Boredom Is Just Misplaced Attention

June 19, 2023 Joanna Satterwhite

Like everyone else, I sometimes feel bored with my life. Boredom is a derivative of expectations that haven't been met; when I'm bored, it's because I feel like I'm not living the life I ought to be. This can be true in the micro-sense of being bored at work or in the macro-sense of being bored with a career trajectory itself, to name just two examples. If not your job, you might be bored with your family, partner, living environment, or any number of other things, up to and including yourself. But did you know that boredom and attention are linked?

Boredom Is an Attention-Based Issue, Not an External One

Classical solutions to boredom involve changing something in your external environment, doing something new, or otherwise introducing a novel input into your existing routine. These might work, but they're fundamentally unsustainable. Novelty-seeking is an addiction as much as drug or alcohol abuse is. The best solution to boredom begins with understanding that it's a choice. You've made a choice to put your attention in a place other than the exact moment in front of you and, thus, have become bored. Once you see your apathy as a choice you've made, it's easy to make a different one and re-distribute your attention back into the present. 

Focus Your Attention and Never Get Bored 

To explain how attention and boredom are liked further, allow me to tell you about my weekend. I'm writing this on hour 48 of a trip to visit my brother and his family in rural Louisiana. There's no town to speak of where they live, and any outdoor activity is off the table due to the sweltering temperatures outside. I've enjoyed chatting with my brother and sister-in-law, but no one would blame me if I admitted to boredom. Shockingly, I haven't grown bored. I credit my 20-month-old niece with teaching me how not to be. She's in the same torpid environment as me and subject to the same oppressive heat, but it never bothers her because she's an expert at thrusting her attention onto exactly what's in front of her like a raw green bean, a bit of fluff on the ground, or the weird way her dad yawns. All of it is fascinating to her—she hasn't been bored a second of her entire life.

I spoke with a Buddhist once who told me that our attention goes to what we are most curious about. Boredom happens when we lose curiosity about the present, but it disappears when we re-invest our curiosity into what's actually happening. The key to my niece's verve for life is that she's always curious about what is going on around her. We can do this, too, shifting our curiosity and, subsequently, our attention away from the past or future and back into the moment. When we do this, the world turns from grim and gray to technicolor. 

See Also

APA Reference
Satterwhite, J. (2023, June 19). Boredom Is Just Misplaced Attention , HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 19 from

Author: Joanna Satterwhite

Joanna is a writer and teacher based in Atlanta. Find her on Substack and Instagram

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