How to get out of a funk: 10 tips to reinvigorate yourself (and your life)

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Image Credit: Shutterstock - By Dima Zel

Everyone finds themselves in a funk from time to time. It’s human nature to feel all of the feelings including depression, anxiety, worry, fear, loneliness, doubt – the negative feelings are part of life too.

But when we feel these feelings we tend to want to get away from them as soon as possible.

This collection of feelings often leaves us feeling like we have a giant void to fill in our lives, like there is something wrong with us if we aren’t happy all the time.

Nobody promised happiness all the time, but we continue to believe that life isn’t perfect until we are happy.

If you are trying to pull yourself out of this funk and want to fill your life with things that make you feel good, start with this life.

Try one thing and then try another. Don’t give up. You can come back from wherever you feel lost right now, and you might even find yourself in a better place because of this experience.

Perspective is everything.

1) Create calm in your life.

Our bodies and brains need to be in a state of calm at least some of the time. Our lives are so fast-paced that our brains can’t keep up to what is going on around us anymore.

Stress began as a lifesaving way to cope with hostility or danger.

Simply put, in stressful situations, the body releases hormones which get you ready to do battle for your life or get out of there fast. You may have heard this called the ‘fight or flight response’.

In ancient times, threats were physically real and immediate. Organisms needed to take action ASAP.

Once the threat was dealt with, the body calmed down. It can take 20-60 minutes for the body to fully get into this ‘rest and digest mode’.

Since ancient threats were physically real and immediate, there was an optimum cycle: a short turning on and (more importantly) a long turning off of the body’s ‘under stress mode’.

For biology buffs: the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for releasing the hormones (mainly adrenaline and noradrenaline) while the parasympathetic nervous system has the job of stopping the flow.

Now, the current story, is that for many people, modern life is all about chronic stress, a never-ending series of situations which trigger their body’s fight or flight responses again and again.

Few of these situations are physically real and immediate. Most of them are ongoing, long-term conditions at work or home.

The result is that many modern bodies do not get enough ‘rest and digest time’ to recover from the effects of the ‘fight or flight’ hormones.

A little bit of stress can be good for you. It keeps you alert, motivated and ready to take action.

But chronic stress can lead to depression in some people.

Sustained stress over long periods can lead to elevated hormones such as cortisol (the stress hormone), which can reduce serotonin and other important neurotransmitters in the brain.

This study found that increased cortisol in the body and brain can lead to depression.

It’s crucial to look after yourself when you feel like you’re experiencing too much stress.

Learning to relax your mind, and give yourself a break, is crucial for your mental and physical health.

You can try daily routines like meditation, breathing exercises, massages, and exercise to help your mind and body relax.

2) Seek pleasure.

If you are struggling to get out of a funk and don’t seek to find pleasure in the things that once made you happy, it might be a good idea to seek out a new kind of pleasure.

Try doing something nice for yourself or someone else and see how you feel when it’s done.

Sometimes we have to fake it til we make it, but as stated above, your brain can’t tell if the happiness is coming from external, new sources or from within itself.

If you go out and talk to people that make you feel happy, your brain and your mood benefit from that tremendously.

According to research, when positive thoughts and feelings are generated, cortisol decreases and the brain produces serotonin, creating feelings of well-being.

It’s also important to have close friends you can always lean on when you need to.

Having a few close relationships has been shown to make us happier while we’re young, and has been shown to improve quality of life and help us live longer.

So, how many friends?

About 5 close relationships, according to the book Finding Flow:

“National surveys find that when someone claims to have 5 or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy’.”

3) Stop comparing yourself to others

You spend a lot of time looking at other people, reading about other people, wishing you had another life, made more money, had a different job or house.

If you find yourself doing this, you need to stop and start practicing gratitude for what you have in your life.

According to Susan Biali Haas M.D. in Psychology Today:

“If you commit yourself to being deeply grateful for what’s good in your life, and remind yourself of it daily, you’ll be far less vulnerable to comparison and envy.”

No matter how much you feel like you’re in a funk, it’s important to realize that there are lots of reasons to be happy about the way your life is right now.

If you spend your time comparing yourself to other people, you’ll always wish you had more or could do more.

Instead, be an example of what is possible in your own life and start comparing yourself to the person you were yesterday and strive to be better than that person tomorrow.

4) What does your daily routine look like?

Think of the people in your life that you love and respect. How do you treat them?

You are kind to them, patient with their thoughts and ideas, and you forgive them when they make a mistake.

You give them space, time, and opportunity; you make sure they have the room to grow because you love them enough to believe in the potential of their growth.

Now think of how you treat yourself.

Do you give yourself the love and respect that you might give your closest friends or significant other?

Do you take care of your body, your mind, and your needs?

Here are all the ways that you could be showing your body and mind self-love in your everyday life:

  • Sleeping properly
  • Eating healthy
  • Giving yourself time and space to understand your spirituality
  • Exercising regularly
  • Thanking yourself and those around you
  • Playing when you need it
  • Avoiding vices and toxic influences
  • Reflecting and meditating

How many of these daily activities do you allow yourself? And if not, then how can you say you truly love yourself?

Loving yourself is more than just a state of mind—it’s also a series of actions and habits that you embed into your everyday life.

You have to show yourself that you love you, from the beginning of your day to the end.

5) Be grateful.

Gratitude can go a long way in making you feel better about who you are, what you have to offer the world, and where you are going.

Even at your lowest states, this can be a positive exercise. You might not have anything to feel grateful for right now, but imagine yourself when you are back on your feet.

