Fight Boredom – Take Action!

If you’ve ever felt stuck in a rut or bored, relax. You’re not alone! In fact, someone even went so far as to have an entire month – July – dedicated to anti-boredom.

What’s the Cause?
Psychologists have studied what fuels feelings of boredom and found that awareness and attention are important factors. They say that at the heart of boredom is the desire to engage in a satisfying activity, which requires attention. And when a person is unable to do this, frustration and “boredom” set in. This feeling is not only unpleasant but has been correlated with overeating, drug abuse, gambling and low productivity and performance errors at work.

Boosting Attention
Though there’s not a great deal of research on coping with boredom, caffeine has been widely studied for its role in enhancing attention – an important element in preventing boredom. As little as one, 8-ounce cup of black coffee with about 100 mg of caffeine has been linked with increased alertness and concentration. The stimulating effects of caffeine begin 15-45 minutes after drinking caffeinated coffee and last about 4 hours. And caffeine’s positive effect on mood and memory has been documented, too.

Keep in mind that more caffeine isn’t necessarily better. Individuals metabolize caffeine at different rates, and consuming caffeine too close to bedtime may affect sleep. Also, caffeinated energy drinks – often targeted at youth – may have high caffeine concentrations, along with other additives.

Change It Up
Realistically, boredom can’t always be avoided. And some experts even argue that it can encourage creative thinking. But if you feel inclined to make a few switches in your daily routine, check out these thought-starters …

Exercise – If you’ve been doing the same thing – or not very much – for quite some time, your muscles and mind may be ready for a change. Grab a friend and try a new class, park or part of town to explore while skating, jogging, biking or walking. And just for fun, read Caffeinated Workouts…the Truth in the Buzz before you go to learn about how caffeine works during exercise and its potential benefits.

Menu – Adding a few new foods to your current routine can add health and interest to your diet. Ask friends who like to cook if they would like to do a simple recipe exchange of their family favorites. And set an attainable goal. Just including 1 or 2 new dishes or foods from the grocery store each week will add variety. Here’s an easy way to enjoy a new, refreshing beverage when it’s hot outside: make cold-brew coffee at home

Sleep – Most experts recommend 7 to 8 hours nightly for adults. If you’re not getting enough, try to get more. It could mean fewer colds, symptoms of depression and even consuming fewer calories.

Free time – Add a new hobby, sport, reading genre, etc., to your repertoire. Or pursue something on your bucket list that’s been there for a long time. July is as good of a time as any to plan and make it happen!

Einother S.J.L. & Giesbrecht T. (2013) Caffeine as an attention enhancer: reviewing existing assumptions. Psychopharmacology, 225(2):251-274.

EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2011) Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increased fat oxidation leading to a reduction in body fat mass (ID 735, 1484), increased energy expenditure leading to a reduction in body weight (ID 1487), increased alertness (ID 736, 1101, 1187, 1485, 1491, 2063, 2103) and increased attention (ID 736, 1485, 1491, 2375) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal; 9(4):2054.

Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.