Two months ago I was having a pretty lousy time. I was in a serious rut. The new project I’d been working on was struggling with various scaling issues (something I’m going to cover in subsequent articles), and I was routinely pulling 16 hour days trying to get things working without much luck.
In a desperate attempt to find some sort of relief, I was looking through my Ideas Google doc and came across a hidden gem: a few paragraphs I had written to myself at some point in the past few years which outlined a few simple things I should do when I’m in a rut to help me pull myself out of it. Thanks, past me!
After practicing the list of things below, I felt a lot happier, less stressed, and gradually went back to feeling like my cheery self within a week or two.
So, without further ado, here is my list of things you can do to instantly improve your month and pull yourself out of whatever rut you’re currently in.
Drink a Lot of Water
While this point seems moot, it’s actually quite important. Drink a ton of water.
Sometimes when I’m at my desk all day, I don’t move around enough to drink water, and end up having a dry mouth all day long – ugh.
I’ve found that drinking about a gallon of water a day makes me feel really well hydrated and just better overall.
It also helps to completely cut out all other types of liquid drinks you might normally have: soda (diet or otherwise), caffeine drinks, tea, juice, coffee, etc. I typically drink a lot of caffeine, but when I lay off it completely for a few days (minimum) I feel a lot more relaxed and less on edge.
Eat at least one full serving of green vegetables per day. Why green veggies? They’re the best ones for you: broccoli, peas, pea pods, leafy greens, celery, etc.
Green vegetables have a very low amount of carbohydrates, are great for staying slim, reducing insulin levels in the blood, and taste good with a little bit of pepper :)
Maintaining steady insulin levels (blood sugar) is useful as it helps decrease variation in blood sugar levels throughout the day which can lead to all sorts of stuff: afternoon crashes, hunger, irritability, etc.
They’re also full of vitamins and minerals that you might not be getting enough of on a day-to-day basis
Eat Lean Meats
Almost nothing is as good for you as some lean meat: chicken, turkey, lean steak, 95⁄5 ground beef, etc.
Meat is incredibly filling and makes you feel satisfied quicker than other types of foods. It has lots of protein which supports muscle tissue and muscular development, and helps regulate body fat levels.
Lift (Heavy) Weights
Go to the gym and lift some weights! Seriously. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first time or not – lifting weights is one of the best things you can do for your health and happiness.
Lifting weights has been shown to:
- Increase testosterone levels (a very good thing).
- Decrease body fat levels.
- Increase metabolic burn rate (more muscle = more calories burned every day, regardless of whether you’re active or not).
- Increases endorphin levels: making you feel happier and lowering your stress levels.
Spend an Hour Outside
Getting outside helps you clear your mind, gets you a healthy dose of Vitamin D (unless you’re outside at night!), and increases happiness.
It’s also quite relaxing to force yourself outside without a computer for an hour each day: it helps me to appreciate all the non-tech things in the world, and gives me some time to do more basic human things: go for a walk, take a short bike ride, and even think about problems I’m having in a stress-free environment.
Visit a Friend
Visit your friends at least once every other week. Maintaining contact with your buddies is a great way to relax and pull yourself out of a rut.
Hanging out with friends reduces stress, increases endorphins, and has even been shown to increase your lifespan!
I’ve found that hanging out with friends at least once every other week is enough to keep me feeling happy and normal – more than that and I find myself missing the interaction :(
Reading is a really important part of relaxing and feeling happy. If you’re not already spending at least 30 minutes per day reading a book that interests you, you should start immediately.
Reading increases your knowledge, relaxes your mind, and is a great way to ‘zone out’ of the craziness of life for a short period of time. Focusing on a book for 30 minutes a day is an excellent way to increase your personal satisfaction.
NOTE: If you commute each day, you might want to consider getting an Audible subscription. Audible is the biggest audio book subscription service – they have tons of books that you can download to your phone and listen to on the go.
Writing is also an important tool in reducing stress.
Writing about your day (journaling) is a proven way to reduce stress and is incredibly therapeutic.
Regardless of whether you’re journaling or writing about other stuff: work problems, programming, hobbies, whatever – spending 30 minutes writing per day is a great way to make yourself feel happy and productive.
If you’re looking for a good way to journal each day, I’d recommend using 750 Words. It’s a great tool you can use to maintain a private journal online, which forces you to write at least 750 words each day to keep up your chain. Once you give it a try, you’ll see why it’s so awesome: there are no distractions, and it gives you a really simple throw-away space to write about whatever you want without worrying about formatting, structure, etc.
Focus on One Thing
Make a list of things you need to do in the next few days. Every morning when you wake up, pick the most important thing on that list, and write it on a tiny post-it note. Then put that post-it note on your computer.
For the rest of the day, focus on doing that one thing as good as you possibly can, and ignore everything else (within reason).
If you can successfully finish that one thing by the end of the day: be happy with your progress.
I find that when I’m working on too many things I get easily distracted, overwhelmed, and stressed out. Having a single thing to focus on makes me feel a lot less stressed, and helps me stay on target for the day.
It’s also nice to get the feeling that you’ve made progress at the end of each day by finishing something completely. When I’ve got a million things to do and I’m hurriedly finishing lots of things, I somehow feel like I haven’t accomplished anything significant at the end of day, and feel bad about myself.
It’s a lot better to keep that post-it note within view, and know that by the time I’ve finished the day I’ve actually accomplished a win.
Maintain an Idea List
The last piece of advice I have is to maintain your own idea list.
I always keep a Google document named Ideas open when I’m working – this way, if I get a cool idea for something (a blog post, business, app, library, whatever) – I can quickly jot it down and move on without worrying about losing the idea.
I periodically come back to my idea list when I’m bored or need inspiration, and have a place to view all of my ideas and thoughts that I’ve had in the past.
It’s really great knowing that anytime I’m feeling bored or uninspired I can take a quick look through some awesomeness and cheer myself up.
Hope some of my suggestions can help you out at some point in the future. If you implement all of the above things in your life for a week or more, it’s pretty difficult to have a bad month.
Keep making progress each day (both physically and mentally) and you’ll feel happier, less stressed, and more awesome.