Happiness Hacks to Help You Out of a Funk

Where I live, it’s been so dreary lately – rain, clouds, and gloomy weather are the norm. Sometimes, in the middle of winter or during a long stint of this kind of weather, we can get into a slump. We feel sluggish and can’t seem to get out of this funk. 

Then, we can become irritable, feel unhappy, or possibly even experience a bout of depression. I think a lot of us can relate to this. And, we know too well that this kind of funk can come on in midlife for a variety of other reasons, not just dreary weather. We have to deal with hormones, empty nests, and the feelings related to “where did the time go?”

There are times when explanations, no matter how reasonable, just don’t seem to help.”

~Fred Rogers

When we get into a slump, sometimes it’s hard to get out. All the “right things to do” seem too big and obviously require a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of energy – all the things that (we think) we DON’T have a lot of.

This is what held me back for years. I was in a funk of sorts (dealing with low-grade depression) for a very long time. And, everything that I read or that people said would be “good for me” and make me feel better all seemed like too much to do. 

And, I believed that one thing was related to another thing and if I didn’t do one thing, then all would be in vain. So, for example, if I were to start an exercise routine, it wouldn’t matter because I was smoking and eating too much junk food anyway, so what would be the point.

And, since I was smoking and eating junk, I didn’t have the energy or stamina to exercise anyway. So, in order to even start to exercise I would have to quit smoking and that would be too hard or take too long. 

All of this running through my mind was too much, too overwhelming – so much so that, instead of taking any action, I took none. I was paralyzed.

I eventually did get out of this funk, and because, to this day, I am ALL ABOUT SIMPLE STEPS and SWEAT-FREE SOLUTIONS, I want to help you out of yours! 

The first thing to do to get out of a funk – really, to just be happier – is to take action. And, no, this does not mean taking on the WHOLE thing, whatever that is. It means doing one small thing. Taking one baby step. Putting one foot in front of the other, one time. 

Of course, what’s so good about that is that one step leads to the next and so on, etc. But, in order to not get overwhelmed, we just need to focus on the one thing here and now. Just this ONE step. I know, this sounds like everything everyone else has told you. Hold on…

I have implemented a few small things and I can tell you that over these past two years a lot has changed for me. 

  • I was able to decrease the dose of my antidepressants (with my doctor’s approval).
  • Even though I’m at the age when my hormone levels are causing issues, I sleep better and have more energy. 
  • I am less likely to react and am more apt to accept; I have more resilience.

It’s not 100% of the time by any means, but I don’t stay in a “funk” or a reactionary state for very long at all. I NOTICE when I may be getting overwhelmed and stressed or feeling blah and I can usually attribute it to inconsistency or not doing the things that I know make me feel better. 

I also know that I can use one or more of these things to almost instantly put me into a better frame of mind. 

Before I started practicing these things, I would ruminate on difficulties or annoyances and that would keep me stuck in a place of irritability or blue/dark mood. 

I also assumed that nothing would help. I was never a real negative person, that’s not what I’m saying. To me, it seemed like things that would make me feel better were just out of reach for me or took too much energy. 

I just didn’t know that there were things that I could do that were in fact SO SIMPLE but so powerful. When I started doing these things, I also started finding others who were doing the same things and found that everyone was having positive outcomes.

And, that the outcomes were scientifically proven (a must for me)! So, that’s how I know it can work for you too!

Here are some “SUPER SIMPLE STEPS” we can take…and I love them, because they are PROVEN to work. And they don’t require a ton of anything – not a ton of time and not a ton of energy – HURRAY – THE BEST THINGS (IMO)! 

1-Get out of your funk with Mindfulness Meditation

What it is:The mindful.org definition is: Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. 

What it does: I really can’t even begin to touch the surface of the things that meditation does for you. Everywhere I turn, I find more evidence of how it rewires your brain to improve literally everything – your mind, body, and spirit. And, during meditation you practice noticing (see #2 simple step) which helps you to bring yourself back – back from ruminating, back from irritability, back from overwhelm, etc. And to notice the things that make you feel good (see #3 simple step).

Why it’s a simple step: There really is nothing simpler than sitting and paying attention to your breath. (Yes, you will get distracted by thoughts; that’s part of the process, but you just gently redirect your attention to your breath.) 

