October 29, 2020

Making Good Friends

Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Anne Artley, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. Last updated: June 2019.

Why are friends so important?

Our society tends to place an emphasis on romantic relationships. We think that just finding that right person will make us happy and fulfilled. But some research shows that friends may actually be even more important to our psychological welfare. Friends bring more happiness into our lives than virtually anything else.

Friendships have a huge impact on your mental health and happiness. Good friends relieve stress, provide comfort and joy, and prevent loneliness and isolation. Developing close friendships can also have a powerful impact on your physical health. Lack of social connection may pose as much of a risk as smoking, drinking too much, or leading a sedentary lifestyle. Friends are even tied to longevity. One Swedish study found that, along with physical activity, maintaining a rich network of friends can add significant years to your life.

But close friendships don’t just happen. Many of us struggle to meet people and develop quality connections. Whatever your age or circumstances, though, it’s never too late to make new friends, reconnect with old ones, and greatly improve your social life, emotional health, and overall well-being.

Know what to look for in a friend

A friend is someone you trust and with whom you share a deep level of understanding and communication. A good friend will:

  • Show a genuine interest in what’s going on in your life, what you have to say, and how you think and feel.
  • Accept you for who you are
  • Listen to you attentively without judging you, telling you how to think or feel, or trying to change the subject.
  • Feel comfortable sharing things about themselves with you

As friendship works both ways, a friend is also someone you feel comfortable supporting and accepting, and someone with whom you share a bond of trust and loyalty.

Focus on the way a friendship feels, not what it looks like

The most important quality in a friendship is the way the relationship makes you feel—not how alike you seem on the surface, or what others think. Ask yourself:

  • Do I feel better after spending time with this person?
  • Am I myself around this person?
  • Do I feel secure, or do I feel like I have to watch what I say and do?
  • Is the person supportive and am I treated with respect?
  • Is this a person I can trust?

The bottom line: if the friendship feels good, it is good. But if a person tries to control you, criticizes you, abuses your generosity, or brings unwanted drama or negative influences into your life, it’s time to re-evaluate the friendship. A good friend does not require you to compromise your values, always agree with them, or disregard your own needs.

Tips for being more friendly and social (even if you’re shy)

If you are introverted or shy, it can feel uncomfortable to put yourself out there socially. But you don’t have to be naturally outgoing or the life of the party to make new friends.

  • Focus on others, not yourself. The key to connecting to other people is by showing interest in them. When you’re truly interested in someone else’s thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions, it shows—and they’ll like you for it. You’ll make far more friends by showing your interest rather than trying to get people interested in you. If you’re not genuinely curious about the other person, then stop trying to connect.
  • Pay attention. Switch off your smart phone, avoid other distractions, and make an effort to truly listen to the other person. By paying close attention to what they say, do, and how they interact, you’ll quickly get to know them. Small efforts go a long way, such as remembering someone’s preferences, the stories they’ve told you, and what’s going on in their life.
  • Self-disclosure: the key to turning acquaintances into friends
  • We all have acquaintances—people we exchange small talk with as we go about our day or trade jokes or insights with online. While these relationships can fulfill you in their own right, what if you want to turn a casual acquaintance into a true friend?
  • Friendship is characterized by intimacy. True friends know about each other’s values, struggles, goals, and interests. If you’d like to transition from acquaintances to friends, open up to the other person.
  • You don’t have to reveal your most closely-held secret. Start small by sharing something a little bit more personal than you would normally and see how the other person responds. Do they seem interested? Do they reciprocate by disclosing something about themselves?

Evaluating interest

Friendship takes two, so it’s important to evaluate whether the other person is looking for new friends.

  • Do they ask you questions about you, as if they’d like to get to know you better?
  • Do they tell you things about themselves beyond surface small talk?
  • Do they give you their full attention when you see them?
  • Does the other person seem interested in exchanging contact information or making specific plans to get together?

