Muuuum, I’m bored!!!!

Has anyone heard that or a variation of it recently? I’ll bet you have! Many years ago, before I had kids of my own, I used to hear my brother-in-law saying to his bored and whining kids “Come on then, I’ll give you a job. I’ve got plenty for you to do.”

If you need help, please call

  • Lifeline- 13 11 14
  • BeyondBlue - 1300 22 4636
  • Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Suicide Call Back Service Online Chat

It was always amazing how quickly they found something riveting of their own to do to when offered the option of  mowing the lawn, vacuuming the loungeroom or doing the washing up.

It may not be quite your style or the modern parent’s way, but my brother-in-law had a point. When faced with a less attractive task a bored person will likely engage with creative ways to solve the boredom problem for themselves.

That’s one of the positive aspects of boredom. It stretches the mind and turns on our creativity to help us find ways to combat the discomfort we feel when we are bored.

Some of us are more easily bored than others. Some of us have learnt to depend on constant external stimulation. The rest of us are more likely to become bored when we are tired or when we are hungry, so there’s part of the solution right there!

It’s not just being tired and hungry that leads to boredom. Nor is it having nothing to do. In fact, you know yourself that when you are bored you can usually identify lots of things you need to do, you just can’t motivate yourself to do any of them.

We are all aware of boredom that comes from too much repetitive activity – so maybe we need to try to mix things up a bit and do that repetitive activity intermittently, taking regular breaks to do other things. People who run large organisations like factories or supermarkets know this and they keep their workers happy by rotating them through different tasks - stacking shelves for an hour then working at the register for another hour then supervising the self-serve aisle for another hour, and so on.

Boredom also comes when the tasks we have to do are either too easy or too hard, or when we aren’t given any choices and feel we are being forced to do things – in other words our lives have become out of our control. My brother-in-law was offering alternatives, providing choices, giving his kids back some control over their lives. He was encouraging them to find solutions to their predicament themselves, and to persevere through the discomfort of the boredom.

Digital devices are useful things, but they are not a good solution to boredom. The shallow engagement that comes from most activity on computers or smart phones actually decreases the user’s ability to concentrate and engage more deeply with thoughts and activities. My brother-in-law had the advantage of raising his kids before digital devices were invented. He knew that when they declined his generous offers and went grumpily on their own way, they were going to engage with deeper more satisfying work or play and find their own creative solutions to their predicament.

We probably need to bear all that in mind when we are faced with our bored children – not to mention the boredom we are feeling ourselves.

{{commentCount}} comment(s). You must be logged in and AHPRA verified to view and comment. Log In here.

Dr Jan Orman

Jan is Sydney GP, private psychological medicine practitioner in Sydney’s inner west and a GP educator for Black Dog Institute.

The latest healthcare news from medcast

A tree change is in the wind
A tree change is in the wind

Change seems to be the theme of 2020. In our region, as with many in Australia, it started with bushfires, before a jump to the left into ‘COVID Capers’.

Writing your COVID worries away - (with Andrew Gan and Dr Jet)
Writing your COVID worries away - (with Andrew Gan and Dr Jet)

COVID and all its attendant inconveniences (I guess some would say “tortures”) has forced many of us to revise our personal wellbeing plans and dig out some old strategies that we haven’t used for a while. It’s also made some of us realise that ma...

Malignant Hyperthermia
Malignant Hyperthermia

Malignant Hyperthermia is a rare and potentially life threatening genetically inherited condition that can be triggered by drugs commonly used in anaesthesia. If it is not recognised and treated in its early stages, MH can be fatal.

Restless Leg Syndrome - Podcast
Restless Leg Syndrome - Podcast

Restless leg syndrome is a common presentation in General Practice characterised by uncomfortable sensations in the legs. These sensations are associated with an irresistible urge to move the legs to relieve the symptoms.

Telehealth Fatigue
Telehealth Fatigue

My patients are loving telehealth. They love it so much that most of them are saying they don’t want to come back to face to face consultations. You probably need to bear in mind that my patients are long-term therapy patients that I know very well.

