Not feeling yourself? The number one thing to get out of a funk
No motivation. Lethargy. Low mood. Life just feels flat. You start questioning yourself, analysing your life, thinking about all of the things that you’re not totally satisfied with, how things ‘should be’ different, the life you could be living if only you weren't held back by (name the restriction - partner, kids, job), in other words, going down rabbit holes that are difficult to get back out of.
Here’s what I've learnt as a life coach (and human).
1. Some rabbit holes just don’t need to be gone down (like at all)
Some are only created because of the state of mind we’re in and all they do is lead us deeper and deeper into lower emotions until we feel so hopeless and so confused that it seems like nobody can help us.
You can test this against when you’re in a happy state, suddenly many of these ‘issues’ don’t look so bad, in fact, some become irrelevant and melt away, and the others that are still an issue? They suddenly look much more manageable, we’re able to look at them objectively and see at least some of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Moral of the story; choose your rabbit holes carefully.
2. The rabbit holes that do need to be explored DO NOT need to be explored when you’re feeling in a low state (it pretty much always ends badly)
If you’re already in a low state or mood, then it's not the best place to start examining your life from, because you’re going to have the exact opposite of rose-tinted spectacles - you’re going to have black-tinted spectacles with big clouds looming over them.
Science already tells us that when we’re emotional, we get dumber. Strong negative emotions affect our logical reasoning.
Moral of this bullet point; change your state first before beginning the introspection.
I’m not suggesting that you don’t explore your emotions or ever get upset, of course, there are times when you might be in a low state and need someone to help guide you out of it (like a therapist or coach) but my point is rather to be mindful of your state, to be aware that if you’re in a low mood, negative thoughts will probably follow, therefore where possible, emotional suffering can be greatly reduced by changing your state as the first priority, rather than getting carried away with negative thoughts.
3. Explore the big questions, explore the dissatisfaction, or changes you’d like to make when you’re in a good state of mind
You will feel far more resourceful, far more optimistic, far more of the ‘anything is possible’ mentality if you’re in a good state of mind.
The state we’re in affects our perception massively.
Of course, this sounds obvious but the majority of people, us, society are led to believe that being in a good state of mind is something that happens to us, either we’re happy, or we’re sad, that it's not something that we have control over. And whilst there may be exceptions to this, we do have a lot more control than we’re typically led to believe.
So remember, positive state = positive perception, negative state = negative perception.
How can we change our state?
This is one of the first topics I address in my coaching program because this is the foundation that affects the overall quality of your life; your physiology.
- Your state is greatly affected by your physiology because your physiology affects your feelings (how you feel mentally and emotionally).
- And your physiology is greatly affected by exercise and diet.
Now I'm not a fitness instructor, I’m a life coach however I’ve seen it happen time again and I’ve experienced it myself; sometimes we can completely lose ourselves in thinking we have this ‘set of problems’, going over them in our heads, trying to find solutions, when in fact the big issue is our physiology; our body has no energy, it feels lethargic, it has no motivation, leading to low mood, and so naturally, the mind interprets that your life must just be awful and gives you a list of reasons why.
The mind and body impact each other, and of course, in some ways they are one and the same, but I draw a distinction to highlight where the biggest problem area is coming from and therefore where the biggest remedy can be made for the quickest results.
A prime example of this is my past anxiety - I assumed the anxiety was generated from something mental, psychological (and I know in many cases it can be) so naturally, I tried different techniques - mindfulness, meditation, therapy but nothing worked.
I was stumped because I know that all of these techniques can be very useful for anxiety.
Then I happened to come across an article that spoke about how your diet can create anxiety, how not consuming enough calories or having the essential nutrients can lead to anxiety. I had assumed my diet was okay, (I thought I ate a lot!) but when I measured my calories I discovered that I was under them and not hitting all my nutrition goals either, when I changed this my anxiety reduced rapidly.
So as the first step, I would always suggest that a strong foundation is built first, a life that prioritises and makes space for health and fitness because your body is your temple.
It should be cared for lovingly and if you’re not doing that, the question needs to be asked, why?
Are there negative beliefs surrounding the idea of what it means to be fit and healthy, is there a lack of self-love or worth where self-care is rendered unimportant, for example?
This is something that coaching can explore and help you to reframe those beliefs so you take different actions and garner more desirable results.
Energy and feeling lethargic
One lesson that I've learned in my life is that we get what we give. I've come to believe this is a law on many levels and this includes our physical energy.
Ever wondered why highly active people seem to have endless energy? The more they exercise, the more energy they seem to have in their life. And I don’t mean a faint workout once a week, I mean a proper workout that gets your heart beating and that you do four to five times a week.
It seems counterintuitive, you’d assume they’d be more tired because they’ve used all of their energy up but it doesn’t seem to work quite like that, instead you’re given what you need.
So if you’re sitting on the sofa all day or stuck in an office chair, your body interprets it that you don’t need energy and therefore conserves it. With this in mind, it becomes clear how we can get ourselves into a funk, feeling lethargic all of the time which then leads to negative feelings.
So, if you want to have more energy, it's essential to do more exercise. And this leads to mood, you probably already know that when we exercise it releases certain chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine, leading to ‘natural highs’. Therefore exercise doesn’t only produce energy, it also makes you feel better.
But of course, you likely already know this too, it's been drilled into you all of your life, we all know the benefits but most of the population don’t do it.
Again, I'm talking about exercise that gets your heart beating. I emphasise this because I used to think I was doing exercise but I never experienced the benefits such as increased energy, natural highs or that much of a toned physique. However, when I began working out with my partner later on in life it became clear I hadn’t been pushing myself even half the amount necessary to reap the rewards.
Changing your state is also a key teaching of the renowned life coach Tony Robbins because changing your state really does affect the quality of your life.
In my experience, exercise should be a part of everyone's routine but it doesn't have to be an unpleasant experience, in fact, with time it does become addictive, it does become something you crave and look forward to doing.
The hard bit is the start, this is the hurdle to get over, this is where the resistance lies but it's also where you’ll see the biggest benefits 'beginners gains’ as they're called because beginners often lose more weight and become more toned in the shortest time span compared to the more accomplished gym-goers.
So contrary to my article, my suggestion is not to go all out, hitting the gym four to five times a week just yet (well unless you really want to!) but to choose something with the least resistance - something you enjoy. Begin creating the habit (maybe the habit is to go to a group class every Monday after work, for example), and then build up the frequency and intensity as you go.
Otherwise, what tends to happen is similar to what happens every January, people flock to the gym, hit it hard for three weeks and then never go again (whilst being simultaneously left with the guilt and frustration of having to pay for a 12-month gym contract).
The other thing to consider is diet because if you don’t eat enough calories then this will make you tired and sluggish. Calories = energy, so if you are too low on your calories, you’ll also be low on energy.
I know this is purely common sense but it's often things we overlook, I know I didn’t use to think about this as the culprit of my low energy and low mood.
So, here you have it, the very basic but necessary foundations to building a life that is full of energy and vitality, that will get most people out of a funk if applied.
Get these in place first and you’ll feel 100x better, life coaching, of course, helps with implementing this and figuring out what works for you, in fact, this is an ongoing theme in my coaching program, helping you craft an optimal life that works for you and instilling those necessary habits.
Then as you work to maintain this strong foundation, amending as necessary to find what suits you, comes the deeper introspection, the pulling back of outgrown beliefs, the deleting and adding things to your life to combine the perfect ingredients for a life of vigour, purpose and inner peace.