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Ever been in a funk that you just couldn’t get out of? You’re not out and out miserable just about ‘meh!’ about everything. Un-enthused, uninspired and indifferent. Funk symptoms include lethargy, grumpiness and over-somethings – over-eating, over-drinking, over-sleeping for instance.
Everyone goes through these periods. Often they just last a few hours but sometimes can stretch into days or weeks. That had happened to me while being in a place that most people would dream about being – a tropical Caribbean island. I won’t go into how being a budget traveller isn’t always the dream it may seem, that’s a whole other issue, but despite being somewhere I didn’t really want to be, that didn’t suite me at all, I was there for a few months still so I couldn’t change my environment, but I could change my attitude. I needed to shake things up a bit if I was going use my time well and not live to regret this stretch of island living.
Sometimes it is as simple as giving yourself a kick up the backside and sometimes a little more is needed to kick the despondency to the curb.
So, I decided to turn this into a mini project. There’s lot of tips out their for boosting energy, de-stressing and relaxing but that didn’t really apply to ‘bleugh’ kind of mood, this needed things to shake up creativity and perspective. Re-jig your brain. Like shaking up a snow globe.
So, I started with trying one of the power moves:
“The Superman: Plant your feet firmly and put your hands on your hips. This should make you feel like you can face anything.”
Actually, the act of simply standing up in fact is quite positive. When you’re feeling off, there’s a fair chance you’re spending more time than usual lazing around. Your physical lethargy matching your mental state. A small thing, but I decided to try doing it at least once a day – stand tall with purpose!
The suggestions for practicing mindset were:
– Watch a TV show on mute and try to guess what is happening. This is like a mental game of “fill-in the blank.”
– Journal about your day only in drawings or by sounds you heard. This activates different memory senses.
– Try drawing or writing with your left hand.
This really appealed to me as we’re talking about getting into the real inside workings of my sluggish brain.
I skipped the TV as I was watching too much TV anyhow (another symptom) but I thought I’d give both the other two a go.
I really liked the journal-ling idea – it makes you think about things carefully and so differently to normal. It’s a bit like the photography eye that I talked about in Life – as if through a lens. I’m not necessarily looking for the beauty but I’m looking for things outside my usual perception.
Writing with my left hand interested me as I’d heard about this before as a good exercise for the mind/brain.
At first this didn’t go that well. I hadn’t been out that day so the smells and the sounds were pretty limited. Smells were re-heating of a chicken stir-fry and then when the drains were bad earlier. Sounds were the guy with his electronic organ blaring out his bad county and western covers and the poor, disturbed guy next door who spends a lot of the day either shouting or crying. It felt like I was focusing on the negative but that really had been what I’d experienced that day. So this prompted me to go outside and sit on the porch for a while to see what I would experience. Sure, there was quad bikes and dogs barking but there were birds chirping and I could just about smell the flowers from the nearby bush and a hummingbird came by with it’s speedy wing fluttering.
Once I realised that my drawings were down right terrible I decided to join the two tasks and draw with my left hand. It is hard but it is weird that it takes such concentration you do feel kind of different when doing it. It’s the kind of task where you can’t tell easily if it’s having any kind of affect but two things were really obvious here – firstly that it took my mind away and had me focusing on the task in hand. Trying (and failing) to draw something good. It also got me up and outside. I didn’t get much out of hanging around the apartment so I’d taken myself off out to find the nicer smells and sounds. A little lesson there that maybe I should try and incorporate a little outdoor time each day, with outdoor time also being high on the tip list for mood improvement.
Getting into the flow – basically doing something you enjoy where you are so absorbed that you lose track of time. Doing my travel blogs usually has that affect on me so I spent time writing up my last Tokyo blog. No argument from me. Spending time on something you get lost in and enjoy is a real tonic. You come away from it with a kind of charged calm. I do have a tendency to feel guilty about doing these things when I should be doing something more useful instead. Not only is that counter-productive, as this flow theory is about making you more productive, but that dreaded word should has crept in and that is always a word best avoided in any self talk.
The final tip is to Embrace the Funk. Now I am a big believer in this. Sometimes, if you’re feel crap, sad, fed-up, in a bad mood, then maybe you just need to see it through. It’s not the end of the world. Stick on a movie, eat whatever you want, pour a big glass of wine – whatever you feel like – just do it!! I don’t think being in a bad mood is a terrible thing. Sometimes we just are and trying to force it down may mean it springs up at a later date with fuller force. If you’re feeling sad, read a sad book or watch a sad movie and have a weep. It you’re feeling narky then, (I hate to advise anyone to do this, but let’s not pretend we’re all nicey, nicey all the time) watch a reality show full of awful people and judge them to your hearts content! Just don’t let it last too long. A day or even weekend of wallowing is fine but if you go on too long it will just add to your malaise.
My doldrums had gone on too long for this and I had wallowed and indulged myself (quite a few times if I’m honest) so a little more active, longer term solutions were called for here.
The power of music
Taking a slice out of our own pie.
Well we sell music to exercise/run to that’s created to be motivational. So, sure it’s not really possible for me to go running here and I don’t have something specific to pep up for, but why not listen to it anyway. Maybe doing the washing up or walking to the shops. Music really is a mood lifter, as are affirmations and positive statements. I used to use both often, which is where the idea for the albums came from. On the road, I’ve gotten out of the habit. Maybe I feel that with no job and the stresses of home, I shouldn’t need them. So I plugged myself back in and listened whenever I could.
Think about something far away from the now. Research suggests our ability to solve problems improves when we think about events far off, either in the past, future or in another location – imagine being a cafe abroad or your birthday party in 10 years time. Imagine your birthday party in a cafe abroad in 10 years time.
Focus on the positives
Wherever you are you can always find something good. A sight, a taste, a song, a vibe, a person, a cup of tea.
Catch yourself in a mood, take a second, look around and focus on something nice.
I know this works (as I talk about in the post Everyone, EVERYWHERE, smiles in the same language ), so I must put it to good use on the island, especially with any hostile locals.
Incorporating the benefits of exercise and all it’s own associated bonuses, physical and spiritual. We luckily have a great instructor on the island and so am going to make this a regular thing.
One month later… the AFTERMATH…
Well I don’t know if the moons just aligned, I adjusted more to island life or if it was an accumulation of the above but I’ve definitely been more positive these past few months.
Something else that may have helped was that I’ve had quite a bit of work on. Having a focus, a purpose and feeling satisfied for a job well done, can’t be underestimated.
All I know is that the shift began with that initial decision to try to do as much as possible to feel better and that’s probably the biggest factor – taking action!