Have you ever found yourself inches from an amazing opportunity, only to see it taken away? Maybe you had an awesome first date, but the expected second date never happened. Maybe a job interview went well, but you never got a follow-up call. Or maybe like me, you lost out on a bidding war to purchase your first house.
If so, then you’ll likely identify with how I’ve been feeling recently: in a funk.
Let’s be honest: nobody likes falling into a funk. Yet it happens to all of us. To be clear, I’m not talking about suffering from depression or an emotional disorder that requires professional counseling. I’m referring to that feeling you get after taking one too many disappointments—the end of a relationship, the loss of a good job, the failure of an opportunity.
Since funks are inevitable—a normal part of the human experience—it’s important to have a strategy for pulling yourself out of one. Why? An extended funk can lead to depression. Plus, funks steal your joy and threaten to steal the joy of those around you.
So pay attention to these four steps—even if you’re not in a funk now, you’ll likely fall into one later and need help climbing out.
Step One: Be Honest
You might think the sure-fire way to destroying a funk is to deny its existence. To ignore the disappointment and pretend everything’s fine.
The problem is, this isn’t simply living in denial. It’s living a delusion. And while it might help you feel better for a time, eventually you’ll realize you’ve only papered over a festering wound.
If you want to pull yourself out of a funk, the first step is admitting the truth about how you’re feeling. Express your disappointments to someone you trust. Write your thoughts and emotions in a journal. Cry out to God with brutal honesty.
While this may seem counterintuitive, it’s merely following the footsteps of other believers. Peruse through the Bible—particularly Psalms, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes—and you’ll find honest expressions of doubt, confusion and anger. This sort of transparency is a necessary stop on your way to healing.
Step Two: Count Your Blessings
No matter how terrible you might feel or how dire your circumstances might appear, hope is never entirely lost. In the midst of a funk, though, that perspective seems impossible to find. Life can feel more like a curse than a blessing. Nothing, it seems, is going your way.
But, of course, obsessing over everything wrong only pulls you further from the contentment you ultimately seek. While it’s important to be honest about how you’re feeling, it’s also important not to get stuck there. You must move onto the next step: thankfulness.
It may seem impossible, but take a moment to identify the good in your life and, in the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “give thanks.” You’re loved by God. You have shelter over your head and food to eat. You’ve alive and breathing. You still have so much life ahead of you. You’re stronger than your circumstances. You’ll come out of this not just alive, but thriving.
Step Three: Spend Time with Family and Friends
It’s natural to cut yourself off from the world when you’re feeling down. Engaging socially seems opposed to everything within. You’d rather curl up on a couch and binge-watch Netflix.
Isolation, though, rarely makes you feel better. In fact, it often makes you feel worse—more down, more disappointed, more alone.
That’s why it’s critical, while lost in a funk, to spend time with loved ones. Go for a walk with your spouse. Grab a meal with a friend. Call a sibling on the phone. Do whatever you have to do to get out of the house and engage with the world.
Not only will it distract you from the funk, it will remind you that life isn’t simply a series of disappointments. Life is good and can be enjoyed. And the greatest fulfillment comes not from success and achievement, but from the love you share with others.
Step Four: Keep Moving Forward
One of the worst parts about falling into a funk is it destroys your motivation. Instead of moving on with life, you sulk in your sorrows and obsess about your circumstances. You slam the brakes on the drive that normally pushes you forward.
If you lost a job, you don’t feel like finding a new one. If a relationship ended, you don’t want to leave your bedroom. If you failed a test, you want to skip class. If you got into an argument with your spouse, you want to withdraw.
But remaining stagnant is the worst possible response to a funk. It only perpetuates how you’re feeling and ensures you’ll remain exactly where you are—stalled on the side of the road.
When you’re feeling down, keep moving forward. Even if it’s the last thing you want to do, force yourself to step outside and pursue life. Go on another date. Apply for another job. Continue the house hunt. Return to class. Engage in conversation with that person you’ve been avoiding.
This will ensure you remain an active participant in life, not a passive observer.
Following these four steps isn’t a guarantee you’ll immediately start feeling better. But they will help along your journey out of a funk and toward healing, which ultimately comes not when your circumstances improve, but when you find your hope in God alone (Psalm 42:11).
Paul Perkins is an attorney, former White House staffer and author of the spiritual memoir, Unexpected Journeys. Read more at PaulPerkins.com.