Feeling bored, flat and unmotivated? Here are some things that can help

This article was first published on May 28 2021

If you've been feeling bored, you're not alone. Pandemic-related restrictions have made it hard for us to get out and do many of the things we enjoy doing and it's not surprising that this can make us feel flat and unmotivated. Research has shown that boredom has been a major challenge for young people during the last year. Here, four young people give us the lowdown on how they manage their feelings of boredom.

Top tips for dealing with boredom and low motivation

1. Be kind to yourself

Remember, lots of people have been bored, flat and unmotivated during the pandemic. You're not alone. Be kind to yourself and notice what you're feeling without judging yourself. It's been a tough year and it's understandable to feel this way.

2. Notice and record time spent on daily activities to see what helps

Noticing your feelings when you're doing different activities is so important. You can make a record of the things that you find rewarding or fun and try to schedule more time into your day to do those things.

3. Work out what matters or is important to you

Spend some time thinking about what really matters to you – what your values are – and which activities are in line with that. If you can find the intrinsic value in activities, you are more likely to do them. This video might help you find your driving force!

4. Do more of what matters

Plan activities that are in line with your values, like doing something nice for someone else or something that helps you move in the direction of your goals. Quite simply: work out what is important to you and then try to do more of it!

5. When you're feeling unmotivated, start doing something anyway

Start with a small step, even if you don't feel like it. Feelings of motivation usually appear after you've started to do something. Although there are limits and restrictions at the moment, think of what you can do, however small. And be sure to take note of your progress and what you've achieved, rather than the end goal. Getting started with a small step is a big achievement when you feel unmotivated.

6. Notice and pay attention to how it feels to do what you are doing

It is important to try and “get out of your own head” when doing an activity: instead pay attention to everything that is going on around you (e.g. sounds, smells, tastes). Reflect on how it felt: did it feel good? Do you want to do it again?

7. Imagine positive future images in detail and imagine the steps needed to get there

Mental images can have a really powerful effect on your mood. What do you look forward to doing? Imagine it with as much detail as possible, work out the steps you need to take to get there and if there are any obstacles, think of how you can remove them.

8. Try to notice and address any negative ‘self-talk’ that's getting in the way of enjoyment or motivation

Negative thoughts like 'I'm no good at this,' or 'What's the point?' can get in the way of your enjoyment. Notice these thoughts and gently challenge them. Think again about your values and why you want to do this activity. Try to replace thoughts like 'I should..', 'I have to...' with 'I want to...' and focus on the why.

9. Make a commitment to others

If you plan to do something, it can be helpful to tell others about your plan as a way of committing to it. You can also plan to do things with others, where possible and doing things for others can have a positive impact on your wellbeing.

10. Seek help when it's needed

If feelings of boredom and low motivation are causing distress or interfering with daily life, it's important to speak to someone about them. There are some links to support below.

If you need support

You should always tell someone about the things you’re worried about. You can tell a friend, parent, guardian, teacher, or another trusted adult. If you're struggling with your mental health, going to your GP can be a good place to start to find help. Your GP can let you know what support is available to you, suggest different types of treatment and offer regular check-ups to see how you’re doing.

If you’re in need of in-the-moment support you can contact Childline, where you can speak to a counsellor. Their lines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

There are more links to helpful organisations on BBC Action Line.

The advice in this video and article is based on the findings of the Emerging Minds Co-Ray Project, led at the University of Oxford. You can find out more about the project and get further advice here

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