Have you ever reached for food simply because you’re bored and eating will give you something to do?
If you answered yes, you’re far from alone. Boredom is one of the biggest triggers for mindless eating for many people.
And if, like most folks, you’re now stuck at home a lot more, you might be even more tempted to turn to food to mix up your day and give yourself a break. I’ve certainly been struggling with this. Over the past week, I’ve often felt like the day has been going on forever and I look at my watch and it’s only 10 a.m.
The impulse makes perfect sense, but that doesn’t mean you need to give in to it. If you’re looking for some help in resisting the urge to eat out of boredom, here are a few tips.
Are You Hungry?
The first question is, are you hungry? After all, you can be both bored and hungry, so it’s important to clarify how you’re feeling if you can.
A good way to do this is to step away from the food and take a few deep breaths. Then focus on how different parts of your body are feeling.
For example, do you have a headache or are you feeling light-headed? Does your stomach feel empty or is it growling at you? Are you a little queasy? Do you feel unexpectedly tired? (Check out this article for more ways to distinguish true hunger.)
Those are all physical symptoms of hunger, and if you’re experiencing them, maybe it’s time to eat! But if not, you more likely want to eat for some other reason such as boredom. In that case, read on.
Get a Change of Scenery
A good way to get past the urge to eat is with a change of scenery.
Now, I know that’s harder these days when you can’t go many places, but it’s not impossible.
If you can, get outside for some fresh air. Take a short walk – while keeping an appropriate distance from others. Be as mindful as you can, noticing what you see around you and appreciating everything you can.
If you can’t get outside, try moving around the house. Maybe go to a room you don’t normally spend much time in and look out the window. Sit somewhere different than your usual spot and examine it as if you’ve never seen it before. This can help get you out of your impulse to reach for food.
Alternately, check out one of the museums open to visits online, or visit zoos or National Parks remotely.
The key is to get out of your usual patterns to shift your immediate thoughts away from eating.
Turn Off the TV and Connect with Someone
I know a lot of people are watching more shows these days, whether it’s on cable, Netflix, Hulu, or something else. But watching TV can get boring, too, and pretty quickly. It’s also a trigger for a lot of people to eat mindlessly, at least in part because watching a show doesn’t give you much for sustenance. Half an hour might be fun for a distraction, but after that, you might get restless and start eating to keep yourself occupied.
Instead, this could be a good time to connect with someone, and these days, you have lots of options for that. You could send an email or text, or use FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, or other options to see the person you’re talking to. You could even write a real letter and mail it!
Also, depending on where you are and how comfortable you are with this, you could go for a walk with a friend (while keeping an appropriate distance).
The “someone” doesn’t have to be a person, either. You could play or cuddle with a pet or take the dog for a walk, or whatever else is appropriate for your pet. Or if you don’t have pets, perhaps you could watch the birds out your window.
Whatever it is, having some kind of connection is likely going to be more fulfilling than watching something on TV.
You can also find a way to be creative! And this doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t need to learn to play an instrument, become a painter, or try your hand at the Great American Novel – although you certainly can if that interests you.
One of the easiest options is also a lot of fun. Play one of your favorite songs and sing along with it. Maybe even dance around a little. Or if dancing is out, tap your feet or your hands, sway to the music, just something to make it an embodied experience.
You could also color. A lot of folks find it very soothing to color mandalas, and you can find some free ones to print online.
Or you could go the Disney route and color some fun Disney characters. And if you can’t print, perhaps you could order something to have on-hand.
You might also have more specific hobbies, like knitting, writing, drawing, painting, and more – now is a great time to do that! And you don’t have to do it for long. Even 5 or 10 minutes will likely shift you out of boredom.
Many Options to Explore
These days are difficult for many, and they require a lot of patience. You may find that boredom (among other things) sets in more easily, and you want to reach for food as a distraction.
Remember, it's okay to choose to eat in these situations, but you also have lots of other options, even now. I’ve listed just a few above. Do you have any of your own? I’d love to hear them!
I hope that you can find a way to stay present and mindful, as much as possible, and perhaps you’ll even find some new inspiration in all this.