If you can’t answer “yes” to these questions, the person may not be the best candidate for friendship now, even if they genuinely like you. There are many possible reasons why not, so don’t take it personally!

Tips for strengthening acquaintances

  • Lots of other people feel just as uncomfortable about reaching out and making new friends as you do. Be the one to break the ice. Your neighbor or colleague will thank you later.
  • Bringing up old times makes for an easy conversation starter. Some associations also sponsor community service events or workshops where you can meet more people.
  • Track down old friends via social media sites. Make the effort to reconnect and then turn your “online” friends into “real-world” friends by meeting up for coffee instead of chatting on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Put it on your calendar. Schedule time for your friends just as you would for errands. Make it automatic with a weekly or monthly standing appointment. Or simply make sure that you never leave a get-together without setting the next date.
  • Group it. If you truly don’t have time for multiple one-on-one sessions with friends, set up a group get-together. It’s a good way to introduce your friends to each other. Of course, you’ll need to consider if everyone’s compatible first.
  • Be the friend that you would like to have. Treat your friend just as you want them to treat you. Be reliable, thoughtful, trustworthy, and willing to share yourself and your time.
  • Be a good listener. Be prepared to listen to and support friends just as you want them to listen to and support you.
  • Give your friend space. Don’t be too clingy or needy. Everyone needs space to be alone or spend time with other people as well.
  • Don’t set too many rules and expectations. Instead, allow your friendship to evolve naturally. You’re both unique individuals so your friendship probably won’t develop exactly as you expect.
  • Be forgiving. No one is perfect and every friend will make mistakes. No friendship develops smoothly so when there’s a bump in the road, try to find a way to overcome the problem and move on. It will often deepen the bond between you.

Fear of Rejection

It helps to evaluate your attitude. Do you feel as if any rejection will haunt you forever or prove that you’re unlikeable or destined to be friendless? These fears get in the way of making satisfying connections and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Nobody likes to be rejected, but there are healthy ways to handle it:

  • Just because someone isn’t interested in talking or hanging out doesn’t automatically mean they’re rejecting you as a person. They may be busy, distracted, or have other things going on.
  • If someone does reject you, that doesn’t mean that you’re worthless or unlovable. Maybe they’re having a bad day. Maybe they misread you or misinterpreted what you said. Or maybe they’re just not a nice person!
  • You’re not going to like everyone you meet, and vice versa. Like dating, building a solid network of friends can be a numbers game. If you’re in the habit of regularly exchanging a few words with strangers you meet, rejections are less likely to hurt. There’s always the next person. Focus on the long-term goal of making quality connections, rather than getting hung up on the ones that didn’t pan out.
  • Keep rejection in perspective. It never feels good, but it’s rarely as bad as you imagine. It’s unlikely that others are sitting around talking about it. Instead of beating yourself up, give yourself credit for trying and see what you can learn from the experience.

Thought Starter Questions for Sharing

  1. What qualities have meant most to you in good friends?
  2. What traits or qualities would you like to find in friends going forward?
  3. How did you go about developing a long-term friendship?
  4. How did you go about making a recent new friend?
  5. What helpful information did you find in the tips above?
  6. How can you deal with the fear of rejection?
  7. How can you deal with real rejection?

October 22, 2020

Being Seen

Respect is not fear and awe; it denotes, in accordance with the root of the word (respicere = to look at), the ability to see a person as he is, to be aware of his unique individuality. Respect means the concern that the other person should grow and unfold as he is. Respect, thus, implies the absence of exploitation. I want the loved person to grow and unfold for his own sake, and in his own ways, and not for the purpose of serving me. If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be as an object for my use. (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving, 1956)

The businessman, the manager, politicians, and authoritarians share a mental habit of scrutinizing: they expertly assess people’s suitability and divide them into friends or enemies, insiders or outsiders, accomplices or victims. When everyone is judged only as means, rather than as ends, the capacity to see people for who they are diminishes. (Theodor Adorno Minima Moralia, 1951)

