Over the past couple weeks I found myself with a case of the blues. For some reason or combination of reasons I just wasn’t clear on, I was just not my normal, positive, happy self.
Have you felt like that? Makes it hard to be productive or creative or giving when you’re struggling just to get out of bed in the morning. Even harder to do your piece of change-the-world magic, when nothing seems to flow.
It’s even more difficult when you can’t exactly pinpoint what it is that’s causing you to feel this way. That’s how I was this time. I didn’t notice anything particular in my life over the past couple weeks that would specifically cause me to slip into this clouded mood.
What I did know is that I wasn’t doing myself any favors by staying in this funk. So I set myself some objectives to help get myself out. If you find yourself in a similar funk, perhaps these action steps will help you as well.
1. Go back to basics—take care of yourself. Our emotional health is often affected by our physical health. If we don’t take care of our basic needs, it can affect our mood as well. Ask yourself how much you’ve been taking care of yourself lately. Are you getting enough sleep? How are your eating habits? Are you getting enough exercise? Are you sticking to your meditation practice?
While not doing these things won’t necessarily cause your case of the blues, taking care of yourself in this way can certainly help improve your emotional well-being. We’ve certainly heard lots in recent years about the psychological benefits of exercise, both to elevate mood and reduce stress. And while a recent study shows that there seems to be no link between comfort foods and improved mood, eating good foods that fuel us with energy without weighing us down undoubtedly has positive benefits for our bodies and our minds. And meditation practice has been shown to help reduce stress and improve mood; psychologists are even using it to treat patients suffering from clinical depression.
These practices are the foundation of our well-being—if you’re not doing them, or have let them slide recently, try starting (or starting again). More on the power of practice here.
2. Focus on the wins—and celebrate them. Often the blues are a function of negative thoughts or reactions to things. Shifting your focus to the positive things in your life—whatever they are for you—can help pull you out of a funk.
Check out this post for a bunch of ways to celebrate your accomplishments and be grateful for the good things in your life.
3. Treat yourself as a good friend—be kind. Sometimes we can be more critical of ourselves than we ever are of others. That voice in our head can really do a number on us when we’re already vulnerable.
So take a moment to really listen to that inner dialogue. Is it full of “you this” and “you that” tinged with this snarky, nasty, negative tone? Stop for a moment and ask yourself “Would I talk to a friend of mine this way, if they were hurting or depressed?” Of course you wouldn’t. You’d treat them with kindness and love. And so should you do the same for yourself. You are your own best friend, after all—time to start treating yourself like it.
If you need some more help in the area of believing in yourself and your dreams, and treating yourself well, here’s a post with some more thoughts on that topic.
4. Spend time with loved ones. If you’re struggling a bit to be that best friend to yourself, seek out your other best friends for some love and encouragement. You know who they are. Give them a call, or invite them to lunch. Meet them for a run. You don’t even have to talk to them about your funk (sometimes it’s better if you don’t). Just spend some time in the company of someone who loves you for exactly who you are.
5. Help others—be of service. This one might be a little harder, since it requires stepping out of your comfort zone a bit, and that’s especially difficult when you’re down. But you’d be amazed at how powerful it is to focus on someone else’s problems other than your own, and how helping them, even in the smallest way, can boost your confidence and your sense of gratitude for the blessings you have.
6. Self-analyze—what’s at the root? I put this one last, since for me this one is sometimes the most difficult. Sometimes I don’t know why I’ve got the blues, and it takes some time and reflection—and even separation from the emotion itself—to help me figure out what is causing my funk.
So when you are ready, take some time to reflect carefully on the things that happened around your time of the blues. Maybe things didn’t go as planned. Maybe you struggled to make progress in an area of your life that was important. Maybe you’re struggling to meet unrealistic expectations you’ve set for yourself, and you’re down when you can’t reach them. Maybe you’ve been putting off something you really should do—out of fear, or doubt, or some other demon. Maybe it’s a combination of things—a perfect storm of crap that’s caused you to feel like the world is against you.
No matter the reasons, once you’ve identified them, you’ll be in a better position to take action on those issues you uncovered. Which brings us to…
7. Take one small action. If you’ve built up your strength and your confidence and your courage and your acceptance of yourself through the other steps laid out above, you’ll be more ready to jump back in and take action to start lifting yourself out of the gravity of your funk. Whether exercise, or habits, or friendship, or service, taking one small action (and then the next, and then the next) will create small wins that build your confidence and keep you moving forward and upward…
… and hopefully soon you’ll be leaving the dark cloud of your blues behind.
Do you have any strategies that work best for you when you have the blues? How do you bounce back from a funk? Please share in the comments!
(Please note that this post is intended to address the periodic bad moods we all experience from time to time. It is not intended as medical advice for treating more severe kinds of depression. If your depression is particularly severe, continues for more than a few days, or becomes worse, please seek professional help.)
If one of your strategies for being more positive is to read more Free of Gravity (I hope it is!), be sure to subscribe to the blog by entering your email in the box in the sidebar to your right. You’ll get regular updates from the blog, news on when the manifesto will be available, and other subscriber-only tools and goodies.
(photo courtesy of Pierre Andrews cc)