Part of the human condition seems to require us to get in a funk from time to time. We find ourselves in a state of uncertainty, confusion, overwhelm, apathy… whatever the flavor your funk personally takes, it isn’t pleasant.
These periods can last for days, weeks, months, and even years. They come unannounced. Sometimes we can rationalize our misaligned mood with external events, other times we can’t make sense of it. It simply is.
Whilst this guide isn’t promising a quick-fix solution to a state like this, it does aim to provide you with good news: some tools and strategies you can implement starting today, that can support you and ultimately help you to get out of a funk and take control of life again.
Let’s take a look at how to get out of a funk and take control of life:
1. Acknowledge It
Before even attempting to dive in with any of these suggestions, it’s well worth taking the time to acknowledge the funk you’re in. This step alone will help create distance, as you give the funk some airtime and remember that it does not define you. It’s just a passing state.
Talk to Yourself (Lovingly)
Another helpful tip is to pay attention to that little voice in our heads, making meaning out of what we experience. What stories are you telling yourself about what is happening in your life? Are you putting a positive or negative spin on what you are experiencing? Is there another way to look at things?
It can be very helpful to have someone who is willing to stay with us through difficult emotions without trying to change or fix us in any way. Whether or not we have someone like that in our lives, it is essential to learn how to be that type of person for ourselves.
Sometimes we feel like we are in a funk because we believe the negative stories about something that may or may not be true. Could there be a reason to hope right now instead of feeling discouraged? Could something good come out of what is happening, even if it is your own personal growth? What is the silver lining?
We can learn a lot by paying attention to our self-talk. What would the perfect coach, parent, or friend who loved you unconditionally and believed that you were inherently good, innately wise, and perfectly okay no matter what say to you right now?
How about something like:
“You’ve got this.”
“You can get through this.”
“You are so wonderful and resilient.”
“Just focus on the present and be here right now.”
The more we can connect with that loving voice that truly believes that we are perfectly loveable just the way we are, the more confidence we will have when facing tough times.
Write About It
Write in a journal or notebook about what you are feeling, thinking, and what is real for you in this moment. Imagine describing how you are feeling right now to a completely loving parent or friend who wants the very best for you and will not judge you in any way.
You might also audio-record yourself talking about what you are feeling and thinking. Then, listen to it with real compassion. Pretend you are a loving friend who loves everything about you, even the tough stuff. Relief comes when we can be a loving witness.
What do you notice? Do you have any new insights or words of wisdom? You can delete the audio-file when you are done. As you do, imagine letting your stories about your experience go so the only thing left is the present moment.
Give yourself the space to feel into it. You might give it through words, music or art. You might play a song that captures your mood. Whatever you do, acknowledge that this is a temporary state of being, it too shall pass, and you are certainly not alone in this experience.
2. Define the Problem
In some cases, the actual problem or reason for our funk is clear: we’ve split up from our partner, lost our job, been let down in some way. In other cases, there doesn’t appear to be a real reason for our malaise. On paper, everything is just fine… isn’t it?
It’s well worth questioning how ‘fine’ things really are and remembering that just because you haven’t lost a limb, doesn’t mean you have to accept your circumstances with a cheery smile. Everyone’s experience is relative to them, and no one needs to justify the funk they’re in.
Instead, you can use what feels like a negative experience as a signal pointing you to something that fundamentally needs your attention. Maybe your job seems fine on paper, but those snarky comments from a co-worker are taking their toll on you. Maybe the lack of appreciation your family is showing you have gone on for too long now.
Spend some quiet time reflecting on the possible problems causing your funk, and make sure to write them down or record your thoughts in some way. This will make them easier to grapple with, and ultimately take you one step further towards making a change that could turn your whole situation around.
As much as the internet may try to tell you “meditation is for everyone”, I personally won’t claim that to be the case. However, I do think it’s worth trying – at least once.
It also might seem like the last thing you want to do when you’re in a funk: it might feel far easier to numb out and binge-watch your favorite TV series or spend hours on social media.
The reason meditation is so effective for getting through these times is to remind ourselves of one thing:
We are not our thoughts.
If it’s our thoughts that are causing our funk, then knowing this to be true can be a huge relief.
Rather than setting the bar too high, I encourage you to set a timer for just five minutes. Sit in a comfortable position, with your spine relatively aligned and your shoulders relaxed. Close your eyes if that’s comfortable for you. Begin to connect with your deep breath: possibly noting silently to yourself ‘in’ on the inhale, and ‘out’ on the exhale. When your mind wanders, as it will, do your best not to berate yourself for it and bring your attention gently back to your breath.
Even though you might not come out of your reverie feeling problem-free, it is a practice that, over time, can help deal with any storm in the sea of the mind.
4. Move Your Body
Whilst the root of our issues may be in our mind, it’s worth not forgetting the body. Endorphins are produced through exercise and help us cope with stress and even relieve pain. 
Going for a run is a way that some people get out of funks, but if running isn’t for you, brisk walking or other physical disciplines can all help your body to create those happy hormones.
