Imagine waking up each day with a sense of wonder and excitement. You would easily jump out of bed, excited to see what the day brings. Work would be interesting. You couldn’t wait for the meals you’ll eat. You’d even be excited by your daily commute! This sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately, many of us feel stuck in our daily routine. This is far from the joy I just described.
Boredom is a state all of us experience and there’s nothing wrong with it, except when it becomes chronic. When we’re bored all the time, we end up unengaged with life. Our world feels mundane, uninteresting, and we lose our sense of passion. We can fall into depressed states, become apathetic about our day, and detach from our relationships.
All of these things: feeling engaged, passionate, and interested in life, are foundations of living joyously. Without them it’s going to be tough, if not impossible, to live with a happy and lively spirit. Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to access these great feelings every day!
How to Overcome Boredom
We can’t just break away from our daily routine, travel the world, and explore completely new things. As invigorating as this sounds, it’s not very practical. So how can we engage in our everyday life, without dramatically changing our routine?
It’s all by fostering a childlike curiosity. This alone can help you rejuvenate your interest in the life you already are living, even without changing a single part of your routine. This desire to explore hones us in on the present moment, which creates a powerful sense of wonder towards even the most regular things. We start to realize that everything, even our routine, is a completely new experience.
Practices to Develop a Sense of Wonder
Buddhism has really got this down. I remember reading once about a concept called “beginner’s mind.” Now, I’m not a Buddhist (and I want to be clear about this), but the concept was something so practical and so easy to apply, understand, and learn from.
The basic idea is about fostering a sense of wonder by looking at each part of our life through the eyes of someone who’s never experienced it before. Just like a beginner, we pretend that we’re being introduced to this situation for the first time. Instead of viewing our regular commute with the boredom and apathy of expecting traffic, we instead become interested in our surroundings. It’s just like pretending to be someone who has never experienced traffic before!
In this situation, we let ourselves be surprised by honking. We notice how each car sounds and looks different. We’d curiously observe the other people and wonder about what jobs they might be going to. We turn on the music and get our energy up by intently listening to our favorite songs. See how this sounds a ton more joyous than just sitting in traffic and thinking “this stinks?” This whole sense of wonder is created just by pretending we’ve never experienced traffic before.
This is a technique we can apply to any part of our life. Whether it’s our commute, sitting at our computer and typing, or interacting with someone we see every day, it’s possible to adopt a curious outlook.
This idea of a beginner’s mind is an awesome concept, so I’ve found a handy link here for you to help you journey deeper into this idea.
The Benefits of Living Life with a Sense of Wonder
Just by reading my earlier example, I’m sure you can see some of the benefits of living with a sense of wonder. And there are many more perks than just this!
One of the first things you’ll notice is that your relationships deepen. You’ll judge people less and you’ll feel more compassionate and interested in their stories. You’ll be listening closely, rather than just thinking about how you’re going to respond. People are fascinating and, when you look at them as if you’re experiencing them for the first time, you’ll instantly be drawn towards their essential nature. You can try this even with a long time partner or friend and see how this curious outlook helps you deepen your connection with them.
Joy will flow in your life like never before. Studies tell us that happiness comes from change and variety, so having a routine theoretically makes happiness harder to reach. Our society tends to work by routine, though, so seeking joy in the midst of this comes down to our curiosity as we go about our day. If we feel bored in our routine, we’re unhappy. If we internally create a sense of wonder, by recognizing that each moment is a completely new and fresh experience, we can access this happiness. We don’t need to become outwardly spontaneous to have this joy.
If you’ve wanted to be more playful, whimsical, and fun, this technique is definitely going to give you those traits too. It will all happen in a conscious (not reckless) way, too! The curiosity that arises from this sense of wonder will help you observe unique things around you. You’ll laugh with more spirit, be a little more daring, and the happiness will bring a little more skip to your step.
Here’s an Exercise to Create a Sense of Wonder
Let me take a guess at what causes a significant amount of boredom and apathy in your life: when you realize you have to do a chore. Whether it’s vacuuming, cleaning a room, washing dishes, or grocery shopping, there’s probably at least one required task that you dislike. Now imagine that you all the sudden could start to like it. Imagine marveling over the chore and being really engaged in your every action.
Does it sound impossible? I promise, it’s not. In fact, try this exercise and you’ll see for yourself how this works.
- Pick a chore (I’m going to use doing dishes as an example).
- When you begin the chore, pay attention to what goes into setting it up and how that feels. In my example, I’d notice laying out a towel to dry dishes, paying attention to the sound and temperature of the water, and feeling the sponge in my hand.
- As you begin the chore, notice as many sensations as you can. Doing dishes isn’t just an action to finish, it’s an interesting experience. I’d notice the water temperature and how it soothed my hands. I’d smell the fragrant soap and notice the little bubbles curiously appear and disappear as I washed. Every sense would be something I was in tune with.
There’s one key part to make this exercise work. In order to foster a sense of wonder, you have to give yourself a chance to be interested in the chore. There’s a difference between an apathetic thought of “oh, look, bubbles” and a curious thought of “oh, look at the colors in those bubbles!” Aim for the latter and you’ll notice how this exercise works to create a real sense of wonder, joy, and intrigue.
How a Sense of Wonder Unlocks the Unlimited Potential of Life
Each moment is filled with millions of things happening at once. Washing dishes isn’t a single action. It’s a coordinated movement of your hands, arms, and body. It is a dance between water, soap, and ceramic. It’s an act of hygiene and a way of bringing pleasant smells into your home. This is one single example, but anything from typing at a keyboard to driving in a car has this same amount of potential interest within it.
Unlocking the unlimited potential in each moment happens when we pay attention the moment fully. This entire exercise is a way of doing that with mundane things, so they become way more interesting. All you have to do is decide to pay attention to more than the basic action. When you engage your body and mind in an action, you’re opening up to a real sense of wonder. This will bring so much more joy and engagement into your life.
Here’s a challenge to get you started. In the comments below, tell me about a normal boring action you do (like a commute). Then type out what sensations you think you could pay attention to, to make the routine experience much more interesting.
Can you tell the difference in joy just by writing about it?