7 Simple Ways To Dig Yourself Out of A Rut

Tom Stevenson
Photo by Zhifei Zhou on Unsplash

Wehave all been down in the dumps from time to time. Whether it’s due to a family bereavement, personal heartbreak or some other matter, life throws many obstacles in our way.

The important thing to note is that it’s ok to feel this way. It’s being part of human. No one can be happy 100% of the time. Likewise, it’s impossible to be an emotionless rock all of the time either.

It’s best to look at life as similar to a carnival ride. There will be ups, there will be downs, but when the ride stops we’ll be in a healthy equilibrium.

Sometimes, those low points can come out of the blue and feel overpowering. It feels like there is no escape from the void no matter what we do. During some of my low points, I remember thinking whether I’d ever get out of them.

Thankfully, I did. While they have returned from time to time, repeated exposures to these lows have taught me that they don’t last forever. Eventually, the feelings will subside and you’ll start to feel better.

It’s important to remember that though the feelings we experience may feel unique to us, others have been through them before. They are part and parcel of being human.

Learning how to deal with experiencing low points is key to living a fruitful and enjoyable life. Below are seven ways you can dig yourself out of a rut the next time you find yourself in one.


Regular exercise is one of the best ways to get yourself out of a rut. Studies have shown that a well-oxygenated brain helps manage anxiety and depression.

After 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins which interact with receptors in your brain that reduce your perception of pain. This is why you may feel upbeat during a tough workout.

The benefits don’t end there. It’s believed that exercise may lead to new neurons being developed in the hippocampus. This is the part of the brain associated with memory, learning and emotions.

Why is this important?

Well, these are all issues that being stuck in a rut effect. You feel tired, you don’t want to do anything and you feel down. Exercise is an antidote to this because of the effect it has on our body.

It’s why Doctors often suggest you incorporate exercise into your life to counter the effects of anxiety and depression. This makes sense when you think about it.

Our bodies are designed to move. Our distant ancestors didn’t sit at a desk all day or binge on Netflix. They were active, walking miles every day looking for food and shelter. We’re meant to be active. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise when we feel low and lethargic if we’re not exercising!

Meet up with friends

One of the best things in life is to hang out with a good group of friends. Nothing is able to lighten the load on your shoulders than a meetup with some of our closest buddies.

Research shows that an active social life may lead to better physical health, longer life and a decreased risk of dementia. If these aren’t good reasons to develop strong social bonds with others I don’t know what is!

I remember travelling to Australia by myself in 2012. It was difficult at first to strike up a rapport with people due to my shyness and the novelty of my situation.

Those first few weeks in the country were tough. However, as the weeks wore on, I became more comfortable speaking to new people and after staying in Adelaide and Melbourne for months at a time, I was able to make a lot of friends who I still keep in contact with today.

Looking back, the difference in my wellbeing was evident. I was much happier when I had a group of friends to talk to as opposed to when I first arrived in the country.

If you’re feeling low, call your friends and arrange to meet up. If you can’t do that, have a quick chat. As the saying goes, nobody is an island, and you’ll feel much better after a good few hours of chatting.

Set a target

Often one of the things that can cause people to feel down in the dumps is the lack of a target. I felt this only too well when I graduated from university and worked in a betting shop.

This was not the job I imagined I would get upon graduation and then working in it made even me more disillusioned with life. The problem was, I had no clear goal to aim towards. I was drifting.

Every day felt the same and with no clear aim of what I wanted out of life, I slowly became miserable. It wasn’t until I got hit by a car while cycling home from work, which prompted me to decide to move to Australia for a year, that I started to feel better.

This was in big contrast to when I worked in an office job after returning to the UK from two years in Spain. This was a job I didn’t enjoy but I was able to bear it because my end goal was to quit to go full-time on my travel blog.

Every time I felt miserable sitting at my desk, I reminded myself of my ultimate goal and I was able to get through it. The knowledge that I had an exit plan and I wasn’t here because I needed to be, I was here to save up money to fund my blog, pushed me on.

Sometimes, all we need in life is a target. It can give us purpose and the desire to push ourselves to be better, which will improve your mood. A feeling of drift will cause you to sink into a rut faster than you can imagine. Set a target and you’ll avoid this fate.