If you think you’re too busy for exercises, here’re 5 Ways to Find Time for Exercise.
5. Connect with a Loved One
It can be tempting to isolate yourself when under the influence of a funk, but this is the last thing we need.
In connecting with others, we get to share the burden we’re struggling under. Having another person simply to listen, or distract us from any external problems, can be enough to bring us out of a funk.
When you notice you’re in a bad mood, think of family members who make you laugh or simply feel safe. Whatever you do, try not to isolate yourself at this time.
6. Write a Gratitude List
At first, you may struggle to think of something to be grateful for, and your mood may even take an initial nosedive at the first attempt of this task. However, this is the exact inner environment that the gratitude list thrives on if you give it a chance.
It’s an exercise that encourages you to seek out the parts of your life that don’t suck. At first, it might be as mundane as ‘a working washing machine’ or ‘the sound of rain.’ Like with all of these practices, the more we return to them, the stronger the effect in the long run.
A regular gratitude practice, for example at the beginning or end of each day, can actually train the mind to spot more instances of positive aspects in our lives. Not only can this be a great pick-me-up if we’re in the depths of a funk, but it can also help combat future slumps we may have found ourselves in otherwise.
If you need some inspiration for your gratitude list, here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.
7. Appreciate Beauty
When you are in a funk, you may feel like you are living in an empty world without color. Everything seems gray, hollow, and incomplete. When you focus on what you are seeing, you’ll start to experience it in your life.
Appreciation of excellence and beauty is among the character strengths that researchers have identified in human beings.
Taking the time to appreciate beauty can uplift your sense of well-being. You should try going for walk mindfully while looking for things that you find inspiring and beautiful purposefully.
Research studies have shown that people who enjoy spending time in nature tend to appreciate the beauty and enjoy lots of mental health benefits. If you can’t spend some time outdoors, you should find beauty where you are. You can look at photo albums, or read magazines.
8. Flow is Key
Flow is another popular concept that originated from positive psychology. Being in a funk means being stuck in the negative.
When you seek and focus on the positive, you’ll ultimately come out of it. Being in a state of flow means that you are engaged in something you enjoy such that all other thoughts and emotions fade away.
Most people get in a funk because they are unchallenged and bored. If you feel this way, you should experiment with looking for activities that are enjoyable and engaging. You need to find activities that are neither too challenging nor too easy.
Think of past activities or hobbies that used to excite you. Engaging in activities that put you in a state of flow is one of the best ways to get out of a funk. You can’t experience flow and funk at the same time.
9. Find a Mentor
Reaching out for help can take different forms. We might call a trusted friend or family member, physician, therapist, coach, or help lines like suicide or mental wellness hotline.
Asking for help is a sign of true inner strength. As humans, we were made to collaborate, brainstorm, and invent in the community. When we talk to others about our problems, we usually see solutions and answers and gain insights we never could have discovered on our own.
You need to identify someone whom you admire. It should be someone who has been where you are and has gone through the ups and downs. Invite them for lunch or coffee or ask them to take a walk with you.
As you nurture this relationship, you’ll gain valuable insights about life. These insights can boost your mental health and help you get out of a funk.
10. Embrace the Changes in Relationships
All types of relationships are exciting when they are new. Eventually, this feeling of newness wears off over time. Instead of seeing this progress as a bad thing, and a warning of doom, you should recognize that it’s part of life and a healthy progression of your relationship.
Accepting that things change will allow you to experience the relationship mindfully without judging every moment. With this mindset and other tips that we’ve discussed in this article, you can easily get out of a funk.
11. Change Your Speed
Our bodies and minds are so connected. Sometimes, when we are feeling anxious, we move quickly but don’t really accomplish much. If this is happening to you, try moving slower. Sit down. Rest. Go outside and lay on the ground. Take a few nice, long, slow breaths.
Remember to connect with your loving inner voice and say, “You are doing great. Whatever you are feeling is completely okay. You are going to get through this.”
Similarly, when we are depressed or in a funk, it can help to move more quickly. Take a brisk walk, even if it’s just around your house. Play an upbeat song you love and dance, even if it feels silly at first. Do a few jumping jacks. Twirl in a circle.
If you are feeling angry, find creative ways to get any negative energy out of your body in a way that is safe for you and others. Find a stick and beat an empty box or a pile of pillows. Go for a sprint in an open field. Punch a punching bag. Jump up and down. Scream. Talk about it. Do whatever you can to get grounded and start to feel safe again.
12. Eat Healthy Foods
Sometimes we fill up with empty calories, sugar, or caffeine that causes an emotional and energetic crash later, especially when you are feeling difficult emotions or feeling exhausted.
Try eating small, healthy snacks that are high in protein, like nuts, meat, nut butter, or something filled with antioxidants like organic fruits and vegetables frequently.
If you are craving sugar, reach for fruit. We often forget how delicious, sweet, and satisfying fruits can be. As you put good food into your body, try to bring your full attention to how it tastes and what it feels like to fully receive the gift of healthy food.