It follows that denying the strangeness of another person – their difference, what we don’t know about them, their life, their interiority – amounts to a supreme wrong.  Respect makes room for the other person’s difference, so that it is not trivialized or smoothed out in the name of human universality. Tact keeps a respectful distance, so as not to impose one’s subjectivity on other people.  One ought to be wary of feeding the imaginary of a relationship, (Roland Barthes, How to Live Together, 1977)

It is strange to feel invisible. I don’t remember exactly when it began to happen. The only thing I know is that I am not seen much anymore when I walk by people on the street. It is a little discomfiting, a little bittersweet. To be seen—to be desired, to be a person and not simply a role—is a beautiful human need no matter what our age is. (Man in his 70’s)

In South Africa, the people greet one another on the road by saying, “Sawubona.” It means, “I see you.” The answer is “Here I am.” In other words, you are not invisible to me. You are someone. 

You know that old trees just grow stronger
And old rivers grow wilder every day
Old people just grow lonesome
Waiting for someone to say, “Hello in there, hello.”

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, “Hello in there, hello.” (singer/songwriter John Prine)

Thought-Starter Questions

  1. What experience have you had with not being seen as you are?
  2. What factors do you think lead to not being seen?
  3. What reactions did you have? Thoughts? Emotions? Reactions?
  4. How has not being seen affected your attitudes? Your behavior?
  5. Who gives evidence of seeing you clearly?
  6. Whom do you see clearly?

October 15, 2020

When is life at its best?  Positive psychologists Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Jeanne Nakamura say it is when you are in a state of mind they call “flow.” He has also referred to this state as “optimal experience.” The flow state describes a feeling where you become fully immersed in whatever you are doing.

     You may have experienced that sense of fluidity between your body and mind, where you are totally absorbed by and deeply focused on something, beyond the point of distraction. Time feels like it has slowed down. Your senses are heightened. You are at one with the task at hand, as action and awareness sync to create an effortless momentum. Some people describe this feeling as being “in the zone.” This is the flow state and it’s accessible to everyone, whether you’re engaged in a physical activity, a creative pursuit, or even a simple day-to-day task.

     “There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity: you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other; you get immediate feedback,” Csikszentmihalyi said in a 2004 TED Talk.

     When you’re giving your fullest attention to an activity or task that you are incredibly passionate about, singularly focused on, and totally immersed in, you may find yourself creating the conditions necessary to experience a flow state of mind. The mind’s usual chatter begins to fade away, placing us in a non-distracted zone. The feelings that would consume you under normal circumstances (inhibition, hunger, fatigue, or aches and pains) melt away, and all that matters is your dedication to your craft.

You lose awareness of time. You aren’t watching the clock, and hours can pass like minutes.

You aren’t thinking about yourself. Your awareness of yourself is only in relation to the activity itself, such as your fingers on a piano keyboard, or the way you position a knife to cut vegetables, or the balance of your body parts as you ski or surf, the needle point project, the flow of thoughts as you write, the feel of wood being crafted.

You aren’t interrupted by extraneous thoughts. Instead, you are completely focused on the activity—mastering or explaining a line of thinking in your work, creating tiers of beautiful icing for a cake, or visualizing your way out of a sticky chess situation.

You are active. Flow activities aren’t passive, and you have some control over what you are doing.

You work effortlessly. Although you may be working harder than usual, at flow moments everything is “clicking” and feels almost effortless.

You are challenged. Flow experiences occur when there is a balance between the challenge of an activity and the skill you have in performing it (see “High skill + high challenge = flow”). When your skill is high but the challenge is low, boredom is the likely result. Set the challenge too high, though, by undertaking something that is way beyond your skill, and you’re out of the flow again.

