Tips for Managing and Avoiding Boredom in Addiction Recovery

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Though boredom by itself is not considered a destructive emotion or state or being, it can lead to destructive behaviors, especially for recovering addicts.

There are a variety of methods you can use to combat boredom to not only aid in your recovery, but also to help you live a more productive life. One of the first ways to get rid of boredom is to understand how it impacts you. Consider this: If you are waiting in line at the bank and time seems to go slowly, you might start to wish you were doing something else that would be more exciting.

Effects of Boredom Can be Destructive

There are a number of reasons for your feelings of boredom. According to John Eastwood, a psychology professor at Toronto’s York University, there are three main aspects of boredom:

  1. You aren’t able to engage your mind in a way that can satisfy you.
  2. You view the situation you are in as a problem.
  3. You focus your blame on the environment you are in — meaning you believe that if you had a different environment, you wouldn’t be so bored.

If you follow Professor Eastwood’s analysis of boredom, there are some methods you can use to eliminate or control that boredom.

Methods to Overcoming Boredom in Recovery

Boredom is important for anyone to find a way to overcome, but especially when you are going through recovery. Here are some ways you might be able to beat the boredom:

  • Engage your mind to be satisfied. While some of the tasks you perform while in recovery may seem mundane to you, focus your awareness on the experiences you are having. That means even if you are doing a chore, focus on the steps to complete it. Really concentrate on what you’re doing. You might just notice something you never had before, making your task more interesting.

You might also need to turn off your electronic devices for a little while. While you’re in the midst of watching TV, checking email and Facebook, it seems like you are busy. However, you actually may be experiencing sensory overload — which dulls your ability to focus on any one thing for any length of time. Ideally, spending at least one hour a day not plugged into any electronic device can help your mind find focus and clarity on what’s happening at the moment.
Methods to Overcome Boredom- Turn off Electronics

  • Define your tasks in a positive way. Do you know you need to exercise, but you just don’t feel motivated to do it? Instead of focusing on the exercise itself, take a look instead at how good you feel after it’s done. You can also try varying your activities to keep it interesting. You’ll still be reaping the benefits of exercise, but you won’t get stuck in a rut.

The same concept applies to your recovery. Though you may consider some of the tasks you are completing while in recovery repetitive, focus on what you’re working to achieve — recovery from addiction and a better life.

  • Remember that boredom is a mindset. We all get bored at times when faced with tasks like waiting in lines or sitting in meetings. By actively focusing on the task at hand, it may be easier to combat the mental fatigue. For example, we can make a stagnant meeting seem less boring by concentrating on the issues being discussed, taking notes or trying to learn as much as possible. A long line may seem less onerous when becoming more observant about the people nearby.

When you are coping with boredom in recovery but are still not sure how to avoid boredom and are worried you might relapse into old addictive behaviors, try to eliminate or lessen the boredom by amusing yourself with tasks that interest you. Drawing, doodling or journaling can be creative outlets. Calling a talkative friend who is supportive of your recovery efforts can mentally stimulate you. Listen to upbeat music and avoid music that brings back memories related to addictive behaviors.

  • Try out a new hobby or activity.  This is a great way to not only alleviate boredom, but to improve focus and overall general mental health. The hobby may also give you an avenue to meet new people and establish new friendships.

Think about trying a hobby that you always wanted to do but never had the time. You could start by going to a craft store and looking around at what’s available. Some larger craft stores even have a variety of classes that you can take.

Hobbies that you might want to try include woodworking, knitting, cake making, and jewelry making. In addition to instruction manuals available in craft stores or libraries, you can also find many instruction manuals on the internet.

  • Schedule something fun after a boring task. If there is a boring task to accomplish, schedule a fun event to follow it. Looking forward to doing something fun may lessen the feeling of boredom.

If you need to get your license renewed, for example, and you’ve been dreading it and putting it off, schedule lunch with a friend at a favorite spot afterwards. While you are waiting in line at your Department of Motor Vehicles, you can focus on how much fun you are going to have when you get together with your friend afterwards.
Methods to Overcome Boredom- Schedule Something Fun

  • Get active and change your scenery. If the current scenery is boring, go outside for a walk or jog. Exercise can boost your endorphins, so by getting your blood pumping and increasing your heart-rate, you will increase your sense of well-being.

Sometimes it helps just to have a change of scenery — staring at the same four walls can increase boredom for anyone. If you don’t want to take a walk or run, you might go to your local library and check out some new books. Not only will that change your scenery, but it is also a free activity.

  • Add meditation to your daily routine. Meditation is a great way to relieve boredom and manage stress. Meditation teaches you how to manage your cravings by viewing them with a serene mind instead of following through with those cravings and indulging in alcohol and/or drugs.

Meditation gives you the opportunity to decompress and really focus on yourself and what you need to focus on during your road to recovery. It enables you to truly shut out the world and is a valuable tool for those looking to continue their sobriety.