13. Drink Water
When we feel overly anxious or depressed, we might find we have forgotten to care for ourselves and give ourselves the basic things we need, like sleep, food, and water.
Being perpetually dehydrated can lead to other health problems, prevent us from feeling our best, and cause us to feel emotionally and physically stuck in a funk.
Challenge yourself to drink a certain amount of water every day. You might want to start slow, increasing eight ounces a day until you get to 64 to 80 ounces. Try to really enjoy the water as you are drinking and imagine it hydrating, cleansing, and refreshing all of your cells and your frame of mind.
14. Scan Your Body
Sometimes, our moods drop because of physical rather than emotional reasons. Set a timer for three minutes and scan your body, bringing your awareness to whatever you are experiencing with kindness and compassion.
Rather than trying to change anything, just gently send yourself love and acceptance as you slow down your breath and bring your attention to your body. Notice whatever you are feeling with gentleness and awareness, knowing it is all okay.
You might want to stretch, rub your neck, hands, or feet or hug yourself. Or, simply rest.
15. Help Someone Else
One gift that comes as a result of feeling difficult emotions is that we know what it feels like to need support, and so we have a greater ability to be present with others and offer real empathy and compassion.
How can you be of service to others? You might listen to a friend’s sharing or struggles from a place of deep understanding or maybe do a simple task that will really make a difference. You could also drop off food to someone living alone, buy flowers or run an errand for another person, volunteer at a local charity, or offer to help a friend with a carpool and childcare.
Furthermore, perhaps you could be extra friendly with the people you meet. It’s amazing how a friendly smile, eye contact, and a kind heart can shift our whole outlook and realize how much we really matter, even if it’s from a stranger. You can be that person for someone else.
16. Tell Someone “Thank You”
When we are depressed or in a funk, we are very focused on ourselves. When we find ourselves feeling grateful for something that another person has done for us, our brain shifts from a negative groove to a more positive one.
We step out of our own experience a bit and see a bigger picture. This can set off a flow of endorphins and positive chemicals in our bodies that help us feel better.
Saying “thank you” can take the form of a letter of appreciation, quick email, text or voice message, or just a smile and a word of thanks to a complete stranger for something like bagging our groceries. (Sometimes, the thank you letter we most need to write is to ourselves!)
17. Let Yourself Feel
Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to really give in to the emotion. If you feel sad, let yourself cry. Tears can be very cleansing. Sometimes we feel stuck because we are afraid to feel a specific emotion. However, really feeling and moving through a feeling will get us to the other side.
If you feel anxious or fearful, notice where that feeling is in your body. Breathe into the feeling without trying to change it or chase it away. (If it doesn’t feel safe to do this, or you feel too fearful, trust your instincts. Simply reach out by calling a helpline or contacting a professional like a physician, therapist, spiritual teacher, or coach to help you feel your emotions safely.)
The more we are able to accept our emotions and really feel them, the more we also learn to accept all of ourselves, just as we are.
18. Listen to Upbeat Music
Music has a way of directing our moods. Choose music you really like and listen to it or have it playing in the background as you work.
Try humming along. If you can, try blasting music and making your house your personal dance floor. If you are driving, play the radio and sing at the top of your lungs.
19. Accomplish Something Small
Sometimes, our stuck feeling is a message from our intuition, telling us that we need to do something different or are ignoring an important task. What is one thing that you really need at this moment?
Maybe it’s drinking water or going for a short walk. Perhaps it’s doing that one small thing you’ve been procrastinating. Ask yourself what you really, really need in this moment, the way a friend would.
Take a moment right now to do that thing that is in your best interest. After it is completed, ask yourself again. It’s amazing how we can tend to ourselves one step at a time.
20. Clean Something
There is something very energizing, invigorating, and symbolically powerful about clearing, cleaning, and letting go. Clean out your refrigerator or junk drawer. Throw away 20 things. Wash a window or mirror. Keep it small and doable. When you finish, cheer!
Bonus: Funk vs. Depression
Individuals in a funk might experience some feelings that are similar to that of clinical depression. However, there are key differences. People who are diagnosed with depression must experience these symptoms almost every day for two weeks consecutively:
- Depressed mood for prolonged periods of time
- Decreased pleasure or interest in almost every activity that they used to enjoy
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Loss of energy and fatigue
- Feelings of excessive guilt or worthlessness
- Recurrent suicidal thoughts
A funk does not always have all these symptoms. Plus, the intensity and duration are quite different. A funk can last for a few days and it might improve temporarily depending on the activities that you are indulging in.
While the majority of people get into a funk, almost everyone experiences clinical depression. If you are experiencing more than a funk, you should seek help immediately.
Sometimes it feels like time is zooming by or you’re having a bad day, leaving us behind. But you’re capable to get yourself out of a funk!
By acknowledging bad moods and problems, and actively taking actions to change up your thoughts, you will improve your mental health and take control of your life again.
Featured photo credit: Luis Flores via unsplash.com