Invite Flow Experiences

  • Aim to surprise yourself and discover new things about your abilities and the activity.
  • Choose an activity that can provide you with new feelings, experiences, and insights, and allow your feelings and awareness to flow without attempting to interfere.
  • Pay attention to your bodily sensations and posture.
  • Overcome the urge to stop at every mistake. You are likely to be at your best when you focus on what you want to accomplish or experience and don’t allow mistakes to be distracting.
  • Accept that physical symptoms of nervousness are normal and will naturally ease off once you get going.
  • Try to work or play with others.
  • Maintain your sense of humor.

Thought-Starter Questions for Sharing

  1. When is your earliest memory of being really good at something?
  2. What contributed to your proficiency?
  3. How difficult was it to gain proficiency?
  4. How did you feel when involved in this activity?
  5. How did your feelings differ when involved in activities in which you were less proficient?
  6. What other activities in different stages of life have had the same kind of effect on you?
  7. What factors detract from getting full benefits of being in “flow” or in “the zone”?
  8. What opportunities do you have for new “flow” activities?
  9. Can past “flow” activities be applied to this stage of life?

October 9, 2020

Emotional Intelligence

Self-awareness: The ability to monitor one’s own emotion state and to correctly identify and name one’s emotions. Hallmarks include self-confidence, realistic self-assessment, and a self-deprecating sense of humor

Self-regulation: The ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, and the tendency to suspend judgment and to think before acting. Hallmarks include trustworthiness and integrity; comfort with ambiguity; and openness to change.

Internal motivation: The drive to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status (external motivators) – such as an inner vision of what is important in life, a joy in doing something, curiosity in learning, a flow that comes with being immersed in an activity. A tendency to pursue goals with energy and persistence. Hallmarks include a strong drive to achieve, optimism even in the face of failure, and organizational commitment.

Empathy: The ability to understand the emotional makeup of other people. A skill in treating people according to their emotional reactions. Hallmarks include expertise in building and retaining relationships and networks, cross-cultural sensitivity, and exemplary service.

Social Skills: Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks, and an ability to find common ground and build rapport. Hallmarks include effectiveness in leading change, persuasiveness, and expertise building and leading teams.

The good news is that emotional intelligence tends to increase with age, even without deliberate interventions. That’s a way of saying that many people mature with age.

Also, we can increase emotional intelligence by observing and copying people who are good at it. Even better is finding someone who can coach you.

Emotional intelligence coaching produces higher levels of happiness, mental and physical health, improved social and marital relationships, and decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). 

Thought-Starter Questions:

  1. Who made you feel comfortable in their presence? 
  2. What did they do that made you feel comfortable?
  3. What were they good at in interacting with other people?
  4. Did you pick up any skills from being around people who were socially adept?
  5. What skills have noticed in your interactions with other people?
  6. Do you consider yourself as effective as most other people you know?   Less effective?  More effective?
  7. How effective have you been in making choices about relationships?  Spouse? Friends?  Mentors? Colleagues?
  8. What have you learned as a corrective?
  9. How are your interpersonal skills important at this stage of life?
  10. What ways can you use your emotional intelligence now?

October 1, 2020

HELP YOURSELF

          In his book Happier, Harvard professor Tal Ben-Shahar writes about the insights of people with terminal cancer:

An open confrontation with death allows many patients to move into a mode of existence that is richer than the one they experienced prior to their illness. Many patients report dramatic shifts in life perspective.  They are able to trivialize the trivial, to assume a sense of control, to stop doing things they do not wish to do, to communicate more openly with families and friends, and to live entirely in the present rather than in the future or the past. As one’s focus turns from the trivial diversions of life, a fuller appreciation of the elemental factors in existence emerge: the changing seasons, the falling leaves, the last spring, and especially, the loving of others. Over and over they say, “Why did we have to wait until now to learn how to value and appreciate life.”

          The answer, of course, is that they didn’t.  It was simply that their shift in perspective made them acutely aware of what they knew all along.  They had within them the knowledge of how they should live life.  They had been ignoring the knowledge or unconscious of it.