Paediatric Advanced Life Support Standards
Paediatric Advanced Life Support Standards

In order to achieve these standards, it is essential that medical and nursing staff who work with paediatric patients receive specialised education to manage a paediatric cardiopulmonary arrest.

Would learning something new wash your Acedia away?
Would learning something new wash your Acedia away?

Is Acadia running your life right now? Are you, like the solitary monks who used that term in the middle ages, suffering from the combination of boredom, frustration, agitation and lethargy that comes with physical isolation?

COVID conspiracies – should we ignore them?
COVID conspiracies – should we ignore them?

Like me, you probably spend a lot of time talking to people about how they feel about the COVID 19 pandemic, but do you talk to them about their thoughts and beliefs about it?

Medication Spotlight: Paracetamol
Medication Spotlight: Paracetamol

A frequently used medication in community and hospital settings is paracetamol (named acetaminophen in some countries). It has less adverse effects than other analgesics, as it has no effect on platelet functioning and allergies are very rare.

Helping prevent suicide among Australia's Indigenous Youth
Helping prevent suicide among Australia's Indigenous Youth

Suicide in Australia amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples occur at twice the rate of the general population. Young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are at even greater risk, those aged 5 to 17 years, suicide is the le...

COVID-19 – A Clinical Update Webinar
COVID-19 – A Clinical Update Webinar

SARS-CoV-2 pandemic is having an unprecedented impact on global health and economics. Australian GPs are on the frontline and they are forced to make decisions in a medical landscape where the parameters for testing are changing daily and many pa...

Why should we be laughing?
Why should we be laughing?

Right now, most of us are a bit upset in one way or another. Some of us are very upset. Stress, frustration, grief, anxiety, sadness, isolation, loneliness, worry about the present, worry about the future – all these things are rising to the surfa...

Aging Well – a personal perspective
Aging Well – a personal perspective

At 65 and a half (yes, it’s come to that. I’m actually counting the months again!) I find myself reluctantly looking down the barrel of a shotgun labelled “old age”.  It’s OK, don’t panic – I’m not unwell. It’s just that my body hurts and people k...

The CHIME GP study
The CHIME GP study

Clinical and Healthcare Improvement through My Health Record Usage and Education in General Practice

Muuuum, I’m bored!!!!
Muuuum, I’m bored!!!!

Has anyone heard that or a variation of it recently? I’ll bet you have! Many years ago, before I had kids of my own, I used to hear my brother-in-law saying to his bored and whining kids “Come on then, I’ll give you a job. I’ve got plenty for y...

What’s your COVID number? A simple way to keep everyone safe and comfortable
What’s your COVID number? A simple way to keep everyone safe and comfortable

A friend mentioned a really great way for managing this which I have been using and sharing with others. As people are going to have different comfort levels when it comes to spending time together, she told me about sharing her COVID social comfo...

Being Well in Difficult Times - Talah
Being Well in Difficult Times - Talah

It’s always helpful to hear how other people cope.  Over the next few weeks we are dedicating the Being Well blog to a series called Being Well in Difficult Times.  In this blog post we speak to Talah - a a Gumbaynggirr/Yaegl young person who shar...

We’re listening at last to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices in Mental Health
We’re listening at last to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voices in Mental Health

Whilst significant progress has been made in incorporating these voices generally, there is a call for diversity in these Lived Experience voices, namely Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Lived Experience.

Being Well in Difficult Times- Zoe
Being Well in Difficult Times- Zoe

Zoe is a registered nurse working in theatres. She has elderly parents and a young son. How is she staying so positive in the face of CoVID-19?

Eating Disorders in Adults: Assessment & Treatment Options
Eating Disorders in Adults: Assessment & Treatment Options

Eating disorders, broadly defined by disturbances in eating behaviour and distress centred on food, eating, and body image, affect nearly one million Australians. This blog covers the assessment and treatment options for various conditions.

Join Medcast. It's free and you'll get instant access to essential healthcare news, research and more.

Already a member? Log In