You feel bored when your current activity does not engage or interest you. There may be other things that you would like to do or experience, but for some reason you are not doing them now. There are several external factors that can contribute to boredom. The first is a lack of variation: someone who is doing the same thing over and over again, either by necessity (e.g., for their work), or by their own choice (e.g., watching television all day), will at some point be fed up with that activity and become bored with it. The second factor is a lack of novelty: things that are new capture our interest, and if everything that you do and experience is something you have done or seen before, you are likely to get bored. The third factor is a lack of challenge. The flow theory proposes that if people undertake activities that are significantly below their skill level, they will become bored2. Thus, to be engaged, people should push the limits of their skills when working or pursuing their hobbies. A fourth factor is a lack of arousal or excitement. Certain activities that are linked to risk – such as mountain climbing, but also moving to a new city, or trying a new recipe – can alleviate boredom.
It is important to note that internal factors also play a decisive role: Someone can be in a situation that has no novelty, challenge, or excitement, and still be calm and content. On the other hand, someone can be in a place filled with things do and experience, and still feel bored2. Keeping this in mind, we can distinguish three types of boredom3. The first type, which we could call ‘situational boredom’, occurs when you are in a situation in which there simply isn’t much to do or experience. What you lack is access to something to put your mind to. For example, when you are in a waiting room without anything to do. The second type we could call ‘forced boredom’. In this case you are involved in an activity that requires mental effort. However, the activity is not engaging or interesting, and having to do it prevents you from doing other things instead that you would be enjoyable. Here, you lack the freedom to engage in more interesting activities, like when you have to do household chores. The third type of boredom is when you feel bored despite having freedom and access to interesting things, but there is simply nothing that you desire doing. We can call this ‘motivational boredom’. In this case, you lack the motivation to engage in something interesting. When this type of boredom occurs often, it may be linked to depression4.