Life is rarely a smooth path, and the wear and tear can lead anyone into the occasional rut. Those moments of dull predictability and boredom can be real, whether they are based on problematic circumstances or irrational feelings.
If you’re the type of person who tends to get wound up over little problems, you will invite more stress into your life than necessary. ‘Huge amounts of unrelenting stress can lead to depression and other illnesses,’ shared Dr Mac Powell.
Shrug off negative messages and perfectionism
Advertising and the media are fuelling a cycle of cynicism, worry, and unproductive materialism. For many people, that unhealthy cycle of thought continues, and they continuously ruminate about missed opportunities or failings in their lives. You must identify negative thoughts that don’t drive you toward more positive outcomes while simultaneously maintaining the patience that comes with learning to accept life’s imperfections that you can’t change.
While changeable and unchangeable circumstances inevitably affect your mood, your ability to choose a positive reaction to them will make a difference to your well-being. You can use your energy to vent anger and foster bitterness, or you can use it to dismiss the circumstances and choose a calmer or even amused perspective instead.
You can look at your own mistakes and let them grow from repeating or ignoring, or you can consider them learning experiences and adjust the behaviors you can control.
The good news is, you can be selective about what you watch, read, or believe. You can quiet the negative voices in your head. You can alter or end relationships that fuel situations. You can also learn new habits that will give you a better chance of avoiding ruts.
If you’re eager to remain mentally healthy and happy and to develop tools that will help you ward off feeling like you’re in a rut or falling into depression, try these steps:
- Focus on what is in your control – Developing a perspective on what you can control and what you can’t is critical to a healthy sense of well-being. You have agency about a lot of your time and nearly complete ownership of the thoughts in your head. Worrying about things that are out of your control–such as how your child is doing in school or when your neighbour will cut their lawn is often pointless. Look after the mess in your own yard and stay out of other people’s messes. Focus on what is in front of you and things you can change.
- Find or create a happy place – Some people feel grounded at the ocean, in a park, on a hilltop, or walking through a forest. Take note of the spots that invigorate you and visit them often. If you don’t have a getaway or a happy place, choose a corner of your home and make it unique. You might include a comfy chair and ottoman, and put some of your favorite magazines in the area. You might display a collection of your favorite finds. You could plant an indoor garden or create an arts and crafts area. Carve out time daily to sit or work in your happy place.
- Celebrate holidays – Some people say they hate the holidays and try to avoid them. But you might actually enjoy decorating and celebrating holidays now and then. Put up simple decorations. Look for activities in your neighbourhood where celebrations are taking place and join in instead of staying home alone. Whatever you do, don’t assume other people are all out celebrating while you have nothing to do. Making assumptions or comparisons won’t help your mood. Alternatively, enjoy the holiday at home.
No rule says you have to go to a fireworks display just because you hear the booming sounds. Many other people are not participating. You’re never the only one. Resist the fear of missing out (FOMO) that haunts so many people that assume others are all having a great time while they’re not. It’s a myth.
- Create routines – Routines can help you feel grounded. Start a morning routine. Maybe that means brushing your hair and reading an inspirational quote before leaving the bedroom. Perhaps it means doing some yoga or spending time with your pets. If you have easy access to the outdoors, try taking a short 10-minute walk after getting up while your coffee is brewing. Maybe your routine includes drinking coffee while checking your emails. Routines make life predictable and help create momentum for the day. Other habits to include in your life may be scheduling regular dates with your significant other or friend, having monthly lunches with a coworker, or consistently attending community activities or events.
- Spice up your life – Spicing up your life is another way to shift your mood. Go on an overnight getaway somewhere you’ve never been. Explore a new town or part of your city. Drive to work a different route. Visit a new coffee shop with an acquaintance you’d like to get to know. Plan a vacation. Go to a movie. The possibilities are endless.
- Hire a life coach or sign up for counselling – Going to someone you trust for therapy or life coaching may become a watershed moment in your life. The process may help you over a hump and set you free.You need someone to confide in and what better than a paid professional? Therapists or life coaches can challenge you to see life in new ways. You will feel supported having someone walking through life with you.
Ultimately, you are the owner and author of your life. Dr Mac Powell stated that you must establish healthy personal boundaries for what you will and won’t partake in, but whatever you do, own the choices you make. Start a routine tomorrow. Mix things up a bit this very week. Whatever you do, don’t stay in your rut any longer or dig it deeper. Implement the above tools and notice a change right away.
Helen Bradfield did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.