A Psychologist's Favorite Mental Shifts For Getting Out Of A Rut

Clinical Psychologist By Tracy Thomas, PhD
Clinical Psychologist
Tracy Thomas, PhD, is a clinical psychologist in Fresno, CA who specializes in emotional sensitivity.
Smiling Woman Tossing Her Hair Behind Her

We all know what it feels like to be stuck in a rut: Things just seem less exciting than usual, and days tend to fall a little flat. This feeling exists for a reason, and your rut could be telling you that it's time to make a change of some sort. As a psychologist, I've found the following six mindset shifts effective for helping people shift their perspective, clarify their needs, and get their groove back.

1. Ditch the happiness formula you learned.

The beauty of being human is that each one of us is unique. And how could anyone be happy following the same formula as everyone else when we are all so very different? If you change the numbers in a math problem, the answer comes out differently. We all have different equations and answers to the question—what will make me happy as an individual? Step one of breaking out of a rut is finding your own happiness formula and follow it.

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2. Take inventory and define your priorities.

When considering your happiness formula, look at what you do and how you do it with fascination and curiosity, not judgment. Make a running list of your top priorities and values, and then keep track of how you are spending your time every day. Take a step back and look at how the two lists differ, and consider what changes you could make to help them better align.

Priorities are dynamic and will shift over time, so it's important to continually assess your motivations and where you are choosing to spend your energy.

3. Redefine how purpose shows up inside your career.

Oftentimes when people are stuck in a rut, an unfulfilling job is at least partially to blame. Even if you can't drop everything and find find your dream job or dream company right away, consider how you could apply more of your passions and priorities to your current role.

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4. Look at the expectations you have of your relationships.

As is the case with individual happiness, there is no one-size-fits-all model for healthy, happy relationships—romantic or otherwise. Ask yourself what you are bringing to your relationships and what you expect in return from friends and loved ones. Nobody can answer those questions for you. It's really about connecting to yourself and your beliefs.

5. Put your anxieties in perspective.

Even though humans have come a long way, our brains still aren’t very good at telling the difference between life-threatening danger and, well, any other kind of danger (ahem, your inbox). The next time you're feeling anxious, step outside of your life and look at it objectively. What is your anxiety trying to tell you? What are the experiences that are triggering your stress? It's only when you understand your unique way of reacting to stress that you can start to shift your patterns.

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6. Recognize your crutches.

We all have guilty pleasures that we turn to for distraction when life gets tough. What do you reach for when you have a bad day and don’t want to think about or deal with it anymore? Be honest with yourself about how these things are serving you in the long run, and see if you can find healthier ways to relax, unwind, and get out of your rut for good.

If the blasé feeling continues for an extended period or morphs into something more serious, it might be time to seek outside support.

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