Ennui (pronounced on-we) is a word we’ve stolen from the French language and literally translates to “Boredom” in English. While the translation is quite simple though, the meaning we’ve given it is much more complex. It describes a much deeper feeling than that of being bored. Moreover, you’ve probably felt it before even if you didn’t know it by name.
The word ennui developed slowly from a Latin phrase used by Romans to describe things they hated and a French word for voicing your annoyance. It took its final form as the complex word we know today back in the 17th century.
So, What Does Ennui Really Mean?
The French word’s translation to “boredom” isn’t too inaccurate, but it doesn’t convey ennui’s full meaning either. When we use it in English, we give it a deeper meaning to describe a usually difficult to explain the feeling. It does describe boredom, but not a fleeting “nothing to do” variety. We use it to explain a feeling of boredom with life as a whole, a feeling of unfulfillment.
What does it feel like?
If you’re suffering from ennui, you’ll probably feel disconnected and discontented with your life. Whether it’s your career, relationship, schooling or friends, if you’re dealing with this emotional state, you most likely feel like it’s just not bringing you any enjoyment or sense of satisfaction.
Ennui even has similarities to depression in the sense that you can’t seem to summon the motivation to do, well, anything, because nothing feels good. Unfortunately, it also often has associations with apathy and a privileged lifestyle.
Imagine a person wearing their finest clothes, in a mansion, staring out of the window onto their sizable, beautiful land, and feeling incredibly unhappy. This is the stereotype that the word ennui was originally used to describe. A person who has everything but is unimpressed by the lack of depth in their lives.
What’s the difference between boredom and ennui?
When you find yourself bored on a rainy afternoon, you tend to be craving something that would bring you some more fun and entertainment. And more often than not, you know what you’d rather be doing.
Ennui, on the other hand, is difficult to resolve because when you’re stuck in this funk, you usually aren’t sure what will improve your mood. It’s a feeling of exhaustion and boredom, caused by a total lack of interest in your life. It is because, at its root, your life lacks fulfillment. If you find yourself sighing in disappointment before you’ve even had breakfast, you’re probably suffering from the effects of ennui.
How to Cope with and Overcome Ennui
Feeling unmotivated and disconnected from your life can be an awful and unsettling experience. It causes you to worry about your future. You might be leading a perfect life on paper, with enough money, love and security to keep you content. However, sometimes it’s just not quite right.
It’s normal to feel as if you’re being selfish or ungrateful when you’re struggling with the feeling of ennui. But let me assure you that you aren’t doing anything wrong. We all have hopes and dreams. And when they aren’t met, because life is sometimes too demanding to chase them, we feel hopeless. It’s like nothing is really worth the energy.
If you find yourself longing for more and feeling bored and unfulfilled by your current life, then ennui is taking over. You owe it to yourself to explore your other options, no matter the risk.
Start by making yourself a list of everything you’ve been dreaming of.
Some might be completely bizarre and unrealistic, and that’s okay. Keep them there anyway to remind you that there is always something to aspire to. For the rest of your list, break it down into small achievable steps. This will eventually lead you to your goals and to a life that doesn’t cause you any feelings of ennui.
It’s okay to simply wake up one day and say to yourself “I’m not happy anymore”. Shuffling around your office, living day to day with little change and dreading every Monday is no way to live and will only breed more ennui.
Find a hobby
If you can’t make too many deep changes to your life, like where you live or the work you do, find your joy in small increments, whatever it may be. Never repress of force away anything that makes you happy. In the mundane darkness of day-to-day life, these things can be the brightness that keeps you feeling satisfied and fulfilled.
Hobbies and activities will keep you feeling connected and interested in what life has to offer. And plenty of time to relax and unwind will help you to feel in control. If you feel like the world is spinning too fast for you, you’ll likely start to feel more ennui. It may feel like you aren’t keeping up or being included in what’s going on around you.
Count your blessings
Suffering from ennui can cause and be caused by feeling as if nothing is going well, and nothing in your life is any good. In every situation, no matter how dark, I believe there is always a little light. This is what keeps the ennui at bay.
If you’re always a little grateful for your lot and happy with the little victories you achieve, then it’s impossible to feel boredom or unsatisfaction. You’ll stare out the window of your tiny home while wearing your scruffiest pyjamas and look at the busy, noisy street beside you. You will feel a sense of happiness because you have something and you found the enjoyment which keeps you afloat, no matter how dissatisfied you are in the rest of your experiences.
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It’s nice to find articles covering subjects like this. Well done. Stay safe.
Trying to recall a different word describing feelings akin to this and also the name of the book I read about it. Evading my memory for now but it was an excellent read. Hmm…