How to Get out of a Rut - the Guide to Get Your Life Moving Again

Taking the right steps can help break the monotony and inspire new, creative ways of thinking

Jun 4, 2019

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It can happen to anyone. A routine that once felt safe steadily slips into a rut. Familiar patterns, a steady job, and comfortable relationships over time lead to boredom, depression, and destructive behaviors. Brooklyn clergyman, Samuel Parkes Cadman, once said that “the only difference between a rut and a grave is a matter of depth.”

Why do we get stuck in mental ruts?

We live and learn through experience. Our brains, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) specifically, automatically process the world around us by applying past lessons and thought patterns. This cognitive mechanism works great to solve problems efficiently. However, evidence suggests that over time, this automated process of applying old rules to solve problems hinders our ability to think creatively. Unable to develop new ways of thinking, we run out of ideas, feel stuck, and fall into a mental rut.

Many of us find ourselves in a rut from time to time. Taking the right steps can help break the monotony and inspire new, creative ways of thinking.

Let Your Mind Wander

It might sound a bit counterintuitive especially in a society where focus is the key to achieving goals. If you find yourself in a rut, giving your mind a chance to unfocus can have major benefits and help you feel rejuvenated.

In his book, Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind, Srini Pillay, M.D. explains how the brain works at its best when it has a balance of focus and unfocus. Taking some time to space out gives the brain a break and turns off regions like the DLPFC. Go for a walk, doodle on a piece of paper, or just spend a little time outside daydreaming. You’ll give your brain a chance to rewire and inspire creative new ways of thinking.

Change Your Surroundings

Doing the same things over and over again will not lead to new results. Sometimes getting out of a rut means you need to shake things up a bit. Changing your surrounding boosts creativity and helps get you out of a rut, whether it means redecorating your home, finding a new place to work, or relocating to a new city.

Get Enough Rest

Sleep plays a vital role in mental and physical wellbeing. Your brain needs to rest and recover in order to function at its optimum levels. The amount of sleep you need depends on each person, but most healthy adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. If you find yourself stuck during the day, try taking a power nap to get creative juices flowing again. A nap between 5 to 90 minutes can “substantially increase alertness”, according to a study.

Find Activities that Inspire and Bring Fulfillment

Life has more to offer than repeating the same routine over and over again. You may find yourself in a rut personally, spiritually, professionally, or creatively. Consider trying activities or getting involved in a community to fulfill yourself in areas that feel stagnant. For example, if you seek spiritual growth, join a meditation center or attend a retreat. You can gain creative inspiration through a dance class, an art lesson, or by taking up an instrument. Trying new things can inspire new thought patterns and open space for growth.

Surround Yourself with Supportive People

Getting outside of your own head and opening up to friends and family about your feelings can help bring new insights and perspectives to the situation. Mental ruts can happen to anyone, but if you have a history of clinical depression, make sure to proactively seek the support of a professional before things get worse. Those with depression can’t simply pull themselves out of it and may need to seek treatment through therapy or medication to recover.

Sometimes a rut can give us just the push we need to explore new situations and go outside of our comfort zones. Reassessing outdated ways of thinking can inspire growth and expand our horizons. Who knows what kind of new, incredible experiences wait just around the corner?

ALLISON MICHELLE DIENSTMAN, CONTRIBUTOR
Working from her laptop as a freelance writer, Allison lives as a digital nomad, exploring the world while sharing positivity and laughter. She is a lover of language, travel, music, and creativity with a degree in Chinese language and literature.