Wired to Explore – Boredom and Dopamine

Loving the ADHD devil – DAY 21

I always was someone who got bored very easily and very fast. The jobs I had while I was a student needed to change at least once a year, when school spend too much time on one topic, I would loose all my interest and stop going, and I would even try to change my group of friends as often as possible because spending time with the same people bored me. I needed constant change to stay interested in anything and when change didn’t come or took too long, I would find myself feeling utterly bored.

I did not ever imagine I would be capable of staying home for more than 3 months without going crazy. I expected I would run back to my job after just a few weeks. I expected myself to start looking for anything that would provide me with new interests within a short period of staying home. However, after spending over 3 months inside my own little house, locked down in my breakdown, I not once encountered boredom.

Of course I have times I’m not sure what to do, times I just sit on my couch trying to figure out my next activity, but not once did I experience the so familiar feeling of boredom. Even the past couple of days, in which rain prevented me from staying outside, I never felt unsure about what to do, my house didn’t became too small and time just rushed by.

Low energy or low standards?

The lack of boredom is something I find very strange. It could have something to do with the low amount of energy I have due to my breakdown. There are so many things I really want to do each day but just can not start with my current energy level that I never ran out of things to do. Besides, the low amount of energy also asks me to just do nothing for a while sometimes, I can sit on my couch just recharging and although it seems like a boring thing to do, for me doing nothing is actually what I need at that moment.

This would mean that once I get better, I will start feeling bored again. I mean, before all of this I was getting bored after just 2 or 3 weeks at home and in the way this boredom used to be a sign I was ready to start working again, the same thing can happen in my process of recovery, it just takes much longer to get bored than it used to do before.

But what if I’m wrong? What if I won’t get bored, no matter how much time I spend at home? Sometimes I start wondering if my lack of feeling bored is more than just a lack of energy. It could be possible that the life I live now will never get boring, it could be that staying home, writing, taking care of my plants and bunny or painting, is actually what I truly enjoy to do. Which would mean that going back to my old life would never come naturally, and won’t truly be something good for me.

The lack of feeling bored scares me, is my energy just way too low or am I supposed to stay at home for the rest of my life? Both of these options are far from what I want to believe in.

Wired to explore

According to science, boredom is a biological problem, our brains are simply not wired for routine and repetition. It turns out we all own a part inside our brain that’s called the ventral striatum, or “seeking system” which urges us to explore what we don’t know, and when we do, this part of our brain delivers dopamine to reward us, making us feel more alive and satisfied when we do new things.

When we’re in the rut of routine for the 502nd time, this part of our brain shuts off. Your brain is saying” “You’re better than this. We’re not build for this. We’re built for bigger things” Then the brain stops the release of dopamine, which makes it seem not only boring but that it takes forever

D.M. Cable – Alive at Work : The Neuroscience of Helping Your People Love What They Do.

Again it comes down to dopamine, this magical neurotransmitter that seems to be the cause of so many ADHD struggles. Probably the reason why I’m so familiar with boredom, since ADHD brains have a problem with managing dopamine levels, and we need constant rewards and challenges to stay interested and feel good about life.

Burnout is the biggest journey I’ve ever been on

But how can science describe me not getting bored after so many days inside my own little house? Maybe it’s not just about energy or being completely free to do what I want in a day. Maybe it’s about exploration! I’m surrounded by the same things every day, even the things I do during each day don’t often change, however, I have never done more exploring than I do these days.

Until now, I saw my current life as something boring but the opposite is true. I might spend all my days sitting in the same spot, but inside me I am on the biggest journey I’ve ever been on. With every post I publish I discover something new and everything I find out feels like a reward. Finding my true self might be the biggest challenge I have even started in my life and the daily progression I notice is more rewarding than anything I have ever experienced. Everything I find out directly changes the way I feel, every discovery makes me feel better and brighter and every little thing gets me closer to my true goal: understanding who I am.

I should be proud of not feeling any boredom. It doesn’t mean I don’t have enough energy, it doesn’t mean I’m supposed to stay home for the rest of my life, instead, it means that I’m doing good, that I’m making enough progress to remain interested. Not getting bored means that working on myself is what I truly need right now and that I’m good enough at it to remain motivated to keep going.

Boredom tells us something

I remember how I couldn’t get bored after my grandpa passed away, even when I spend 3 weeks alone at home in my summer holiday. Now I understand that this was a sign that I needed more rest and time to deal with my loss, that I needed to work on myself. On the other hand, I used to get bored at work all the time, which I should have understood as a sign that I was focussing on the wrong things in my life, that work was not what I needed.

Understanding boredom gives me trust in myself. I believe boredom can be a great help in figuring out what is important for you. Of course, everyone will encounter some boring days at work, but when boredom occurs daily, with everything you do, there is probably something else that needs your attention.

Time flies when you’re having fun, but fun doesn’t always needs to be something enjoyable, instead it means doing something that is important for you at that moment. During my first weeks at home time rushed by while I was just crying on my couch, which means I really needed to cry at that time. Today, time passes fast when I write and reflect on myself, meaning I truly need to discover myself as well as find a way to deal with what has happened during all the years before. There will be a time that my house becomes too small again, and this will tell me it is time to start working again, and hopefully this will provide me with the reward I need to keep enjoying my days. If not, I probably have to change something in the way I live again.

Keep exploring and never accept being bored

I used to think that balance in life was staying home when work got boring and returning to my office once my house would start to bore me, but there is much more. Boredom is not just about what you do, it is about how you do things and how you feel. In a good life, things shouldn’t get boring, meaning you should never stop exploring and learning within the routine you have created for yourself.

How? Set goals, know what you want in life and never ever stop celebrating your successes, not matter how small they are. Life is supposed to be more than just work and routine, and if you’re able to stay true to yourself in everything you do, you will never get bored. Boredom is just a mindset, a feeling deriving from a fear of letting go of what we know. Stop surfing the internet or watching TV series you don’t really like and instead use this free time in your routine to so something you truly want, this will change your entire day.

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