Cannabis, alcohol, and other drugs are often used as a way to fend off boredom. Even if boredom is a modern luxury, it’s an important threat to think of in terms of addiction. In this article, we explore the reasons that boredom occurs and how to overcome boredom without always resorting to the joint or the bottle.
Maybe boredom is a modern luxury — it’s not exactly easy to trace a state of mind through human history. Even if it is a modern affliction, it’s definitely not a luxury, but a state of mind that precedes compulsive or addictive behaviours.
For most of us, boredom is a haunting crisis with the utility of life. For some creative minds, it’s also a motivational factor towards innovation and creation. But for many of us, boredom can lead to using drugs, cannabis, or alcohol in a non-productive way. Boredom is felt viscerally as stressful, despite the fact that the definition of boredom is very much the contrary.
That fact that boredom can feel stressful is something most bored people will relate to. It’s because there’s this underpinning psychology that life shouldn’t be boring, and there should be some sense of accomplishment or achievement in life. Which starts to point at some of the reasons why people might become bored.
Psychology is just as interested in the concept of boredom as we are. As important information for people using cannabis in the modern world, we’re presenting some juicy research that might help in mitigating unhealthy use of cannabis, alcohol, and other drugs.
Why do humans get bored?
Boredom has been the subject of many psychological and spiritual conversations. As much as boredom happens to virtually everybody at some point, it strikes us as odd that humans should have… nothing to do. Or even have the feeling that there is nothing to do.
And essentially, boredom is the feeling that there’s nothing to do.
Even in the presence of logical reasoning that tells a person that there is definitely a lot to do, the feeling of boredom can still be stressful and overwhelming. Let’s have a look at some of the reasons that psychologists think humans get bored.
Monotony and repetition.
Boredom can result when a task or job is extremely repetitive or a person lacks interest in the details of that task. It’s a kind of mental fatigue, which can ultimately lead to a lack of desire and a feeling of entrapment in boredom.
The need for novelty.
Let’s be honest — some of us get bored much faster than others (enter Geminis). What’s that about? There’s this overzealous need for more excitement, always. Those who get bored quickly feel that the world is moving slowly and the only way to speed it up is by seeking experiences. Extroverts are particularly prone to boredom compared to introverts, to whom the inner world is vastly more interesting than the outer one. And the extroverts are more likely to seek external stimuli such as drugs and alcohol.
Issues with attention.
There is some sort of relationship between boredom and attention disorders that’s worth exploring. In one study, boredom-prone individuals scored lower on measures of sustained attention. The inability to pay attention for long enough fits in with the concept of monotony and repetition, whereby the particular details that make a task unique are completely missed. In this case, they’re missed not because there’s something boring about the task, but because attention can’t be maintained for long enough to find those details.
A lack of freedom.
Those whose freedoms have been stripped away from them are also more likely to feel bored. Think about what a prisoner goes through in solitary confinement, or even in a regular prison cell where many of life’s liberties aren’t awarded. The inability, because of a lack of freedom, to engage with the things we love about life ultimately can lead to boredom with life as a whole.
Why do humans resort to drugs, alcohol, and cannabis to swathe off boredom?
There’s not an awful lot of research that answers this question, and it’s not like modern science knows what the biological mechanism behind boredom even is. But from what we know about why humans become bored in the first place, we can hypothesize about why many people resort to drugs, alcohol, and cannabis.
In many ways, boredom can be perceived as the “lack of something” — something interesting, intriguing, exciting, or at all worthwhile. It’s not because there’s nothing worthwhile in life, and that’s why we consider boredom to be irrational. But once there is that feeling, for whatever reason brought it there, drugs are a very easy way to solve the problem.
Alcohol, cannabis, and drugs are “easy” ways to switch off negative emotions, even if it’s just a bandaid treatment. It’s easy for the bored person to replace feelings of boredom with feelings of euphoria, drunkenness, or even sleepiness.
It gives the mind something to do. And it’s worth saying that this “something” isn’t necessarily a creative or productive thing to do. It can be counter-productive, and if it’s used repetitively in this way, extremely counter-productive and even harmful to mental health.
Cue-induced or stress-induced drug-taking (whatever kind of drug it is) is almost always indicative of addiction. Whenever that stressor presents itself, it is very easy to fall into the habit of deflection with drugs, cannabis and alcohol.
Working your way out of boredom-induced cannabis use.
The thing is: it’s okay to use cannabis and alcohol with friends as a way to socialise and pass the time in a fun, positive way. But when you’re the kind of person who experiences boredom regularly, that kind of cue-induced cannabis use can lead to addiction.
So how do you work your way out of that or avoid that all together?
This is kind of existential. It could be as simple as checking around the house what needs to be done and doing that instead. But we know it’s not that simple or that easy, and that the problem is more profound than that.
I think boredom is, more than anything, an existential crisis. A battle, if you will, between the absurdist view that life is futile, and the desires that form the basis of human life and evolution. Overcoming boredom requires finding a purpose, something that interests and engages the brain in a challenging way. It absolutely has to be challenging, otherwise, it doesn’t work to cure the boredom.
There has to be a real-life way to make what you’re doing fun, rather than just trying to find fun things to do. And it really is all in the detail. If you’re a musician who’s bored by your music, it’s perhaps time to learn a new skill within your musical genre or instrument. If you’re a professional who has become bored with their work, it might be time to aspire to new achievements such as a promotion or starting your own business.
The whole idea is to create the sense that the things you do in your everyday life are meaningful enough without the addition of chemicals. Going for a walk is interesting enough when you can pay attention to the flowers and the birds and families walking their dogs. Studying is interesting enough when you have a passion for the topic.
And so we see that boredom isn’t really a lack of something — it’s the lack of connection to… well, everything. In ancient Greek medicine, that connection (or desire) is called the Vital Force. It is the same “fire” that drives creation, progression, and life as a whole. Without the “desire” for life, life simply doesn’t occur, and neither do experiences.
As cliche as it might sound, falling in love is the best remedy for boredom. Having someone or something to care about and to take care of, is in my opinion, one of the most necessary ingredients for overcoming boredom — especially the kind of boredom that leads people to drug abuse. It’s because love is the least boring thing in this whole world. When you’re in love, you simply can’t be bored.
Are you a boredom prone person, and do you find yourself inclined to use cannabis or other drugs when bored? We would love to hear from you in the comments.