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Last Updated on March 29, 2019

Stuck in a Rut? 6 Steps to Break Free and Live a Happy Life Again

Stuck in a Rut? 6 Steps to Break Free and Live a Happy Life Again

So it has come this far. You’re stuck in a rut and feel like you’re not living your life to the fullest. You can feel it, but you find it more and more difficult to get rid of this feeling…

That’s why you are here, right?

Some of your friends or colleagues might say to you: “just cheer up!”. But you already know that it’s not that easy.

So instead of offering shallow advice on what to do, this article contains a clear 6-step plan to get you out of your rut and to live a happy life again. These are actionable things you can do right now, that don’t involve anything bizarre or life-changing.

Step 1: Write down What’s Keeping You Down

This first step might sound rather anti-climatic. You’ve come all this way to find this article, and now you’re asked to write down your feelings?

Even though it might sound silly at first, writing down whatever is keeping you in a rut will allow you to become more familiar with the issues you’re having.

What to write about? Don’t think too much about it and just start writing! If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, you’ll probably feel unhappy right now.

Write it down! “I’m feeling unhappy right now”. That could be your first sentence. Now ask yourself why. Why am I feeling unhappy right now?

“Because I feel unmotivated and don’t have any ambitions or goals”.

Or maybe it’s “because I feel like my love life is slowly evaporating”.

It could be anything. What I want you to do is to just start writing and keep going. Be critical and curious about the things you are feeling.

Keep asking “why” and soon enough you’ll have a clear idea of what issues are causing you to feel unhappy and stuck in a rut.

Step 2: Create a Plan and Set Small Goals

So you’ve filled a good page with why you are feeling stuck in a rut? Good! Did you fill multiple pages? Even better!

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Now it’s time to create a plan based on the root causes of your negative feelings. This plan must be specific and should contain small goals.

Why small goals?

Because it’s more difficult to measure progress on a big goal.

Imagine you found out in step 1 that you severely dislike your job, so you’re thinking of a goal like: I want to find a better suiting job.

Now, that goal in itself might be great, but it’s better to slice it up into smaller, more attainable goals. Think about it like this:

  • Update my resume
  • Start looking for openings
  • Send out 3 applications
  • Schedule my first interview at a different company
  • Get hired at a new job

See how this is practically the same goal, but seems much more attainable?

Also, tracking progress is much easier when you create smaller sub-goals like this.

This is a vital part of your plan: it needs to contain measurable and attainable goals. This will help you stay motivated, instead of forcing you to become paralyzed by the shear size of your goal.

You’ll notice that you can find your way out of this rut by taking small steps like this. This brings me to the next step of this action plan:

Step 3: Accept That This Process Takes Time

After having written down your feelings in step 1, you probably found out that change won’t happen overnight.

The negative feelings that you’re experiencing right now are a result of a lot of things that may have already been going on for years. These habits that you’ve slowly built during your life won’t always be easy to change.

That’s why you need to accept that it takes time to get out of a rut like this. Finding long-term happiness again is a delicate process that cannot be rushed.

You have created a plan with actionable steps that you can take to get you back on your feet. Now do what it takes and move forwards, one step at a time.

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What if you failed to move forward after a bad day?

Don’t sweat it! We are all human, so we are eventually going to encounter some rough weather or bad decision-making along the way.

It’s crucial that you recognize this for what it is: small speed-bumps rather than complete failures.

What if you’ve had a bad day? Sleep it off, and start fresh again tomorrow.

Step 4: Prioritize Your Sleep

Now, this step might seem silly to you. How is sleep going to help me get out of this rut?

It turns out that sleep plays a gigantic role in our mental health. Even though you may not feel tired after sleeping only 5 hours for three nights in a row, you’ll be surprised by the potential lasting effects of this sleep deprivation.

The USA is one of the most developed countries in the world. A worrying trend that developed countries are showing is that the workforce is becoming more and more sleep deprived. Phrases like “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” and “work hard, play hard” are becoming more regular every day.

Anecdotally, sometimes when I mention I try to sleep 8 hours a day, I sometimes get strange looks from my colleagues. Like I’m some sort of loser that doesn’t know how to live life to the fullest.

“Sleep is for the weak!”

This kind of thinking is extremely flawed, and one of the reasons why chronic depression is on the rise. It shouldn’t surprise you now that depression rates are the highest in developed countries like the USA.