Start reading

Reading books is one of my favourite pastimes and it’s also one of the best ways to make yourself feel better. You can’t just read any old book to do this though, you have to read specific books.

Most of the anguish that we experience is not new, it’s not the result of modern life, it’s an intrinsic part of the human condition. Our ancestors went through the same trials and tribulations we experience today.

Reading the works of the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and philosopher Seneca, you realise that our experiences and troubles are nothing new. They have afflicted humankind for thousands of years.

This is powerful because you realise that you are not an island. You’re not suffering more than any other individual in history. You’re part of a long chain of people that stretches back centuries who’ve felt the same worries.

The lessons in these books are valuable because they offer us a roadmap on how to deal with our low points. I remember reading these books when I was stuck in a rut in 2017 and they helped me to climb out of it.

The advice in the books wasn’t groundbreaking but the way it was presented helped me to realise that I could overcome my issues. That I was not destined to feel this way forever. That I was not alone. Others have felt similar thoughts before and will do again.

Reading philosophy and taking the time to invest in our mental health can make a huge difference to our wellbeing. Pick up a book and get reading, what you read may change your life.

Be thankful for what you have

One of the biggest problems with modern life is the proliferation of apps such as Instagram and Twitter. While these are great apps for networking they pose several problems.

The primary one is that they expose us to the lives of millions of people around the world. This isn’t a bad thing, but it is if you start comparing yourself to these people.

The problem is that any comparison between you and an Instagram influencer is that the comparison isn’t valid. All you’re basing the comparison on are the pictures posted on their account.

Often these are the pictures that they want to share with the world. It’s them at their best, happy and content. If you were to take the pictures at face value it appears they have an idyllic life.

Of course, this is equivalent to looking at a house through the keyhole. Sure it may look good, but there is a lot more you aren’t seeing. You don’t see these people at their worst. You don’t see them on their bad days and although they may appear happy, there’s no guarantee they are.

Instead of yearning for more, we should be grateful for what we have. Take a look around and observe what’s in your life. I’m sure there are many things you’re grateful for.

It’s good to have dreams and desires but if you base your happiness on false comparisons with people you don’t know, you're bound to be miserable.

Take some time off social media

Following on from the above point, if you’re feeling down it may be a good idea to spend less time on social media.

The paradox of social media is that although it was purported to bring us closer together it’s actually pushing us further apart. Facebook and Twitter can be divisive places and the polarisation on both platforms is terrifying.

Instagram isn’t as bad, but as I described above, it can lead you to develop a warped perception of what your life should look like.

It can be hard to tear your eyes away from these platforms as they are designed to keep you on them. The scrolling interface, the like buttons and follower counts are all designed to keep you addicted and coming back for more.

But it’s important to remember that though these platforms have their benefits, they are not real life. A big world exists out there in the real world, where you can interact with people in the flesh and marvel at the beauty of the world we live in.

Too much time on these platforms can be terrible for our mental health. Taking a break from them, or taking the nuclear option of deleting them altogether, will make you feel a lot better.

This too shall pass

The last point in this article is arguably the most important. The phrase above relates to a Persian adage about the passage of time.

Abraham Lincoln told a similar story of an Eastern monarch who charged his wise men to come up with a sentence which would be appropriate and true in all situations. After much deliberation, they came up with, ‘This too shall pass’

The phrase encapsulates life. No matter how we feel today, good or bad, content or angry, sometime in the future this state will pass. It may be replaced with something better, or something worse, but change it will.

Change is a constant in our lives. Everything changes one way or another including our feelings. You may feel so low that you don’t want to get out of bed, or you’re contemplating whether life is pointless.

Often, it’s easy to assume that these feelings will persist forever, that there is no end in sight. But this is wrong. That low will pass eventually. It may take a day, it may take a week, maybe longer, but one day you’ll feel different.

No matter how bad your situation is right now, it will not remain this way forever. Given the chance, you can make things better. You can improve your lot and you can bounce back from the lowest of lows.

This phrase is one of the most important to reflect upon throughout your lives. Events and our thoughts can lead us down dark paths, but the night is darkest before the dawn.

Those feelings will pass, that bad situation will get better and time will heal your wounds.

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