and excitement? If not, then we are stressed are we simply fooling our bodies into thinking we are excited? Stress triggers adrenaline, the same hormone that floods our system when we get excited. The adrenaline hit feels good, it is addictive, like our morning caffeine fix.
It is hard to get excited about following the exact same routine day after day, for years at a time waiting for that elusive retirement day to arrive. Wake up at 05:30 am; shower; get dressed; eat something for breakfast if you up to it; hit the road and sit in the gridlocked traffic or queue up for the bus or train; Get into the office; check your email; small talk; see what is on the schedule for today. Check the clock, 5 minutes have passed. Sneak a quick look at social media; wish you were on holiday like the people on Instagram; focus; there is an insurmountable pile of work that you need to get through today. Today is the day that you will get on top of everything. Where to start; do you finish the work that you could not get to yesterday or should you leave that for when you get a gap later during the day. There is never a gap, you know this. Where does one start? Check the email, see if there is anything urgent. The phones rings, you answer. Of course, right away Sir you hear yourself answering to the voice on the other side. Scribble a note and stick it to your monitor. You wish you had more time in the day to get everything done. You glance back up at the clock, it has barely moved. Damn it, this day is taking forever. Let me get to work, I cannot wait to get home and just relax and leave this work behind me. I need a break. Come on man, focus, there is so much to do, where did I put that note now…..
And so, it goes. Day after day after day. We end up creating stress in our own lives. Sure, work is stressful, but we also contribute to the level and the experience of that stress. This stress gives us our adrenaline spike. Adrenaline feels good. More stress equates to more adrenaline. On top of this, our society has reached a point where most work conversations revolve around who is the busiest, who works the longest hours; who has gone for the longest stretch without taking leave? We wear these labels as a badge of honor.
Adrenaline, by its nature, was designed for short intense kicks. The release thereof triggered by the fight or flight syndrome which is embedded deep within the old reptilian part of our brain. Many of us are so hooked into the system and we run on such high levels of stress that we are permanently calling on our adrenal glands to help us out. When the adrenaline runs out and the kick is no longer sufficient we seek excitement elsewhere. Drinking, Drugs, Promiscuous Sex, we start taking big risks hoping for the kick.
Extreme sports junkies sometimes deal with the same challenges. How do they experience the same rush when they are not participating in their sport?
Where does this lead? What is the end result of living like this?
I guess that there are as many outcomes as there are people who have this type of experience. Some of the extreme outcomes manifest in suicide; heart attacks; strokes; nervous breakdowns; burnout; disease. But what about the people that manage to evade the negative outcomes mentioned above, what happens to them?
I am not sure, my guess is that they get to look back on a life of boredom maybe. A life not fully lived. A life that has largely passed them by and left them with no means of regaining that which was lost.
What can one do about this? How does one create excitement within the parameters of our life routine? Can we keep the boredom at bay?
I am figuring it out for myself. I have not worked for almost a year now. Believe it or not, there have been moments when I was bored, but they were mere moments. Brief ponderings of what to do given my circumstance at the time, not periods of boredom. Those do not exist for me anymore. I have learned to be disciplined in the pursuit of doing that which excites me. It might sound strange that one needs to discipline themselves to do something exciting, but believe me, without the discipline, your mind will conjure up all sorts of tasks that are more important than having fun. Yes, there are certain things that need to be done, but my approach to them now is one of gratitude and purpose rather than boredom and a chore.
If you find yourself feeling bored, stressed and you feel like you are living on adrenaline. STOP!
Pause for a moment and consider if this is how you choose to feel. Is this how you really choose to live? If not, I invite you to choose differently.
Join me on a 12-week transformational journey from the comfort of your own home. Through one on one online coaching, I can assist you in creating the excitement that is missing from your life.