Although there are many different kinds of meditation, and you can try a variety of them to see what fits for you, just sitting and focusing on your breathing is all that is needed to reap the benefits. Experts say that 12 minutes is all that is needed to see results. We all have 12 minutes!

MIndful.org makes it very clear: We already have the capacity to be present, and it doesn’t require us to change who we are. But we can cultivate these innate qualities with simple practices that are scientifically demonstrated to benefit ourselves, our loved ones, our friends and neighbors, the people we work with, and the institutions and organizations we take part in.

How I use it: Today my Insight Timer App says I’ve had 656 meditation sessions. I love that that they keep track for you! I started regularly meditating about two years ago. Many days I only do a before bed meditation (which helps me sleep) but most days I get in a morning meditation as well. I mostly use guided meditations on the Insight Timer app.

2-Gratitude can get you out of a funk

What it is: Practicing gratitude is the basic regular noting of things for which we are thankful. 

What it does: Just like meditation, the benefits of regularly practicing gratitude are huge and show up in our physical, psychological, and social selves! They include things like better sleep, lower blood pressure, increased happiness and optimism, and being more helpful and compassionate. 

Why it’s a simple step: There are all kinds of gratitude practices to try out, but you can make this extra simple by just writing a few things down each day or keeping a notebook (or note on your phone) to jot down the things that you are thankful for throughout the day. 

How I use it: Each day, I write in my journal, not a lot and it usually only takes about 5-10 minutes. Part of that routine is to write one thing for which I am grateful and then list five reasons that I chose that particular thing. Yesterday, my one thing was People – and my five reasons were: to laugh with, commiserate with, learn from, share with, and connect to. Not every day do I “love” people though…LOL…so this reminded me of all the reasons I am grateful for the people with whom I work and live and who are in my life.

I’ve also begun to think of 3 things for which I am thankful before I get out of bed. I had begun noticing that, because I don’t like getting out of my cozy bed in the morning, I was getting up with a literal scowl on my face. (This may have to do with the dogs being extremely needy at that time of day – they are DYING OF HUNGER ya know!) And, I didn’t want to start my day with a scowl! (I believe I NOTICED this because of my mindfulness practice.) This has helped me to get up with a smile instead!

3-Or Try Feeling The Good Stuff

What is it: Dr. Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist, teaches a technique that can quickly make you feel happier. I call it “feeling the good stuff.” He explains that “The way to “hardwire happiness” into the brain, is to take in the good — being present to life’s tiny, joyful moments.” 

What you do is, when you notice something small that brings joy, take a about 30 seconds to focus on that goodness. Take a couple breaths and appreciate that feeling. 

What it does: Noticing the little things that make you feel good or bring joy actually makes you feel better overall. It fills you up with little bits of joy. Dr. Hanson says that “learning from your positive experiences is the primary way to grow inner strength.”

Why it’s simple: No matter what, we can always find something good to savor for 30 seconds. Maybe it’s the feeling of a gentle breeze on your face, warm sun shining through the car window, or your pet snuggled up on your lap. (Yes, my doggies give me lots of opportunities for these feelings.)

So, the practice itself is simple, but it can be hard to remember to add things like this and make them habits. I believe that practicing mindfulness has helped with this a lot. You could also set an alarm on your phone just as a reminder to notice the next tiny positive experience.

How I use it: When I notice something that is particularly joyful, like the smell of spring in the air (even in February in Pennsylvania), I pay attention to the feeling I get and take several breaths to savor that feeling…hardwire it in! (Check out this article for more from Dr. Hanson about this practice.) Even if it wasn’t proven to add more overall happiness to your life, it is still a great thing to do – like “stopping to smell the roses.”

If you feel blah or have been in a slump lately, take it from me – these can really help! Because these things carry so much “bang for your buck,” you can use these tools to leverage your level of happiness and help you get unstuck.

And, if you are able to practice these things with consistency, it can make a world of difference! USE this FREE Habit Tracker (google sheet) template to help you with consistently adding these super simple things to your daily routine!

(Read more on my thoughts on happiness as part of the Midlife Pursuits Series.)

Remember to check in on Facebook and email me anytime! We got this!

~Lisa


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