I am someone who, with too much time on my hands, can quite easily fall into what is most accurately described as a funk. A day can start off with a lot of promise, and yet it seems if I don’t attack it with enough purpose or direction, I begin “bumbling” aimlessly and my mood can spiral downward pretty quickly. And I find myself so envious of those who love to lounge all day, never leaving the house, etc. I WANT to love it, and I crave it and look forward to it when I’m busy or after a week full of work, but when it actually comes around to it, I go a little bit insane doing it. And with enough sitting or lounging, I get into a kind of funk that can be difficult to pull myself out of. Do you relate at all to this? It probably sounds so bizarre to someone who doesn’t understand this feeling, but I know I can’t be totally alone in my struggle to enjoy too much time to myself. So in case this is an affliction that affects any of you, especially combined with the post-holiday doldrums that are so prominent for some, I thought I’d talk about some of the relatively simple things that do wonders in changing the direction of my day or the trajectory of my attitude and demeanor.
Going for a walk
This is a great activity that doesn’t require a lot of planning or prep work. In fact, sometimes I will just simply stand up, put some shoes on, and make myself walk out the door. I’ll walk outside for 20 minutes, sometimes more, and there’s something about the fact that I’m just moving (even if I don’t have a goal in mind) that helps to reset my demeanor. Even if I spend the walk simply thinking my own thoughts, just as I was at home, there are enough stimuli around me that it helps change my thought process a bit. Because it’s also aerobic, I’m releasing endorphins and that does wonders for pulling me out of my funk.
Making a list of what I’d like to do or accomplish throughout a weekend, or in an afternoon
This is one to do proactively, more in preparation, in order to avoid a funk. If I have a fairly open weekend ahead of me, I’ll make a little list of things I’d like to do, things I’d like to accomplish, or things I’d like to explore. I’ll include Jon, or my friends, in some of the ideas to get buy-in and ensure accountability. For those of us who would rather pass the time with chores than with nothing to do, it helps to jot down some things to get done, such as laundry or a closet purge or changing the sheets. But I’ll also include random activities I’ve been wanting to do, so that when I’m bored, I have some go-to ideas—hiking to see the fall foliage, working on a DIY project I pinned months ago, or trying out a new recipe. The goal in this is not to actually methodically attack all these things, but rather to not feel like I’m in a rut when I’m not sure how to pass the time or am unable to motivate myself to do something. I have found I am much less angsty about all the free time if I’ve had some forethought about how to spend it.
Taking a shower
It sounds strange, but this is such an attitude-cleansing (nice pun) activity for me. If I’m feeling paralyzed by a lack of motivation or direction, taking a hot shower helps me restart. It takes a little effort to get in there, so when I emerge, it’s like a do-over, and I feel more driven about what it is I’d like to do.
Running or working out
This might be the oldest rule in the book, but it is just. So. True. And although this one takes a lot of effort to convince myself to do it, I’ve found that the best way is to not overthink it. If I dwell on what the exercise will be, dwell on why I should or shouldn’t do it, what it will mean for the timing of the rest of the day, its too late—and the window is closed—I’ve overthought it and talked my way out of it to myself. At the first hint of motivation to go for a run, I make myself get dressed to work out, and head outside or to the gym. Another trick that helps is to set no expectation for myself in the process. I tell myself it doesn’t matter how far I run or how long I work out for, just START. It can seem too daunting sometimes to set a lofty goal beforehand, and honestly some of my best workouts have happened when I had no expectations for them. The truth is that I always have time for working out (it can literally take 20 minutes—and it accomplishes the same for my brain as a 2 hour long workout) and it is always, always, always a good idea. The fact remains that I have never finished a workout not feeling better than when I started it. That, alone, is reason enough to jump on it when I’m in a funk.
A change of scenery
Just leaving my house and giving myself some new scenery does wonders for my state of mind. I can be sitting home, knowing I should be working on some blog posts, or sitting home leisurely looking at a magazine, and I’ve found that simply relocating to possibly even do that exact same activity just boosts my mood. I often find it reenergizing to be doing a solo task (even if I’m wearing headphones and sitting by myself) in the presence of other people at an alternative location, as opposed to totally alone at home. It feels more like I’m doing something, rather than just sitting around.
Checking in with a friend
…At a time when your instincts are probably to be alone. Spending time with someone else, and hearing about someone’s else’s day, is sometimes the ticket for pulling me out of my own head. I’m not even talking about sharing your own thoughts with the person, but instead focusing on the friend and their life at the moment. It helps to widen the scope of your perspective in a moment when I'm struggling to see beyond myself. Quite simply—it truly helps to get the internal focus off myself and onto other people or more important things. It’s always reinvigorating for me, although I am very much an extrovert, so this is a quite natural remedy for my personality type. But if you’re more introverted, I’d still recommend giving it a try, especially with a close friend who you care about.
PICTURED: Acadia National Park, from my recent trip