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Mental Health

How to Get Out of a Rut: 6 Expert Tricks That’ll Help You Feel Less Stuck and More Inspired

Find out how a "60-second retreat" can make all the difference

The feeling of being stuck can have a major impact on your happiness. Whether you’re slogging through the workday, feeling like certain relationships have hit a plateau or getting overwhelmed when thinking of the future, being in a rut is no fun, and this mentally claustrophobic feeling can hit us in a number of different situations — even when we’re otherwise in a good place.

If you feel like no matter how hard you try, you’re just going through the motions, these simple yet effective expert tips can help you learn how to get out of a rut and spark revitalizing momentum.

How to get out of a rut: 3 ways to tap awareness

1. Shift your inner talk

Nothing is going to change. My life is always going to be this way. Sound familiar? We tend to think in all-or-nothing, black-and-white terms when we’re feeling stuck, says psychologist Carla Shuman, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist and director of Mindful Solutions, LLC.

Related: Bad Day? Psychologists Reveal 10 Simple Ways To Bounce Back from a Setback

“Acknowledge what you’re thinking without responding or agreeing,” Dr. Shuman advises. “You might tell yourself, ‘I have this thought that I’m not good enough, but I don’t have to let it paralyze me.’ It’s a thought, not the truth.’ Simply let it be there, kind of like an annoying pest, because if you try to swat it away, it’ll only grow stronger.” Because you’re not giving it attention, that pest will eventually fly away on its own and your thoughts will gradually become more self-affirming.

Woman thinking and trying to manifest positive thoughts how to get out of a rut

2. ID your culprit

“Pinpoint where exactly you are stuck,” urges Dr. Shuman. “Be as specific as you can: Do you feel this way because you aren’t accomplishing a certain goal or are you doing the same things repeatedly with the same outcomes? In other words, are you stuck in a negative cycle?”

Related: Embrace JOMO — The Joy of Missing Out — to Take Your Happiness to The Next Level

She adds that a lot of people tell her they feel stuck because they aren’t trying new things. “If this resonates with you, just pick one small change — it could be as simple as wearing a new outfit or eating at a new restaurant.” That single shift is often all it takes to trigger an upward spiral.

3. Let it inspire you

When we find ourselves in a rut, it’s easy to compound our negative emotions by beating ourselves up. But there is a genuine silver lining of the “stuckness” you feel, says Tammy Mastroberte, spiritual teacher and author of The Universe Is Talking to You: Tap into Signs & Synchronicity to Reveal Magical Moments Every Day.

Related: How to Stop Worrying About Things You Can’t Control: Experts Share Their 6 Best Tricks

“It’s important to remember that this feeling is not altogether a bad thing — in many ways, it’s necessary because it propels us to seek something better,” Mastroberte says. “Being in a rut is a sign that that something exciting is on the other side, that growth is coming.” Just knowing this will help curb your impulse to catastrophize and open you up to possibilities.

How to get out of a rut: 3 ways to take action

1. Escape for 60 seconds

When we’re in a rut, our energy plummets, notes Mastroberte. “That’s why it’s so helpful to find little things to do boost your energy — I call them 60-second retreats.” She suggests setting a timer and repeating a simple mantra, such as, ‘All is well right now,’ ‘I am connected,’ or ‘I am safe.’” Grounding yourself in the moment helps shift your perspective instantly — not only will you stop sinking into a rut, you’ll begin to lift yourself out of it.

Related: How to Be a Better Friend + Make New Ones: Experts Share 6 Ways to Boost Your Bonds

Woman sitting outside and meditating

2. Take simple steps

“Think about what you would love to happen instead of what you’re going through now,” encourages expert Mary Morrissey, founder and owner of the Brave Thinking Institute and author of Brave Thinking: The Art and Science of Creating a Life You Love. For instance, if you’re feeling stuck at work, ask yourself why that is. Maybe it’s an ongoing conflict with your boss whose expectations are unclear, and you would love to feel like you had a clear path forward and knew exactly what the boss wanted.”

Related: How to Stop Taking Things Personally: 6 Expert Tips to Build Resilience

Morrissey adds that once you know what you would love to happen, you can choose a new thought, such as: “This isn’t forever — it’s just what it looks like while I’m figuring out how to work with my boss.” You might ask yourself: “What can I do right now to help me feel more supported?”

By choosing a new thought and taking the first action step, you’re not only demonstrating your commitment to the universe — which will then match your energy — you’re also creating a new positive cycle.

3. Picture your future self

Imagine a future version of yourself who’s living a life filled with joy, encourages Morrissey, who advises asking yourself: “How would that version of me enjoy this day?” Know that there’s no right or wrong answer for what counts as “fun,” she says. “Your joyful moments are impactful no matter how small they may seem.”

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