I’ve personally analyzed 1,000 days of my happiness and sleep habits over the last 3 years. I tracked my sleep every night and rates my feeling of happiness on a scale from 1 to 10. What I found out was very interesting:

  • I am constantly experiencing a social jet lag
  • I sleep much less than average on weekdays, and have to make it up on the weekend days
  • I have only been truly unhappy on days where I was heavily sleep deprived

These where the biggest lessons I learned after analyzing my sleep and happiness.[1]

This doesn’t necessarily mean that your feeling of unhappiness is a result of bad sleep habits, but if there’s one thing that most people seem to neglect, then that’s sleep. Don’t make that same mistake.

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Step 5: Spend More Time with the People You Love

Almost everybody has a small circle of people that they trust and love, whether that’s a partner, family or friends. These people have a positive influence on your happiness.

I want you to focus on spending more time with these people. When you’re feeling stuck in a rut, you are more likely to postpone activities that require you to be outgoing. You’d rather be lazy and watch Netflix all day than to go outside and meet up with your friend.

You must try to break out of your comfort zone and spend more time with the people who actually have a positive influence on your happiness.

These are the people that can help you to get out of your rut. You can even share the plan that you’ve made in step 2 of this article.

If these people truly love you, then they can act as a support net for the moments when you’re feeling down. This might sound intimidating and scary, but it’s a step that should not be underestimated.

Even when you don’t feel comfortable sharing your plan with these people, there’s another thing you can actively do: be grateful that these people are in your life:

  • Be grateful that you have parents who support you, no matter what you do.
  • Be grateful for the friends with whom you can laugh your ass off.
  • Be grateful that you have a healthy and loving partner.
  • Be grateful that you have a kid that looks up to you and thinks you are the best.

Being grateful might sound like a rather pointless thing to do. Why would being grateful help me become happier again?

Well, the answer is simple.

Being grateful forces you to think of the positive things that you already have in your life. This allows you to face your issues with optimism. People that actively practice gratitude are better able to deal with toxic emotions.[2]

So what do you have to do?

Go out there and meet up with the people you love, and be grateful for having these people in your life. Even better: add these things as actionable and attainable goals in your plan!

Step 6: Try to Spread Happiness to People Around You

Wait. What? You’re asking me to spread my happiness, even though I’m looking for ways to be happier myself? Where’s the logic in that?

Well, it may surprise you, but happiness is a funny concept in more than one way.

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My personal favorite is this:

When you are trying to make others happier, you will paradoxically find happiness yourself.

How does that work? Here are some examples:

  • When we make somebody else laugh, we tend to laugh ourselves as well.
  • Giving something to others can give us a feeling of having a positive influence on another life.
  • Focusing on helping others allows us to not worry about our own problems for a moment.

These are just a few specific examples that you can probably recognize yourself. Even though they might sound simple and painfully obvious, it doesn’t change the fact that spreading happiness can have a positive influence on your own life as well.

It will definitely help you to break free from your rut and find happiness again.

Final Thoughts

You may have noticed that this article is different from other “get happier” articles that you have come across already. This list includes steps that you can take and plan for right now. No bullshit advice such as “just cheer up”.

It all starts with a plan, though.

I can’t stress this enough:

Write down what your issues are, and make an actionable and realistic plan to get back on top.

Set small goals.

Accept that this process takes time, take it one step at a time.

Prioritize your sleep.

Spend time with people you actually care about. People who have a positive influence on your happiness.

Spread happiness, even though you might feel like this is not possible because you’re stuck in a rut. Happiness can be shared in many ways!

More Resources to Help You Get Unstuck

Featured photo credit: Paul Gilmore via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Tracking Happiness: The Effect Of Sleep On Happiness
[2] Greater Good Magazine: How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain

More by this author

Hugo Huyer

Author at Tracking Happiness, lifelong happiness tracker and passionate about all things mental health and well-being.

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Last Updated on December 10, 2019

How to Be Patient and Take Charge of Your Life

How to Be Patient and Take Charge of Your Life

When I googled the meaning of patience, it said:

“the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”

I have always struggled to be patient in my life. Even though I know that when I am able to be patient, I always get a better result. Being patient is quite a simple concept to apply but for some reason, it can be so difficult to put into practice.