          We are living in a crisis time.  Multiple social, political, and health factors have disrupted the familiar routines that we had learned to count on.  Now we will decide whether to remain in a bruised, numb, pitiful condition or to shift our perspective about our existence. If, indeed, we have the knowledge that we need, then now is a good time to use it.

          William Glasser, originator of choice theory and reality therapy, said there are steps to addressing a problem.  When we look at them, we probably say, “Well, sure, everybody knows that!”  What everybody doesn’t do is apply the steps to situations that are disrupting our lives. I am suggesting that we access the knowledge that we already have to help ourselves.

Step 1: Identify and Describe the Problem

All  of us are trying to make sure we meet five basic needs.

  • Survival, or the comfort of knowing that our basic physical needs met
  • Love and belonging, or being part of a family or community of loved ones
  • Power, or a sense of self-worth and achievement
  • Freedom, or independence
  • Fun, which includes a sense of satisfaction or pleasure

When one or more of these needs go unfilled, we feel it in the here and now. So, the first step in helping yourself is to identify where you are feeling deprived. 

If more than one unmet need is bothering you, then each one should be met separately. 

Step 2: Make a Plan

The plan should address only one problem at a time.  Wishing the problem will go away is not a plan. Be practical about your capabilities and resources.

Including other people in the plan, as advisors and helpers, is acceptable.

Step 3: Work the Plan

Follow through on the plan enough that you give it a chance to work.

Step 4: Evaluate the Plan

Did the plan work as hoped? Did you work the plan?

Step 5: Revise the Plan

If the plan did not gain desired results, what changes could be made?  If you did not work the plan, what incentives can motivate you more?

Step 6: Repeat the Cycle

Thought Starters Questions:

Can I clearly identify and describe what is bothering me?

If several things are, then what is bothering me the most?

How effective was I at making a plan?

To what extent did I involve other people as advisors or helpers?

How carefully did I follow your plan?

What affected my application of the plan?

What aspects of the plan need changing?

Inevitable Choices of Aging

  1. Chooser or Victim

Making Choices or Feeling Powerless

  • Adaptable or  Rigid

Adapting to Life’s Stages and Circumstances or Being Captive to Futile Habits

  • Aware or Oblivious

Fully Aware of Physical and Emotional Realities or Hiding Behind Diversions

  • Purposeful or Adrift  

Having Satisfying Purpose or Drifting in Search Of Pleasure

  • Fulfilled or Surviving

Meeting Basic Human Needs or Settling for Survival

  • Real or Roles

Showing True Self in Relationships or Presenting Acceptable Impressions

  • Peaceable or Contentious

Seeking Harmony in Mind and Relationships or Being Constantly Aware of Irritations

  • Spiritual or Physical

Attending to Intangible Influences or Heeding Only Physical Reality

  • Helpful or Self-Absorbed

Helping Others or Obsessed by My Own Needs

  1. Together or Solitary

Part of Genuine Community or Emotional Separation

Thought Starters, Sept 24, 2020

Our goals and aspirations are an important part of our life stories. An account of how we grew up and lived our life includes the goals we have had and the things we have been striving for. For some persons, goals may remain the same throughout life, but this is not necessarily true for everyone. Experience may have taught us that we should change our goals or trade in our aspirations for new ones that better fit with the realities of our lives or our changing values. What have you been working to attain or achieve in your life, and what kind of person have you tried to be?

  1. When you were a child, whom did you want to be like, or what kind of person did you want to become when you grew up?
  2. Did your role models change during adolescence? In what way?
  3. Where did you find your models – in the family, movies, or other sources?
  4. Which characteristics of your ideal self or ideal model were most important to you – accomplishments, athletic ability, appearance, money, reputation, creativity, philosophy, religion, or something else?
  5. How important were your teachers and education in shaping your goals? Did they lead to changes in your goals and your ideas about what you wanted to achieve in your life?
  6. Have you changed your goals during your life? How?
  7. What experiences or major events influenced the changes?
  8. What do you think have been the most important achievements of your life?
  9. Looking back over your life, would you now pursue different goals? What would they be?
  10. What aspirations do you have now, and what goals do you have for your future?

