Do you feel you're always doing the same things and not getting anywhere? It's common to feel stuck in a rut, treading water and just going through the motions.
The feeling can build up gradually, and you feel like you're just killing time rather than working towards a goal. You might not even notice at first that you're stagnating - here are some signs that you might be getting stuck in a rut:
If you recognise these signs, the first step is to work out what's causing your dissatisfaction. Not every rut is the same - you may be in a rut with your job or feeling bored in a relationship. Friendships, hobbies, your home and your health, can all cause you to feel dissatisfied.
Once you have understood the cause of your feelings, don't blame or criticise yourself. It can be all too easy to minimise the problem and trivialise your emotions. You have a right to feel the way you do - while things may seem OK to others, if you want more from life, it's time to make some changes!
Self-compassion is the key to mental well-being, so start by looking after yourself.
Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well and exercising? Do you spend time with people who can support you?
If something is missing, look for ways to care for yourself better. Looking after your well-being will give you the energy to move forward and feel excited about life again.
We're creatures of habit, and sometimes feeling stuck in a rut arises out of boredom. So try to change things up a bit - they don't have to be massive changes, just a few small steps to get you started. Here are a few ideas to add zest to your life:
Watch a new show, sign up for a class or walk a different way to work.
You will learn something new about those around you, and chatting with different people will expand your social circle.
Schedule some time to have fun doing something you love - a hobby, a sport or spending time with friends.
Be spontaneous, and don't be afraid of doing unexpected things.
Research has shown that spending time outside increases mental well-being. For example, walking can lower stress and break the pattern of ruminating on negative thoughts that can trigger depression. In addition, it's an excellent way to build regular exercise into your daily routine.
Studies also show that being outside in nature also boosts creativity. So the next time you feel stuck, go outdoors and pay attention to the world. Let go of negativity, relax and enjoy the beauty around you. You will return to your desk with renewed energy.
It's easy to feel life is unfulfilling when you're not looking forward to anything. Having a sense of purpose is a crucial ingredient for motivation. For example, long-term goals related to your relationships or job can give you a sense of purpose. And it doesn't have to be anything major - even planning a get-together at the weekend gives you something to look forward to and boosts your mood.
And research shows that having something to aim for builds self-control and willpower. Better resilience helps you to cope with stresses and challenges in everyday life while you look forward to future rewards.
Here are some ideas for giving yourself things you can look forward to:
You can look forward to existing events, such as Christmas or a football match. But you can also intentionally make plans for yourself. For example, schedule a day out with friends or a holiday to a new place. Create things you can anticipate and be excited about.
Small weekly or daily rewards, such as going to your favourite cafe at lunchtime or buying yourself some flowers, are great ways to build a sense of looking forward to the future.
Helping others is an excellent way to gain a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Focus on helping a loved one with a project, participate in political activism or volunteer with a local organisation to contribute to the community.
Whether you're dissatisfied with your job, your relationships, or the place you live, only you can take action to make things more exciting and lose that feeling of being stuck in a rut.
You probably already know why you feel unfulfilled and want more out of life. So start to make small changes, chipping away at whatever holds you back. Don't feel guilty; you have a right to get the most out of life. But only you can take action to fulfil your potential, regain your optimism and get your life fizzing again.
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