Joe's Memos

Feeling Bored or Burnt Out? Try Less Hyper-Stimulation

If you often find yourself bored, burnt out or in a slump, limiting your exposure to hyper-stimulation might put you in a better state of mind.

We live in a hyper-stimulating world. Our dopamine and serotonin receptors get slammed all day. Music on the commute, TV news in the office dining room, glowing computer screens everywhere, impatient emails, sugar-packed treats, coffee, coffee, coffee. After a while, we start to need hyper-stimulation to feel anything at all.

Your receptors are burnt out. You want to do something different, but nothing seems interesting or exciting. You try star gazing, but you get outside and find yourself bored in just a couple minutes. You try yoga, but you lose focus with that too. You meet up with a couple friends. Sadly, the experience leaves you unsatisfied, bored. Life seems so bland.

The problem could be that your friends are uninteresting, but it’s more likely that the situation didn’t give your brain’s receptors as much dopamine or serotonin as they’re used to. Your brain is accustomed to huge hits of caffeine and adrenaline and bright lights and loud noises, and…squirrel! The simple, quiet parts of life have become futile and dull because they don’t produce enough dopamine for your dopamine receptors which, thanks to the constant hyper-stimulation, have developed a very high tolerance.

We aren’t meant to live like dogs, chasing the first thing that stimulates our minds. As humans, we are the only beings on Earth that can freely act against our animal instincts. That means we can make changes to improve our lives. It means you can climb out of that slump.

You do have to climb a bit before you get to a better place. Because you will limit your exposure to hyper-stimulation, your boredom may increase at first. It will take time for your brain to adjust to a calmer, less stimulating lifestyle. However, when your brain recalibrates, the simple parts of life will once again bring you joy. Grabbing lunch with a good friend will make you happy. Seeing a cardinal in a tree during a snowy walk will cause your heart to flutter with excitement. Reading a book, an actual full-length book, will be possible once again.

To reset your receptors, you need to remove or limit the amount of hyper-stimulation in your life. Here are some ways you can do that.

  • If you feel bored, remember there is nothing wrong with sitting quietly, thinking of absolutely nothing, being with God, staring into space for a while. That boredom may just be your brain telling you to spend some time with your abba. Spend 7 to 10 minutes every morning in silent prayer. Let your mind wander, but when it comes back, bring your focus back to God.

  • Set time limits on your app usage; particularly on YouTube, dating apps, games, and social media as these are hyper-stimulating.

  • Read for at least 20 minutes each night before you go to bed.

  • Cook dinner as slowly as possible. Don’t buy canned or pre-chopped vegetables. Spend time adding small garnishes that will make your food healthy and beautiful. Make everything from scratch.

  • If you drink coffee, try making it weaker. That way you can still drink the same amount of delicious hot beverage, but with less stimulant (caffeine).

  • Pick up a calm, slow, useless hobby like whittling, bicycle refurbishing, old-fashioned film developing, baking, or a musical instrument.

  • Do some yoga. It doesn’t have to be a specific routine. The basic idea of yoga is stretching mixed with deep breathing. Maybe your back is sore from standing at the Goo Goo Dolls concert all night, so you do some gentle back stretches. Maybe your calves and feet are tight from skiing all weekend, so you do some poses that stretch your legs and feet. All the while, take deep breaths as you move in and out of your stretches. If you need further guidance, take a yoga class or watch a couple yoga routine videos to get some ideas.

  • Develop the virtue of patience by learning about and practicing good-will, humility, and complete trust and abandonment to God.

“God is secretly present with the suffering soul, and in reward for patience, it receives a secret strength and peace.”

William Ullathorne, Patience and Humility

Resetting your receptors is about slowing and quieting down, and it might be the difference between a good life and a bad one. Life consists mostly of simple, bland moments. But bland does not mean tasteless. You just have to retrain your brain to taste them. You have to let those burnt out receptors heal.

It’s like switching from Oreos to oranges. Oreos are so packed with flavor that they make oranges seem dull, but when you’ve cut out the sugary sweets, you start to notice the subtle beauty contained in the fruit. Eventually, you come to actually prefer the fruit for its nuances of flavor.

The hyper-stimulating media, messages, and drinks that you consume are like Oreos. They make mild levels of stimulation seem boring. They make everyday life feel bland. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. The next time you catch yourself thinking, “nothing sounds interesting,” or “everything is boring,” consider subduing the hyper-stimulation in your life. Give yourself the opportunity to sense and enjoy the small gifts life has to offer.