At various times of my life, I have found myself in a state of just feeling out-of-sorts. I am not depressed, but I have these feelings that are associated with listlessness, lack of purpose, and lack of motivation. I feel flat, empty, disconnected. When I am in this state, I feel unpleasant and I feel the need to help myself.
I usually feel like this when I have worked hard on a project and it has come to an end. I am exhausted and emotionally drained, and I am at a point where I don’t know what to do next.
COVID-19 has also created a lot of situations for me where I have had to work really hard not to stay in a mental funk longer than I should. With so much disruption and uncertainty in our lives today, we need to be extra vigilant so we don’t want to fall into the trap of continuously living our lives in a state of a mental funk.
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What Is Mental Funk?
The first step to getting yourself out of a state of mental funk is to understand what a mental funk is all about. If you don’t know what you are dealing with, how would you know how to work your way out of the problem?
There are many definitions given for a mental funk. However, the definition given by the Urban Dictionary for Mental Funk resonates with me:
“Temporary sadness. Feeling sad and down and not knowing why. No motivation to do anything and always tired. Almost like you’re missing something but not know what it is. Like a small phase of depression that only lasts a couple of days or weeks.”
There is science behind mental funk. In fact, there is a science behind our moods and feelings. They don’t just come out of nowhere. If you are in a mental funk, you are not going crazy—there is a chemical explanation behind why you are feeling the way you do.
When you understand the science behind your moods, you are more informed about how you can snap out of your mental funk a lot quicker.
The Chemistry Behind Our Moods
Different chemicals affect our moods. Sydney Sprouse explains how we can harness these chemicals where we are in more control of our feelings rather than our feelings controlling us:
“Hormones and neurotransmitters (those important chemical messengers) work in the limbic system and throughout the body. They generate the emotions you experience throughout the day. These compounds work in tandem with the events in your life to trigger your many types of mood.”
Serotonin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that helps us feel relaxed, balanced, and contributes to our well-being or state of calm. When your serotonin is out of whack, it feels like everything is out of whack in your life.
When your body is low in Serotonin, you are more susceptible to feeling sadness, lethargy, and sleepiness. When there is plenty of serotonin in your body you are more content, alert, and energized.
When you are feeling listless, low in energy, or emotional, you need to give your Serotonin levels a boost. One of the best ways to this is by journaling. This simple act of reflecting on your past achievements or thinking about positive memories produces Serotonin.
The secret ingredient for journaling to work, however, is that you have to commit to it regularly or else, your mental funk will keep appearing and will hang around for a lot longer.
2. Dopamine—The Feeling of Pleasure
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is released when we feel pleasure. It is a chemical that makes us feel like it is our birthday every day, and it is very important in helping us regulate our emotional responses.
If you have been in meetings all day or had a long day at work, you will feel drained and tired. The more we feel like this, the more “blah” we feel about life and our mood becomes “blah” as well. This is a sign that our Dopamine levels are low and we need to give it a boost.
This chemical is essential as it is the chemical that gives us a feeling of hope. It will help us fight our bad moods as long as there is plenty of Dopamine around.
To boost your Dopamine levels, you have to create pleasure for your mind and body. There are many ways to do this. You can pamper yourself, plan a holiday, create a bucket list, catch up with old friends, or reconnect with friends you haven’t seen in a while.
The key thing to do to boost your Dopamine levels is to take action. If you are not taking action and trying new things, this very important chemical will not be able to help you fight off your bad moods!
3. Oxytocin—The Feeling of Love
“Oxytocin creates feelings of love and trust. That’s where the name “love hormone” comes from. The presence of this hormone in your blood helps you form emotional attachments to loved ones—friends, family, even pets.”
Oxytocin is the love hormone that makes us feel love and connection. Oxytocin is crucial to understanding our moods as our mind and body work together to find connection with others.
If you are feeling disconnected and alone, then your level of Oxytocin is low and you need to give it a boost. The best way to do this is to call in your support network. Do you have a friend who is a great listener or a person or relative who makes you laugh? These are the people who will help you boost your Oxytocin levels to an all-time high.
4. Endorphins—The Feeling of Excitement
Endorphins are a significant chemical that helps us to manage our levels of anxiety, stress, and physical pain. Endorphins are pumped through our bodies when we are active. This is the reason why going for a run or a workout makes us feel euphoric or as if we are on a high.
The best way to give your Endorphins a boost is to get active and go exercise. Do any activity where you can get your blood and endorphins pumping!
Beware of Cortisol: The Stress Hormone
To understand how Cortisol affects our moods, we need to understand stress. Not all stress is bad for us—in fact, good stress (Eustress) keeps you alert, goal-orientated, and focused. However, the problem is that we can let bad stress (distress) take over our lives. This is when Cortisol kicks in and has a huge influence on our moods and how we feel.
The triggers for bad stress can vary from personal tragedy, bad relationships, job loss, etc. With the increase of the stress in our lives, the feelings of uneasiness, tension, and anxiety accompany a rise in cortisol levels.
There are ways to manage the cortisol levels, but exercise and connection with others are by far the most effective. These activities can combat the anxiety and fatigue caused by distress and help you to move forward.
There are a few more chemicals and hormones that can influence your mood swings, but I have selected the key chemicals that have the most significant impact on how you feel daily However, if you do want to get out of your Mental Funk quickly, here are 3 actions that you can do that will sort out your Mental Funk instantaneously!
- Meditation – Meditation creates the space for you to give your thoughts some peace and quiet
- Laughter – Laughter brings you joy and creates a positive mindset. The more you laugh, the happier you feel about life. Set yourself a challenge to smile and laugh at least 10 times a day! If you do this, your mental funk will disappear completely.
- Get 8 hours of sleep every night – Your body and mind need rest and to replenish. The best way to do that is by regularly getting a good night’s sleep.
We can’t prevent our feelings of malaise (Mental Funk) from happening, but we can tap into our power of choice and take action to move our feelings and thoughts into a more positive and optimistic mindset.
The more we know about what causes our mental funk, the easier it is for us to choose to do something about it!
“You are not the victim of the world, but rather the master of your own destiny. It is your choices and decisions that determine your destiny.” —Roy T Bennett
More Tips on Mental Wellness
- 5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength
- Why Helping Others Actually Helps Yourself
- 42 Practical Ways To Improve Yourself
Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com
|||^||Urban Dictionary: to be in a funk|
|||^||Ask the Scientists: Master Your Mood: The Science Behind the Types of Mood|