Motivation has eluded me for most of this past year; I feel directionless and disconnected. I don’t know that I would go so far as to say my life sucks, but it certainly doesn’t feel great at this moment in time.
I’m slucky that tragedy, massive heartbreak or overwhelming disappointment hasn’t befallen me. I’m just stuck, which therapist Erica Hornthal, assured me is a common feeling for many people, herself included.
While talking to a professional is a helpful tool in turning things around, she emphasized, “It is important to understand that only you can get yourself unstuck. It cannot be done for you.”
Obviously, sitting on the couch waiting for a miraculous change to occur isn’t productive (I know; I’ve put in the man-hours), but doing something proactive is often easier said than done.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try though.
I’ve come up with a few suggestions for when you feel like life sucks and you’re ready to do something about it.
1. Move Yourself Out of a Rut
As the founder of Chicago Dance Therapy, Hornthal’s specialty focuses on the body’s movements and how they impact the way we go through life.
“You might be surprised to find how much a stuck mindset is connected to a motionless, unmotivated or tense/bound body,” Hornthal mused.
To help jumpstart yourself out of a rut, Hornthal suggested the following actions to incorporate into everyday life, especially if seeing a therapist isn’t an option:
- Take a walk—move your body to move your thoughts.
- Declutter your environment to create room for taking on the stressors of life.
- Take up a mind-body activity like yoga, Pilates, meditation or Nia.
- Stretch before you start your day.
- Breathe to increase lung and mental capacity.
2. Find Your People
Because life sucks less with friends, finding a support group can be like another inexpensive form of therapy.
Meetup and Facebook are popular places to find like-minded people for commiseration and encouragement, whether it’s for health, parenting, career or recreational support.
Should you not find a group that suits your needs, create your own just like New Orleans singer Robin Barnes did in 2015.
After falling ill and needing to make healthier choices for herself, Barnes sent out an open invitation on her Facebook page for her “friends” to meet her for a run.
“I was terrified before sending out my first post of my story, my illness and wanting to meet up to run,” she recalled. “I needed to get healthy, but I knew I needed support to get started.”
Just a handful of people showed up the first day, but over time it grew into a thriving fitness group called Move Ya Brass (which, full disclosure, after discovering the group, I started writing their blog).
In addition to meeting for weekly runs, they offer a supportive community to race with and free fitness classes.
“I couldn’t have imagined how many people needed that same support to begin their health journey,” Barnes marveled. “How huge this movement has grown is a blessing, but also a testament to you’re never alone.”
3. Play the Suck Away
We often associate play with kids, but it’s important for adults to let loose, get out of our heads and have fun too.
Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, California, told The Washington Post that play is an essential need; when we don’t engage in it enough, our “minds and bodies notice.”
He suggested channeling what you enjoyed doing as a child into your current life.
For example, if you loved sports as a kid, join a recreational league. You don’t even need a full team, as many leagues will assign you to one if you register on your own.
Or maybe riding a bike, swimming, painting or jumping on a trampoline was your jam. Take it up again and let the joy replace your feelings of despair.
4. Learn a New Language
Studies show learning a new language can increase academic achievement, improve cognitive skills and provide a better understanding of others. It can also just be a good place to change up your routine and meet new people.
Schools like Chicago’s Latin American Language Center foster such socialization in their relaxed Spanish class settings, where alcoholic beverages and snacks are on hand.
They also host networking events, allowing students the opportunity to practice their conversational skills with fellow learners and native Spanish speakers.
Learning a new language can also be a great distraction or focal point when the feeling that life sucks becomes too much. Such was the case for my sister Jenn Wilson who has been studying the Korean language for the past two years.
After becoming intrigued by a Korean drama on Netflix, she started taking language classes. In addition to her newfound binge obsession, she found that studying Korean helped her focus her anxiety and quiet down her internal monologue.
“When I do have a bad day or a bad moment I can listen to my Korean playlist on Spotify, do some studying, or watch a drama and all the chaos in my brain calms down,” Jenn explained. “I find that I am actually pretty happy in that moment.”
It’s also provided her a creative outlet as she and two friends she met on her Korean language journey host a YouTube chat show discussing all things K-dramas. She’s also planning a trip to South Korea—a destination she never would have considered before.
5. Refresh With a Forest Bath
It’s not as risqué as it sounds. A forest bath, or as the Japanese call it shinrin-yoku, is just immersing yourself in a forest.
Or any natural area will do, as a University of East Anglia study says spending time in nature can reduce the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
If you don’t live near a forest or even a park, just get outside and walk around your block. (It’s certainly better than sitting at home dwelling on how much life sucks.)
Eventually upgrade by driving to the closest green space and then graduate by road tripping to a trail where the trees block out all sounds of city life.
Doing so can:
- Reduce stress.
- Increase happiness.
- Enhance the ability to focus.
- Increase energy levels.
- Jumpstart creativity.
All things that could help you claw yourself out of your rut.
6. Give Back, Get Back
Volunteering decreases the risk of depression, gives us a sense of purpose and can help develop new relationships.
Like most things, a volunteer job that holds meaning to you will have a higher success rate for everyone involved.
A great place to start when trying to figure out where to volunteer is to find an organization where you can utilize the skills and interests you already have.
For example, Chicago’s RefugeeOne needs volunteers well versed in English, computers and sewing to teach refugees skills benefiting their job search.
Likewise, musicians can volunteer their talents by performing at the bedside of patients in hospitals across the country with Musicians on Call. Meanwhile, coaches, officials and even photographers can put their abilities to good use with their local Special Olympics chapter.
Offering up your expertise in situations like these could have a profound effect on others. Connecting with people in circumstances outside your own could impact you as well.
This runner used her love of the sport to volunteer with Achilles International, which empowers people with disabilities to take part in mainstream races.
As told to CBS News, Jessie Rix was paired with a blind athlete named Anthony Butler. Not only did his outlook on life change her own perspective, but the two fell in love while training for a marathon together.
Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll find your soulmate while volunteering. You might not even find a new passion when trying any of the above suggestions.
It might take a while to find what brings you out of your funk, but, to echo Rix’s sentiment in the CBS interview, you never know how your life could change just by saying yes to something.