Does Happiness Feel Boring?

Updated on May 8, 2020
Holley Hyler profile image

Holley Hyler is an IT consultant and published freelance writer living in New York.

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Is This It?

Does true happiness feel… boring?

It may not seem so if you pay attention to social media. People go out of their way to take the most amazing couple or family photo, perfect smiles plastered in place and standing in front of beautiful landscapes. Influencers who claim they once hated their jobs appear to have the time of their lives leading spiritual retreats in Bali and churning out books that you read diligently on your Kindle, trying to figure out the secrets to a life filled with sunshine, rainbows, and half-naked Jason Momoa-like dancers.

Meanwhile, you finish work (that you dislike) to start on your evening routine, which involves making dinner or picking up takeout, watching some TV, maybe having a few drinks (black coffee, in my case, as I write this). If you are especially blessed, you have a cat or dog that snuggles up to you. Maybe you can even sleep next to your special someone. He or she always wraps an arm around you before falling asleep, but not without whispering, “I love you.”

And yet you sometimes catch yourself wondering, “Is this all there is?” The most exciting thing you have done lately is score one star on a very hard level of Beyond the Kingdom 2. You stare at a picture on your news feed of the Northern Lights, your partner’s snoring beside you bringing you back to reality. You remember you have an 8 AM meeting and grudgingly put away your travel dreams for the kind that will end with your alarm’s obnoxious noises at the butt-crack of dawn.

Meanwhile, you know people are suffering – without jobs or steady income, without a person who understands or a pet to keep them company. It could even be worse than that. You may have lived through something like this, and you remember how it was. How lonely you felt. How you worried about making rent the next month. This makes you feel even guiltier for feeling bored sometimes.

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Boredom, Goals, and Appreciation

Yes, sometimes it is boring when all our needs are met, we do not have any intense emotions urging us on, or the next goal we have is not essential. (I do not need a beach house in St. Augustine, but it would be nice.) We should not stop ourselves from reaching for more, even when we have everything we need. Holding yourself back from what you want does not help anyone. In fact, it could suppress your potential to be your best self for others. If you keep putting off that trip to Europe because it feels frivolous, then you will miss out on all the inspiration it would have offered for your next article or book that would help hundreds, even thousands, of people.

If you are not ready to go for your next goal yet, then boredom can be a launching pad for being more present and mindfully appreciating what you already have. For example, if you are in a steady and healthy relationship: “I know who I will wake up next to every day, and I know he will never leave me wondering about his whereabouts or make me think I did something wrong.” If you have struggled with abandonment, or you have experienced being “ghosted,” you can enjoy this contrast of certainty and reassurance, of knowing you are loved.

Getting Used to Stability After Trauma

Where we can run into trouble is when we have become so used to instability and pain that we subconsciously create them. When we have been hurt, our negativity bias stays on the alert. The boredom feels especially uncomfortable. When your partner makes what they feel is a loving gesture (going silent when angry so as not to say something they regret), you interpret it through your past lens ("they are leaving me"). You make it mean something that aligns more with your past, your heartache. Your emotions take hold and the situation spirals into something you never wanted it to be.

Those who use life’s more painful moments to grow become conscious of that. They recognize the pattern and can stop it in its tracks a bit better, so that the spiraling never happens; at the very least, it does not happen as often.

When you are used to a mind rattled by anxious thoughts, and that was your norm, stability feels terribly dull.

When there is nowhere in particular that you need to go, nothing that you want with a passion, after you have been used to chasing, chasing, chasing… it even feels depressing.

You are bored, because you no longer need to engage in the numbing agents you grew so accustomed to in your pain. Love and attention used to be your drug of choice; when you heal, you learn to stop “using.” You do not need anyone to give you a hit. You are still creative, but it is different now. You did some of your best work in the thick of your despair and longing. You do not want to go back to that place, but you cannot seem to drum up anything new with that intensity and beauty of feeling. You wonder if this is the price of happiness.

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Happiness Does Not Cost Anything

Just as you got used to living in despair, now you are getting used to life feeling more wholesome. Give yourself some time.

Happiness and love come with no price. They are absolutely free. They can be created, even if one is alone. Thinking there is a “cost,” a down-side, is a learned way of thinking that comes from being hurt.

Boredom is not a bad thing. In fact, I enjoy being bored.

I enjoy some of the same things that happen every day – the way our kitten nuzzles up to me when I wake up, purring and happy to greet me. Our other kitty and how much she loves treats, her enthusiasm for food and water as the indication of her good health. How my fiancé tells me he loves me and is here when I go to sleep and when I wake up. The nightly routine may feel monotonous due to the Covid lockdown, but routine can be good. It helps me come down from the stress of the workday. I can appreciate the block of time where looking at a screen is a choice for me – I do not have to answer messages or e-mail if I am not feeling up to it. The lack of distractions and new things to stimulate my mind frees it to think of the ways I am blessed.

It is not wrong of you to wonder, “Is this all there is?” In fact, it makes sense if you have healed from things in your past that were quite different from your present. Stability and ever-present love do not offer the intensity that you were used to. Even so, boredom is a luxury.

So be bored. Sometimes, it is what happiness feels like.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Holley Hyler

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      • Kyler J Falk profile image

        Kyler J Falk 

        2 weeks ago from Corona, CA

        This is about to be a long quote from my favorite movie "Waking Life", but this wonderful article reminded me of it and for that I thank you. Sounds to me like you've come to understand that higher realm of existence, and that's beautiful!

        "There are two kinds of sufferers in this world: those who suffer from a lack of life and those who suffer from an overabundance of life. I've always found myself in the second category. When you come to think of it, almost all human behavior and activity is not essentially any different from animal behavior. The most advanced technologies and craftsmanship bring us, at best, up to the super-chimpanzee level. Actually, the gap between, say, Plato or Nietzsche and the average human is greater than the gap between that chimpanzee and the average human. The realm of the real spirit, the true artist, the saint, the philosopher, is rarely achieved.

        Why so few? Why is world history and evolution not stories of progress but rather this endless and futile addition of zeroes. No greater values have developed. Hell, the Greeks 3,000 years ago were just as advanced as we are. So what are these barriers that keep people from reaching anywhere near their real potential? The answer to that can be found in another question, and that's this: Which is the most universal human characteristic - fear or laziness?"

        -- University of Texas at Austin philosophy professor Louis Mackey

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