How to get yourself unstuck and take action
Tired of the same old? Lost your spark? Break out of a rut by switching up your routine, replacing habits that don’t serve you and finding your purpose
Many of us feel jaded about cooking the same meals week-in, week-out, or guilty about falling into the same TV and sofa trap most nights. And, in fact, research suggests that about 40 percent of the activities we do every day are performed in the same way each time.
So, just how can we break out of a rut? According to psychotherapist and mindfulness coach Belynder Walia of Serene Lifestyles, part of the reason we tend to fall into a similar routine each day is because this way of living offers the path of least resistance. “Staying in ‘the rut’ is the easiest option as it requires very little effort,” she explains. “As people seem more exhausted than ever before, sometimes we simply don’t have the energy to do anything different. And so we find ourselves repeating these identical patterns every day.”
It’s not just the physical effort that’s off-putting; having the mental strength and confidence needed to make a change can also be a challenge. “We often fear change,” Belynder says. “Previous experiences of doing something different may have been negative, or the unknown may just seem too scary.
“Fortunately, it does not have to be this way,” she adds. “Life’s patterns and habits that we have grown so accustomed to are easily altered, but only if a person wants the change.”
Read on to find out how to get yourself unstuck and try these simple steps...
11 ways to get unstuck
Hit the reset button
Iona Russell is a life coach and the author of Making Waves – Awaken the Light Within. She works to help people transform their lives, and understands first-hand just how liberating a change can be. “I’ve hit the reset button a few times in my life, and it’s always about working on what’s going on inside,” she says. “My mid-40s was a pivotal moment for me. I was sad, lost and seemingly stuck in an unhappy marriage. I couldn’t help but feel something was missing. Then, in a moment of clarity, I realised that I wasn’t living life on my own terms. I was living the life everyone else expected of me, and I had been for a very long time.
“I know how terrifying it can be to reinvent yourself or to change things – it can feel like so many obstacles are standing in your way, and are almost impossible to overcome. But it is possible, and I am living proof.” For Iona, breaking free is about letting go of the thoughts that are holding you back. “We often tell ourselves that we aren’t worthy, we can’t do something or we shouldn’t do it – but this isn’t the case. I once jumped out of a plane at 10,000 feet in Hawaii and it was the most exhilarating feeling ever. It’s good to step out of your comfort zone and show yourself what you can do, however scary it appears.”
Stepping out of a rut can mean different things to different people. Perhaps you just want to introduce some new recipes into your cooking repertoire, or read more. Or perhaps you’re looking to make a bigger change with your career or where you live. Regardless of what it is, the key is to embrace it. “We need to break the monotony and get excited and curious about life,” says Iona. “If you don’t feel motivated about what you are doing then it’s time to mix things up a bit. Start with small steps and do something positive for yourself each day.”
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Let go of limiting beliefs
It’s true that we’re often our own worst enemy and, as Belynder explains, it’s usually our own thoughts that are hindering our movement forward. “Limiting beliefs hold you back and keep you stuck,” she says. “Some are nicely tucked away in our unconscious mind and you may not yet realise that you have a choice for change.” Belynder suggests practicing mindfulness, yoga and meditation to realise your inner strength, or seeking a coach to help you explore how to allow new beliefs and practices in.
Overcome your fear
We’re all guilty of dwelling on the idea that we might fail at something new, but Belynder says that in order to get out of a rut we need to change our mindset. “Train your mind to consider: ‘What if it does work out? What if everything is going to turn out fine without disruption or chaos?’ If you believe the outcome to be successful, your mind will endeavour to make it a success.”
Find your purpose
If you sometimes find yourself feeling disheartened about your place in the world and wondering what more there is to life, don’t despair. We’ve all been there. But according to experts, the key is to find a sense of purpose. “This can be as simple as finding elements of yourself that you want, or have always wanted, to expand,” says Belynder. “We have to make our purpose more than what we represent in our everyday routines. In my opinion, finding your purpose is all about personal growth.”
To help you on this journey, Iona recommends looking at your strengths. “Consider what you have accomplished throughout your life and really blow your own trumpet,” she advises. “We are taught from a young age to be modest and play down our achievements, but I believe it’s key to embrace them and embody them.”
Consider learning a new skill
What do you want to know? What do you want to be able to do? There are so many opportunities at our fingertips and learning something new can help us feel more satisfied and fulfilled. “This could be as simple as learning the steps to a recipe or as difficult as studying a new language,” says Belynder. “Often wanting to learn will allow you to discover a more adventurous task within your environment and boost your confidence and self-esteem, too.”
Live in gratitude
“Focus on the positive,” says Iona. “Every morning, spend five to 10 minutes setting clear intentions for the day. Write down three things you are grateful for and then create a list of three things you want to accomplish that day. At the end of the day, make a note of everything you have achieved and look again at what you’re grateful for.”
Create a joy list
Follow Iona’s advice and make a ‘Joy List’ to encourage a sense of curiosity and creativity into your life: Divide a piece of A4 paper in half, length-ways, and on one side list all the things that make you happy. These could be things from your childhood, like making a daisy chain in the garden, or it could be things you do regularly, like treating your skin to a face mask.
Now, on the other side, make a list of things you’re curious about – things you’d like to try but haven’t. It may be something like trying a new type of food or reading a different author, or it could be something much larger like exploring a new culture or career. Start to add some of the activities from both sides of your list into your daily life, especially the ones you’re curious about. And don’t forget to keep adding to these lists on a weekly basis. Your life will be so much richer for it.
Understand where a habit starts
Fed up of following the same habits? According to experts, a lot of our habits are borne out of stress, boredom, fear or tiredness, and once you can recognise why you behave in a certain way, you can make steps to change it.
Replace a bad habit
The key to changing your routine is to substitute one action with another. So, if you find yourself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram while you’re cooking dinner, replace it with a different action – perhaps you could flick through a magazine or listen to an audiobook instead. Make these new actions really important to you.
Cut out your triggers
What is it that makes you fall into negative or repetitive habits? Often, it’s a trigger. You might associate sitting on your sofa with reaching for the remote and turning on the TV, or you might associate picking up your phone with clicking onto social media. Break out of your routine by reducing your exposure to these prompts. So, in the examples above, you could try leaving your remote control in another room or moving around the apps on your phone so that a music or meditation app is more prominent on your screen.
More inspiration to help you get unstuck
We're all guilty of spending too much time on our phones. Find out how to spend less time on your phone using mindfulness techniques in this feature by Dan Nixon.
Starting your day in the right way can really have an impact on your stress levels. Author, psychologist and yoga teacher Suzy Reading explains how to start a morning self care routine to reduce stress and anxiety.
Getting out of a rut can also mean embracing big changes in your life. Listen to our podcast and learn how to embrace positive change using kaizen with author Sarah Harvey.
This article was first published in In The Moment Magazine issue 37. Featured image from Unsplash/Dusan Jovic.