Meeting Format on Thursdays, 1:00-2:30 pm on ZOOM

This group is a fellowship of men and women who share experience, strength, and hope with each other so that we will all learn how to maintain happiness.

We remind ourselves of choices that lead to happiness. (from Older, Wiser, Happier by P. Clay Carter).

We are likely to be somewhere along the continuum rather than at one extreme. By reading, we remind ourselves of the crucial choices that are affecting our well-being.

  1. Chooser or Victim

Making Choices ___________________or_____________________Feeling Powerless

  • Adaptable or  Rigid

Adapting to Life’s Stages and Circumstances __or ___Being Captive to Futile Habits

  • Aware or Oblivious

Fully Aware of Physical and Emotional Realities __or____ Hiding Behind Diversions

  • Purposeful or Adrift  

Having Satisfying Purpose ___________or Drifting in Search Of Pleasure

  • Fulfilled or Surviving

Meeting Basic Human Needs _________or________ Settling for Survival

  • Real or Roles

Showing True Self in Relationships ____or______ Presenting Acceptable Impressions

  • Peaceable or Contentious

Seeking Harmony in Mind and Relationships or Being Constantly Aware of Irritations

  • Spiritual or Physical

Attending to Intangible Influences_____ or Heeding Only Physical Reality

  • Helpful or Self-Absorbed

Helping Others ____________________or _ Obsessed by My Own Needs

  1. Together or Solitary

Part of Genuine Community _________ or _______ Emotional Separation

  • At this time we will give our names and share what has our primary attention at this time.
  • Relaxation  – 12-14 minute guided relaxation

Ground Rules

  1. We respect and maintain the confidentiality of the group. What is said in the group is not to be repeated or discussed at any other time or place.
  2. We may share what we have said or felt in the group, without reference to other group members.
  3. We listen respectfully and avoid giving advice.
  4. We have the right to ask questions of the group, but refrain from asking probing questions of other group members.
  5. We accept people just as they are; we avoid making judgments.
  6. We give everyone an opportunity to share.
  7. We have the right to speak and the right to remain silent.
  8. We give supportive attention to the person who is speaking and avoid side conversations.
  9. We avoid interrupting. If we do break in, we return the conversation to the person who was speaking.
  10. We talk about what is present to us now and avoid telling lengthy stories about the past.
  11. We do not discuss group members who are not present.
  12. We each share the responsibility for making this group work.
  • Speaker for the Day and Topic for the Day
  • Members are invited to speak as they wish, keeping in mind our ground rules.
  • Serenity Prayer.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.

Thought Starters, Sept 17, 2020

BOREDOM

A boring tool was a kind of drill that worked slowly and repetitively. In the 1700’s the term “bore,” meaning “to be tiresome,” became a popular slang term.

SYNONYMS. weariness, ennui, lack of enthusiasm, lack of interest, lack of concern, apathy, uninterestedness, unconcern, languor, sluggishness, accidie, malaise, world-weariness.

The opposite of boredom is peace. Boredom can be stressful in that a person is resisting the now, thereby creating inner tension. If boredom is resistance to how we experience the present, then the opposite of being bored is non-resistance to the now, which is peace.

Opposite of the state of feeling or being bored:

awe

ambitious

amusement

animation

challenge

cheer

competitive

concern

contentment

curious

diversion

empathic

encouragement

energy

entertainment

enthusiasm

excitement

exhilaration

fascination

feeling

gladness

happiness

hopefulness

incitement

inspiration

interest

invigoration

joy

liveliness

motivation

pleasure

provocation

reverence

refreshment

serenity

stimulation

sympathy

tastiness

variety

vigor

 

Reducing boredom requires that individuals solve the problem that produced it: not having sufficient activities or mindsets that are both meaningful and optimally challenging.