In fact, a white paper by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkely says that people who consciously count what they’re grateful may have better physical and mental health:

“Research suggests that gratitude may be associated with many benefits for individuals, including better physical and psychological health, increased happiness and life satisfaction, decreased materialism, and more.”

Furthermore, gratitude may also encourage pro-social behavior:

“This suggests that practicing gratitude changes the brain in a way that orients people to feel more rewarded when other people benefit, which could help explain why gratitude encourages prosocial behavior.”

This boost of energy might help you see that change is possible and give you something to work toward.

Endorphins make us feel excited, but they can also make us want to run away in the other direction.

Be sure to focus on the good things that are coming your way and you’ll start to feel that excitement for life again soon.

Depression is a serious condition that requires medical help. If you think you may be suffering with depression and this funk is more than just a bad run of luck, speak to your doctor.

There’s no point in suffering alone. There are people and professionals who care and can help you feel like yourself again.

6) Find your person.

One of the best ways to help yourself feel better is to connect with the people or person in your life who makes you feel good about who you are.

If you don’t feel like you have someone like this in your life, you might want to seek out people who will appreciate your help, such as when you volunteer.

Sometimes it’s not about what people give you or say to you that make you feel good, it’s what you can give or say to them.

Stop spending time with people who bring you down. It doesn’t add anything to your life.

You’ll live a much more successful and fulfilling life if you choose to hang out with people who are positive and uplifting.

So, how do you work out who you should actually spend time with?

It’s quite simple. Ask yourself these 2 questions:

Do they make you feel better after you spend time with them?

Do you feel more optimistic and positive about life?

If you can answer yes to those questions, then make a conscious effort to spend more time with them. The positivity will rub off on you.

When we turn the lens away from ourselves and into the world, we begin to see that life isn’t so bad afterall and there are plenty of ways to make life fun and interesting again.

7) Watch a feel-good movie.

If you are in a place where you just want to lay in bed and binge-watch soap operas all day, that is okay.

Try watching something else that will make you feel good about the human condition again. Sad movies will only make you feel sadder.

Happy, uplifting movies, such as inspiration documentaries will show you that people can overcome even the most difficult obstacles in life and if they can do it, so can you.

Have faith that you are someone who can rise above the darkness and find inspiration in someone else’s struggle.

8) Write a story about someone who overcomes an obstacle.

If you aren’t into movies, or don’t feel like you can give something like that your attention, grab a journal and write a short story to yourself about how someone overcame a difficult obstacle.

This isn’t a writing exercise, so much as a thinking exercise for your brain.

When you tell yourself a story, your brain doesn’t know if it’s real or not. If you imagine wonderful things happening to someone, your brain will release hormones that match those thoughts and make you feel good on the inside.

Writing a story about triumph also helps you imagine the ways out or through a sticky situation. It might be made up, but the feelings produced by doing it will be very real.

9) Set a goal for yourself.

Don’t just sit on the couch and let life pass you by, get out there and set some goals for yourself.

Whether you start small or go for broke with your goal setting, you need to at least have some kind of idea of what you want your life to look like so you can start working towards it.

The longer you tell yourself that you don’t know what you want, the longer it will take you to get it.

Getting your life together means being in charge of your dreams and taking charge of how you want to do things.

Although a lot of it won’t turn out like you had hoped and planned, taking action will certainly change things for the better and anywhere you land is going to be light years ahead of where you are right now.

And the truth is, without goals you lack focus and direction.

Setting goals allows you to take control of where your life is heading.

Here are 4 golden rules for setting goals (you know, so you actually achieve them):

1) Set goals that actually motivate you:

This means setting goals that means something to you. If you’re not interested in what you’re doing, or you don’t really care about the outcome, then you’ll struggle to take action.

Focus on setting goals that are a high priority in your life. Otherwise, you’ll end up with too many goals and you won’t take action. To find out what’s important to you, write down why your goal is valuable.

2) Set SMART goals.

You’ve probably heard of this acronym before. It’s popular because it works. Here’s what it means:

Specific: Your goals must be clear and well-defined.

Measurable: Label precise amounts and dates. For example, if you want to reduce expenses, what amount do you want to reduce them to?

Attainable: Your goals have to be achievable. If they’re too difficult, you’ll lose motivation.

Relevant: Your goals should be aligned with where you want to get to and what you want to do.

Time-bound: Set yourself a deadline for your goals. Deadlines force you to get things done, and not procrastinate.

3) Set your goals in writing

Don’t just rely on your brain to remember your goals. Physically write down each goal, no matter how small it is. Putting a line through your goal will give you the motivation to keep going.

4) Make an action plan.

You’re not going to achieve your big goals in a day. You need to write out individual steps to get there. Cross them off as you complete them to give you more motivation.

10) Be patient with yourself.

Finally, it’s important that you recognize you are allowed to feel down. Your feelings are your own.

There’s no rush to get yourself out of this season you are experiencing. It will pass. Whatever you are feeling is not wrong and you are not wrong because of it.

In fact, according to Noam Shpancer Ph.D. in Psychology Today, one of the main causes of many psychological problems is the habit of emotional avoidance as it “buys you short term gain at the price of long term pain.”

Being alive means having the privilege to feel all of the feelings and have all of the thoughts humans can conjure up.

When you try to block all of the feelings that are allocated to you as a human, you don’t get to experience life to the fullest.

Give yourself some time to figure out what you want to happen when you come through this and start imagining life on the other side.

We all experience periods of depression from time to time, but that doesn’t make your experience any less significant.

If you think this is a bigger problem than you first thought, seek advice from a doctor or other medical professional who can guide you through the steps to helping yourself or getting the help you need. It’s a winding road, but it’s worth traveling to feel better.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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