Overcoming Apathy and Boredom Takes More Than Just Willpower

Overcoming Apathy and Boredom Takes More Than Just Willpower
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 27 February, 2024

Overcoming apathy and boredom takes more than just willpower. It’s hard to find any motivation to do things when there are much bigger things hiding behind them.

Things like fear, regret, lack of emotional support, or even an illness, to name a few. Disorders like depression and thyroid problems can very often push you into these states of mind.

When you fall into the well of apathy and boredom, your world changes completely. The first thing that happens is that you can no longer summon up enough energy to get out of them. 

It’s impossible to always have enough energy to be lively again and find motivation on your horizon. The thing is, that’s what you need to do to get back your excitement, your spirit, and your hope.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

-Elie Wiesel-

From a medical standpoint, it’s oftentimes better to understand the nature of the well you’ve fallen into than to immediately look for ways to get out of it. You have to know what’s really behind your apathetic attitude, tiredness, and lack of interest. It’s not reasonable, or helpful, to give someone a bunch of resources if you haven’t first helped them understand what triggers these states.

That’s why there are more and more studies and research on this topic every year. We know, for example, that lack of motivation isn’t always a reflection of a slump.

It’s not always as simple as being passive about things because you basically just lack interest. Apathy and lack of motivation actually have a link to specific neurological circuits that can be a sign of disorders in some cases.

These are absolutely important things to keep in mind when you’re trying to find the best therapeutic approach for yourself.

Exhausted runner taking a break with hands on knees.

The shadows underlying lack of motivation and fatigue

If you want to overcome apathy and boredom, you need more than just advice. When they end up becoming chronic, long-lasting, you (and those around you) need to recognize that you need a change. 

To do that, you have to start by getting a correct diagnosis. That way you can start to make small adjustments to your routine and your personal outlook. This is the best way to get out of the well we’ve been talking about so much.

One thing you absolutely need to leave behind in these situations are insulting terms. A lot of patients dealing with apathy and boredom aren’t “slothlike” because they want to be. 

You should avoid seeing inactivity and lack of interest as a character flaw. This isn’t helpful at all, and it’s also not true. Instead, we’re going to look at the reality behind a lot of cases of these states of mind.

Things that can lead to apathy and boredom

  • Not feeling self-sufficient. It can happen for a number of reasons, but sometimes people stop believing they’re good enough to achieve things. They don’t feel like they can achieve success or  be useful in their daily tasks. This is a devastating way to feel.
  • Not having emotional supportIn some cases, it’s because the people around you aren’t emotionally available. In others, it’s because you’re surrounded by coldness and lack of interest. Either way, this can easily lead to apathy and lack of motivation.
  • Fear: fear of failure, fear of trying, and fear of repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Fear of leaving your comfort zone, anxiety about changing habits, worrying about new, unfamiliar things… These are all things that can quickly undermine all your energy and willpower.
Man dealing with apathy and boredom looking out the window.

You also have to keep in mind the physical and/or neurological factors involved. Conditions like fibromyalgia, hyperthyroidism, or even Alzheimer’s can lead to this permanent feeling of having no energy. 

It’s very common for them to lead to apathy and lack of motivation. This is also true with depressive disorders. They’re just as likely to lead to boredom and lack of interest as the illnesses above.

How to overcome apathy and boredom

You need support if you want to overcome apathy and boredom. We’re talking about the specialized kind and also from the people around you.

In addition, you need to feel like they truly understand and never try to put you down. Unfortunately, lack of desire, enthusiasm, and motivation can get worse if all you hear is criticism and contempt. 

There’s an important detail you have to remember if you want to get an idea of how to overcome them. Oftentimes, you think that all you have to do to be more motivated is “change” your thinking.

But the rule that you have to have positive thoughts to live a positive life isn’t always 100% true. 

At least not if you’re not doing well. Not if your brain doesn’t have enough serotonin or your body is sick. William James said a long time ago that thoughts don’t always lead to actions. When it comes to motivation, actions and feelings always go hand and hand.

Your brain, mind, and body have to work together for you to get the push you need. This is how you’ll find the internal energy to pick your spirits back up. We’re going to summarize a few of the things that can help you overcome apathy and boredom.

Woman looking out at the sun in the water.

The keys to overcoming apathy and lack of motivation

  • The first thing you have to do is make sure it’s not a medical issue.
  • Once you’ve made sure it’s not a hormonal or bodily issue, you need to figure out what’s really behind this mood.
  • After that, you’ll be able to enter a transition period. You only have one job during this period: solving problems. Think about ways to deal with your dissatisfaction, fear, and disappointment. Start a process where you detach yourself from anything that paralyzes you.
  • Gradual changes. Start by making small changes in your routines. For example, you could change your diet or give yourself a new schedule. Later on, once you’ve made smaller changes, you can take on some bigger ones. These are the ones that will truly bring you towards well-being. They’re the ones that will help you achieve all the things you want out of life.
  • Focus on concrete goals. Focus on things you can achieve in your day to day life, things that bring you pleasure.
  • Defy your apathy. Once you’ve brought in new routines and conquered your daily goals, you have to learn to defy this disabling mood. When you notice these feelings come up, try to find an alternative. For example, think about something new, something that motivates you. This is the best way to make them disappear.

Overcoming apathy and boredom isn’t easy, but it’s not impossible either. Still, you can’t forget that they’re like lurking shadows that will always try to butt into your life. 

When they do, you need to be prepared. Be ready to push them away and air out all your emotional spaces with new thoughts and projects.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.