  • Become an informed person about your world. If looking for another job, look at a variety of job search engine websites. Watch the news on various websites or read newspapers online or in print. Become aware of current political issues and how they might impact an upcoming election.

Not only is becoming informed a great way to alleviate boredom, but it will enable you to become a more educated person and help you interact with others in a well-informed manner.

  • Think about your spiritual nature or connection. If you are already a spiritual person, make more time for strengthening this spiritual side. Get together with people who embrace your spiritual way of thinking. Many people agree that your ability to connect with a higher power will help in the recovery process. If you only spend minimal time at your spirituality currently, consider expanding it to gain a greater spiritual connection and help alleviate some boredom.

Dangers of Boredom

When faced with getting clean and sober, sometimes addicts start thinking their lives will automatically become boring. There is an unspoken belief among addicts that the only pleasure achieved in life is the pleasure derived from indulging in addictive behavior.

Dangers of Boredom: Finding Other Pleasures
Therefore, it is important to understand the possibilities of many other ways to find pleasure in life as well as the dangers boredom presents to recovery.

Why Boredom Occurs

Too much time to think about the past and maybe about what you are missing may lead not only to boredom but to anger and bitterness. When your thoughts about sobriety not being as great as some people say, it may be easy to think about using just one more time.

The dangerous desire to use just one more time is directly linked to the concept of boredom. As boredom is found when people must do something they don’t want to do, can’t do something they want to do, or when they just aren’t interested in what they are currently doing, it can be related to continued substance abuse. Boredom is often why people start using drugs or alcohol or why they continue to use alcohol or drugs. Continued dependency can keep people trapped in an addictive cycle.

While people can become trapped in an addictive cycle with continued use of drugs or alcohol, sometimes drug or alcohol use begins as experimentation when people feel as though they have nothing better to do with their time. And because this initial experimentation can lead to continued use and possible abuse, it is critical to prevent relapse by continuing to focus on how to prevent boredom.

Dangers of Boredom: Relapse

Why Managing Boredom is Important

Though some methods of preventing boredom have been previously mentioned, managing boredom is a very important aspect of addiction recovery, especially during the early months of recovery. Since relapse is most likely to occur during the earliest part of your sobriety, using techniques to manage boredom is vital.

Boredom may set in during recovery when an addict is no longer spending time engaged in addictive behavior and ends up with a significant amount of free time on their hands. If you don’t have enough to do or if you are not keeping your mind busy enough, you may be more likely to experience cravings.

How to Curb Boredom Before It Starts

Though it is very important to have downtime away from electronics and too many stimuli, you need to find a healthy balance so your downtime doesn’t turn into boredom. As soon as the downtime starts to become boring, you need a plan of action. In order to avoid a boredom relapse trigger, try the following measures:

  • Get in touch with your support network. You can call or text someone. Connect with someone who understands addiction, is supportive of your recovery, and is cognizant of how boredom and relapse are closely related.
  • Find new appreciation for your surroundings. Go outside and take stock of nature and its beauty. Learn more about the nature surrounding you by reading about or studying on the flora and fauna in your area.

How to Curb Boredom: Writing

  • Start journaling or writing every day. Write about the past, the present, and the future you envision-free from addiction. Journaling is a great way to track your progress and see how far you have come as you continue each day free from addiction.
  • Get out and visit someone who is homebound. Go see an elderly friend or someone who is in the hospital. Thinking about and responding to the needs of others will allow you to focus on the needs of someone other than yourself.
  • Start an exercise regimen or join a gym. Regular exercise will not only alleviate boredom, but it will help you become fit and healthy. A sound mind and a sound body go hand-in-hand.
  • Embark on a plan to get healthy. Get some new cookbooks at your library or download healthy appealing recipes. Make grocery shopping fun rather than a chore when searching for ingredients to try out some of the new recipes.
  • Start blogging for your health or wellness. You can use your blog to help others who are overcome by addiction so they can learn how to become clean and sober. A blog is also a great way to hone your writing skills and possibly even achieve a following.
  • Write down new goals for yourself. Think about the things which may now be achievable without the burden of addictions. While you may have a timeline for achieving your goals, don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve the goals designated by your timeline.
  • Take a trip alone or with a sober friend. The trip can be as simple as a short drive or a longer weekend away. If you can’t afford a long trip, try something as simple as going to a nearby town for antique shopping.

How to Curb Boredom: Reading

  • Start reading whatever you want to read. Read anything you want and think about re-reading a favorite book from your youth. Reading is a great way to escape into another world, and you may become immersed in the stories of the characters.
  • Keep your mind engaged and active. Start doing crossword puzzles, word searches, or jigsaw puzzles. You can subscribe to online puzzle services or purchase puzzle books that will keep you busy for many hours.
  • Get involved in your community or neighborhood. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, a canine shelter, a local church, or anywhere in need of volunteers. Getting involved is not only a great way to alleviate boredom. It will give you confidence and enable you to give back to your community.
  • Embark on long overdue home improvement projects. Completing these projects will improve your home and provide a great sense of accomplishment while keeping boredom at bay.
  • Start an organization project in your home. Focus on the areas of your home often overlooked because organizing them was too time-consuming. You will be amazed at how rewarding it will be when the project is finally completed.

