I am hearing a lot about boredom, restlessness and agitation these
days. The restrictions and limits we are dealing with are beginning to
lay heavy on the majority of us. Even home bodies and introverts
are finding the stay-at-home and safer-at-home orders to be a bit confining. Lethargy, loss of motivation and depression are creeping in on us.
Research tells us that we can boost our mood through activity, however that doesn’t mean occupying ourselves with any old thing. It is finding something that has meaning for each individual. If it is a meaningful activity that is combined with one of our values, it becomes “super charged” to improve our mood.
There are three categories of activities that will boost your mood:
1. Activities that bring us pleasure. This is an activity that you look forward to doing. My morning coffee is one of the great pleasures of my life. When I wake, I can almost taste it. The anticipation, the smell while it is brewing, and thoughts of that first sip get me out of bed! For someone else, the idea of coffee is awful, but that person has something else that gives them pleasure. It could be a morning run, an afternoon walk, a kiss, a hug, a favorite television show, or their pets’ happy faces. The list of possibilities is endless.
2. Activities that accomplish something. These activities can range from getting ready in the morning to projects that take months to complete. For some cooking a meal qualifies, while others find value in growing a garden, cleaning the house, learning a new language, or exercise. Again, the list is endless and highly individualized.
3. Activities that overcome avoidance. These projects are things that have been put off over and over again. It is the thing that you know you need to do but will do anything to start. That project that sits in the back of your mind, forgotten but still nagging at you.
Plenty of activities fit into more than one category. For example, exercising may fit in the pleasurable category for one person, may be an accomplishment for someone else, and may fit with a value of doing healthy activities for yet another person. If you have been avoiding exercise for a while, it may even be overcoming avoidance. Put activities in whatever category it fits in for you. The important thing is to do activities in each of the three areas during the week.
Many of the things we do, we do because we have to or need to do them in order to make life run smoothly. However, there are also things we do because we enjoy them, such as making photo books after a vacation. If we take that activity we enjoy and add one of our personal values to it, that act becomes extra special, and can be one of those “supercharged” mood-boosters. For example, if you value your friends, then making a photo book for a friend of candid shots you took at their wedding becomes something extra special. So does loving to cook and taking dinner to a sick friend, or enjoying yard work and helping a friend tame an out of control yard. That task that you enjoy becomes infused with more meaning and value. It entertains you and makes you feel good about yourself at the same time.
How Do I Actually Make Myself do Something?
Thinking about and deciding what you want to do is just the first step. For this to be effective, you have to take action. This is where many people get tripped up, and where the door opens for that harsh inner critic to enter the scene. Not taking action can make you feel worse and rob you of your energy and motivation.
It is important to schedule your activities. I know a woman who has exercise as one of her recurring meetings on her schedule. When asked if she can meet at that time, she will respond that she is unavailable. Find a friend whom you can talk to about what you want to do and set up a “check in” so that you will be supported in your move forward.
Ask yourself what you will do to avoid what you have planned. Be sure to answer that question honestly. You will know the answer because you have done it before. Take steps to help yourself identify and avoid your procrastination. John has been told that it is best to walk in the morning. However, he hates to walk in the morning, so he has never been able to make it happen consistently. He finally decided to schedule his walk after work. He finds that it helps him burn off the stress of the day and helps him sleep better. Now he looks forward to his walks.
As you go through this process of lifting your mood and eliminating your boredom, pay attention to the balance of your activities. Are you in the habit of doing only what you enjoy and avoiding the things that are not pleasurable? Do you not allow yourself to have fun until all the work is done and therefore never have fun? Find a balance of these activities and you will find that you will feel like a weight has lifted from your shoulders. You will discover that you are less bored, less restless and less agitated. Your mood will be lighter.