To prevent boredom and keep it away, we need to find solutions that provide lasting meaning and challenge.

1. Remind yourself why you’re doing this

     People generally prefer doing something to doing nothing. As staying home is the most effective way to prevent the further transmission of the coronavirus, it is meaningful to socially isolate. However, it may not always feel that way.

     Like all emotions, boredom is about whatever you’re thinking at the moment. That means staying at home will only feel meaningful when we’re actively thinking about the greater good it does. For instance, in studies, when students were prompted to reflect on why their schoolwork mattered to them personally, researchers found that their interest in learning increased.

In other words, reframing our activity changes how we feel about it.

Creating simple reminders, such as a note on the fridge, or a morning meditation, can help us keep the big picture in view: Staying home is a sacrifice we’re actively making for the good of others.

2. Find a rhythm

     Routines structure our days, and provide a sense of coherence that bolsters our meaning in life. People’s lives feel more meaningful in moments when they’re engaged in daily routines.

     We lose those routines when we give up going to work, or volunteer activities, or when we are laid off. Even retirees or stay-at-home parents are disrupted by closures to cities, restaurants and schools. This loss of routine can foster feelings of boredom.

By creating new routines, people can restore a sense of meaning that buffers them from boredom.

 

3. Go with the flow

     Figuring out what to do when faced by long days unstructured by work or school can be hard. A recent study of people in quarantine in Italy found that boredom was the second most common issue, after loss of freedom.

     One thing that makes such situations hard is that it can be tricky to find activities that are just challenging enough to keep one occupied, without being too demanding.   This situation can leave people bored and frustrated.

     It helps to keep in mind that what counts as too challenging, or not challenging enough, will shift throughout the day. Don’t force yourself to keep at it if you need a break.

4. Try something new

     Boredom urges many of us towards the novel. Embrace that urge, judiciously. If you have the energy, try a new recipe, experiment with home repairs.

     Doing new things not only relieves boredom, it helps acquire new skills and knowledge that may relieve boredom in the long run. For instance, we feel a surge of interest when we read an interesting novel or go through complex experiences, but only if we have the capacity to understand them.

     Evidence shows that embracing new experiences can help us lead not only a happy or meaningful life, but a psychologically richer one.

5. Make room for guilty pleasures

     It’s okay to binge on television, if that’s all you can handle at the moment.

We sometimes paint ourselves into a box where our most meaningful hobbies are also mentally taxing or effortful. For instance, digging into a classic Russian novel may be meaningful, but it doesn’t necessarily come easily.

     Similarly, well-intentioned suggestions for how to cope at home, such as hosting a virtual wine-and-design night, may be simply too exhausting to be pleasurable at a time when many of us are already struggling.

     Give yourself permission to enjoy your guilty pleasures. If need be, reframe those moments as much-needed mental refreshment, nourishing and recharging you for a later date.

6. Connect with others

     Finding easy meaningful alternatives – bite-sized options that don’t take much effort, but that we find deeply rewarding – can be a challenge.

     Luckily one good option is open to us all: connecting with others, whether virtually or in-person.

     Looking at old photos or reminiscing with a friend are simple meaningful actions most of us can take even when we’re not feeling our best.

     One does not need a reason to call up a friend. Our best socializing is the kind that happens casually, in the unstructured time between scheduled activities.

     Create room for that virtually as well. Next time you’re pouring a glass of wine or watering the plants, call up a friend while you do it. Make dinner together. We don’t have to be bored when we’re all in this together.

Thought Starters For Sharing:

  1. When have you experienced boredom?
  2. What situations seem to create a feeling of boredom?
  3. What are the emotions that you associate with being bored?
  4. What do you say to yourself when you are bored?
  5. What strategies have worked well for you in coping with boredom?
  6. What patterns in your life keep you from being bored?
  7. What tips or thoughts in the material above seem helpful?

God, grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.  Amen