When trying these activities to avoid boredom, be sure to try as many of them which interest you to avoid becoming too focused on any one activity. Intense focus on any one activity could lead to another type of addictive behavior which may be just as dangerous as your addiction to drugs or alcohol. The likelihood to replace one addictive behavior with another is greater for someone who has already faced addiction.

Change Your Thinking to Avoid Boredom

In addition to focusing on activities to try to overcome and curb boredom, learning how to control your initial way of thinking about things is also important to your recovery. Changing your way of thinking means you will learn how to manage any emotional tendencies towards getting bored.

Coping with Boredom

Managing the emotional tendencies towards getting bored is a step you can take even if you can’t or don’t want to engage in activities which have been suggested. You need to develop an emotional understanding that coping with boredom is a skill which can be developed. Think about the coping mechanism in this way. When you were a child, you became bored more easily. Yet as you get older, you learned how to cope with boredom much better.

You will be able to cope with boredom if you can develop certain skills, though you must remember that like anything else, these skills require practice. And the element all of these techniques to avoid boredom have in common is to help curb the effects of “ego depletion” which may be more likely to happen when you have longer stretches of boredom.

What is Ego Depletion?

To define ego depletion, it is important to look at how the brain works. When you have cravings and urges hit during periods of recovery, the triggers of cravings are often environmental stimuli. There is also evidence proven by neurological testing showing that the power of self-control is centered to a certain part of the brain which controls our behaviors that are impulsive and result in instant gratification. In order to stop those cravings to engage in the impulsive behaviors, you must use quite a bit of brain or cognitive strength.

Stop Cravings for Instant Gratification

The diminishing of the cognitive powers is called ego depletion. An example of this is when people in a study were told not to eat cookies placed in front of them, they later had difficulty when tasked with not spending a large amount of money.

What the ego depletion theory means in the process of addiction recovery is that if someone becomes resistant to using one substance, this resistance may make it more likely they will not be able to resist the craving to use another substance.

How to Change Your Thinking

It may not be easy, but you will need to restructure your thinking so you will be less likely to become bored. Methods you can use to change your thinking to help combat boredom and avoid ego-depletion include the following:

  1. Control your daydreaming. What this means is you will take a rest from an activity you find boring. You will need to have a list of activities to think about during your short periods of daydreaming. These activities may include things like how you would spend your money if you won the lottery or mental games such as trying to remember the names of all of the state capitals.
  2. Start a pre-bucket list. Write down a list which includes the names of places you have always wanted to visit and start to implement the list. It may also include items such as going back to college to finish your degree or learning how to play the guitar. While you may see this as merely setting goals and implementing them, the reason this technique is effective is because it is a reinforcement for the technique of daydreaming and will make you organize your time more effectively. The end result is you will have less unstructured time which often leads to boredom.
  3. Educate your support group of friends. Let them know about the importance of avoiding boredom. Engage them in discussions about your mental coping skills and how to avoid the ego depletion that can lead to impulsive addictive behaviors. Your network of supporters can assist you when they know your boredom will be at an all-time high. They know these times are probably the best to schedule time to meet or talk to you.

How to Combat Boredom: Restructure Your Thinking

It is important that you understand your sponsors and friends helping you through your recovery are not ultimately responsible for your choices and your behavior. However, they should be aware that their responsibility of merely making sure you go to your support group is not enough to assist you with maintaining your sobriety. They should be planning on talking with you or meeting you if you reach out to talk to them about your fear of being bored.

Next Steps

If you are at the point in your life where you are currently engaging in addictive behavior but have decided you need to do something about it, you should contact 12 Keys Rehab. Body, science, and family is at the center of our recovery program at 12 Keys. 12 Keys’ recovery program is very different from the program in other recovery centers. What sets us apart is our program is designed in such a way as to provide our clients with recovery not only during their stay but for the rest of their lives.

12 Keys is a rehab center that is certified and employs board-certified addiction professionals. Our caring staff created treatment programs designed so the client is comfortable during the recovery process. 12 Keys also makes a great effort to make the environment suitable for clients who are engaging in conquering their addictions despite the emotional difficulties patients will encounter.

Instead of the model of many drug and alcohol rehab centers where there is an environment which mimics a hospital and restricts the amount of communication with anyone on the outside, 12 Keys believes our method of “real recovery” is a better way to help those who are struggling with addiction to alcohol and drugs.

To get information about 12 Keys and our programs, contact us today.

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