Practising patience helps you to better manage the curveballs that life throws at you. Patience also brings calmness, optimism, hope and confidence to your life.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” — John Quincy Adams

The key message is quite clear – when you practise patience, you are more likely to lead a successful and happy life.

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In this article, you will learn why being patient is good for you, and how to be patient to take better control of your life.

Why Being Patient Is Good for You

Patience is a great way to exercise self-control. When you are patient you are more likely to take charge of your life.

Here are three key benefits (there are many more) that practising the art of patience can bring to your life:

Better Decision Making

By learning patience, you will become better at making decisions. Patience gives you breathing space and therefore you are more comfortable with taking the time to assess difficult situations and reflect on how you wish to proceed.

You also develop more self- confidence and know that if you rush into making a decision it will not end well for you. The chance of making a big mistake is higher if your decision is made in haste.

A Well Balanced Life

By becoming more patient, you will greatly reduce the stress in your life.

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Because you are more self-aware, you have a better understanding of what makes you happy and you will tend to focus on doing the things that bring you joy. The result of this is that you become more aware of how to live your life in balance rather than constantly have to fight fires.

Better Relationships

By becoming more patient, you are more understanding, open and flexible towards others’ mistakes and shortcomings. As a result, you are able to build stronger and longer-lasting relationships.

Patience does not come easily to many of us, especially when we live in a world of constant disruption and change. Patience is a mindset and it is not something that comes overnight. If you truly want to be a more patient person, you do have to be prepared to do the work. Embracing patience in your life is part of a life journey and therefor you must be willing to be in it for the long haul.

If you can accept that you are okay with stepping out of your comfort zone and that developing a patient perspective will not come instantly, then you are ready to embrace patience into your life.

So what can you do to become more patient and take control of your life?

How to Be More Patient

Outlined below are 3 practical techniques you can apply right now into your life that will help you be more patient and take charge of your life.

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1. Understand What Triggers Your Feelings Of Impatience

The opposite of patience is impatience. Everyone has experienced the feeling of impatience many times in life – in fact, you can’t escape it!

For you to become more patient, it is important that you understand what triggers your feelings of impatience. What is it that you think about or feel right before you lose it? Once you know what triggers you, then you can work on using calming exercises to help you better manage those feelings of impatience when they start to build up.

Making yourself wait before you react, and practising deep breathing exercises are great techniques to help you manage those surging feelings of impatience. Counting to 100 under your breath is another technique to help you WAIT before you react.

2. Stop Doing Things That Are Not Important

We can get easily distracted and stressed when we are doing things that are not really important and are taking up a huge amount of time. One way of removing stress is to stop doing things that create more stress for you.

Take a few minutes out at the end of your day and reflect on the tasks you have done. Write these tasks down and then write down the tasks you have to do tomorrow.

Patience is about having a more positive and reflective perspective in life, so look at each of these tasks and decide which are top priorities for tomorrow and which tasks can wait for a few days. Then go do the important tasks. If you consistently practise this technique, you will slowly take back control over your life.

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3. Work on Changing Your Attitude

A person who is patient is able to assess situations from a more positive perspective. They tend to accept a difficult situation as it is and will not fight it or avoid it. They will work with it and try to work on a solution that will enable them to move forward.

Patience is all about perspective and how you look at situations. If you miss your bus or are running late for a meeting and stuck in traffic, you have the choice about how you react. A patient person will work on putting a positive spin to the situation and try to reduce the tension that potentially could potentially build up.

Having a more impatient perspective on life is not going to serve you well. Impatience will block you from living life where you are in control.

Techniques that you could use that will help you have a more positive outlook on life are:

  • Visualization. Try to step ahead of the problem. Visualize yourself facing the problem and how you dealt with it and achieved positive outcomes.
  • Get active and choose activities that will help you release the stress and tension you are feeling. There are many things you can do such as yoga, walking, breathing exercises, and meditation etc. Choose activities that bring you peace of mind and commit to doing these activities on a regular basis.

Final Thoughts

Practising patience in your life will enable you to have more freedom of choice and as a result, have more control of your life.

If you commit to the journey of living a patient life, the rewards that you will reap will be unbelievable. Who wouldn’t want to live a flourishing life where you are in charge?

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Featured photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

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