I was inspired to write this article after reading and commenting on another blogger’s post which outlined the typical basic things to do for your self-care. Actually, my real reason for this article was my comment to that blogger’s post, rather than the content per se. In that comment, I mentioned how you needed variety to keep things fresh, otherwise your self-care stuff will become ineffective. So, welcome to my article on how to avoid stale self-care and boredom by making time for some variety and randomness.
What Is Boredom?
Kruk and Zawodniak (2018) defines boredom as being a mild, unpleasant, and sometimes painful state that causes a person to disengage from what’s going on around them through a combination of dissatisfaction, disappointment, inattention, annoyance, and a lack of motivation. Although a simpler definition comes from Fisherl (1993), stating that boredom is a transient state borne of a complete lack of interest in a given activity, or lack thereof.
Why Variety Is Good
Much like a balanced diet where eating a variety of foods helps maintain a balance of good bacteria in our digestive system (Cleveland Clinic), which keeps us healthy, variety can help with maintaining good mental wellbeing as well.
The problem with routine is that well, it’s routine. Routine may be fine with getting ready for bed or getting up in the morning, but it’s not great if you want to enjoy your life. We can’t help put fall into routines as our brains are lazy and it requires less effort to fly on autopilot through your usual routines. This is how you can drive home without remembering how you got home.
There are several ways to add some variety into your life. In fact, I’ve written a couple of articles using such methods. I wrote about how you could use dice to keep your fitness routine from going stale. I also wrote about how you could craft a self-care jar to mix up your self-care routine. However, this time it’s about dedicating the entire day to doing something new and/or different to your typical routine.
But what works for exercise and minor acts of self-care isn’t the kind of variety I’m thinking of this time. Etkin and Mogilner (2016) conducted eight studies into ‘variety of activities’ and ‘time’ to determined how they interact to create happiness. The findings from these eight studies showed that time could play an important role in how variety gives us happiness. Doing something different for an hour could decrease happiness, whereas doing something different for a day would increase happiness. The reason that filling short periods of time doesn’t always create happiness is because it’s harder to keep coming up with activities to do to occupy your time.
I think Etkin and Mogilner (2016) eight study design makes a good point about variety. To truly immerse yourself in something new, you need to give yourself more than 10 minutes here or an hour there. Coming up with seven activities that lasts an hour will be less effective than coming up with one activity that can last seven hours.
Plus, a study by Pettigrew et al. (2019) which used 189 middle aged participants (average age was 56.6 years-old) to see how engagement in lifestyle activities affected cognitive decline, found that engagement with lifestyle activities could slow cognitive decline and thus work as a buffer for Alzheimer’s disease. And the best way to keep cognitive decline away is to keep your activities diverse.
Spicing Things Up With Randomness Variety
So here we are. This is where I’m going to pitch you my interpretation of variety. I want you to dedicate a day, or a weekend if you can, to doing something new and random each month. You can do this by planning what new and random thing you’ll do for the end of the month, or you can just decide on the day. Your choice. For example, make the last weekend or last Saturday of every month your day to do something you don’t normally do during the rest of the month.
What matters is you break from your routine and do something you wouldn’t normally do. Maybe you’ll go away for a weekend getaway one month, try ballroom dancing the next month, and go check out a new museum exhibit the month after that. The world is your oyster, as they say.
If you want to stick to the spirit of it all, get your local paper out or Google what’s going on in your area the day before, and pick something (or several something’s) from what’s on or what’s new, and do that.
But if you wanted to do more long-term variety of activities, then you could pick courses from your adult education collage. Once you’ve completed the course, you can then pick a new one to do and do that, and so on and so on.
As always, leave your feedback in the comments section below. Also, feel free to share your experiences of trying to add variety into your life in the comments section below as well. Don’t forget to bookmark my site and if you want to stay up-to-date with my blog, then sign up for my newsletter below. Alternatively, get push notifications for new articles by clicking the red bell icon in the bottom right corner.
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Unwanted Life readers.
Etkin, J. & Mogilner, C. (2016). Does Variety Among Activities Increase Happiness?. Journal of Consumer Research, 43(2), 210–229. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucw021 and https://anderson-review.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Etkin-Mogilner-JCR-2016-Variety-and-Happiness.pdf.
Fisherl, C. D. (1993). Boredom at work: A neglected concept. Human relations, 46(3), 395-417. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1177/001872679304600305 and https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.679.9851&rep=rep1&type=pdf.
Kruk, M., & Zawodniak, J. (2018). Boredom in practical English language classes: Insights from interview data. Interdisciplinary views on the English language, literature and culture, 177-191. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Mariusz-Kruk/publication/325661590_Boredom_in_practical_English_language_classes_Insights_from_interview_data/links/5b4c5abcaca272c6094753f4/Boredom-in-practical-English-language-classes-Insights-from-interview-data.pdf.
Pettigrew, C., Shao, Y., Zhu, Y., Grega, M., Brichko, R., Wang, M. C., Carlson, M. C., Albert, M. & Soldan, A. (2019). Self-reported lifestyle activities in relation to longitudinal cognitive trajectories. Alzheimer disease and associated disorders, 33(1), 21. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6389389, http://europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC6389389&blobtype=pdf, and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Anja-Soldan/publication/328617876_Self-reported_Lifestyle_Activities_in_Relation_to_Longitudinal_Cognitive_Trajectories/links/5c3cf5de299bf12be3c894de/Self-reported-Lifestyle-Activities-in-Relation-to-Longitudinal-Cognitive-Trajectories.pdf.