Stuck In A Rut? Here Are 3 Steps to Breaking Free & Getting Inspired

We’ve all been there. Sometimes life gets a little wacky, and stress can put you in a mental, emotional, or sometimes even spiritual rut. The inspiration and motivation you had before seems to be evading you, and the universe seems to be throwing you curveball after curveball. 

When this happens, we often want so desperately to get out, but have no idea where to start. I go through this too, and whether I feel it just starting to sneak up on me, or I look around to find myself deep in a rut I’m not sure how I got into, I put these 3 steps into practice. I like to think of them as the starter recipe for getting back to joy, or the rope I use to hoist myself out of the uninspired hole I’ve fallen into. And I thought I’d share it with you, because it works!

A small flame

🔥Fire🔥 is often used as a metaphor for energy, passion, and purpose, 3 things we feel severely disconnected from whenever we’re in a rut. Likewise, these 3 steps are all about bringing your fire back, hence, they’re all named accordingly. 


Step 1: Spark

Find novelty

The spark is what starts it all. You can’t start a fire without a few sparks. If life were a game of pinball, the spark is where you pull back the plunger that inevitably launches you into action. 

The spark, in this case, is all about seeking novelty. Remember when you were a kid experiencing new things all the time? Your natural curiosity led you to explore simple things like why there were so many kinds of bugs in your backyard alone, why grass always felt cool on a hot day, or the endless possibilities of what you could make out of sticks and mud. Returning to joy is less about trying to force yourself to see through rose-colored glasses, and more about going back to a curious mindset. 

The spark is about putting yourself in that headspace, and allowing yourself to naturally gravitate toward what interests you to explore it further. You probably already have a few things in mind. Maybe you’ve always wanted to try your hand at macrame or maybe you’ve always wondered how a clock works. It can be just about anything, no matter how small. The point is to let your curiosity guide you toward something new, and then feed that spark by learning and getting involved in that interest. Whether you end up going down one rabbit hole or many doesn’t matter. What matters is the change in your brain state. 

The parts of your brain that activate when you get curious are the nucleus accumbens, which is associated with motivation and action, and the midbrain, which is a dopaminergic region. Studies have shown that dopamine, the chemical that drives your brain’s reward system, is intricately linked to the mind’s state of curiosity. And when you explore and satisfy that curiosity,  dopamine floods into your brain, causing you to feel happier.

So, in essence, the first step to inviting joy into your life is to become a curious novelty-seeker, and that just means being open to exploring new things that spark your interest.



An act of kindness

You’ve pulled back that pinball plunger, now it’s time to let it rip and launch yourself into the game. That’s where ignition comes into play. 

So, how do we “ignite”? We go a step further than tickling our brain with fun new things, and start to tickle other people’s brains. This means taking the focus off of ourselves, and instead, asking the question: How can I creative magical moments for others?

What can you do today to make someone else’s day? Even if just for a moment. How do you carry the spark to someone else? 

Some ideas might include:

  • complimenting a stranger
  • sending someone a thoughtful card
  • calling someone just to say hello
  • picking flowers for a friend
  • buying a small gift for a relative
  • just holding space for someone to vent or cry
  • showing support for a loved one’s project
  • buying lunch for an unhoused person

There are so many things we can do to create magic in other people’s lives. 

On a base level, this practice takes the focus off of our stresses and puts us in a mode of kindness. Physiologically, performing acts of kindness positively alters your brain by boosting serotonin and dopamine, which cause feelings of well-being and satisfaction. On top of that, this practice is known to strengthen connections, improve our sense of purpose and belonging, and reduce stress levels for both the giver and the receiver!

At the end of the day, igniting is simply about taking action for others and creating joy by spreading joy. 



Simple Pleasures, Deeply Felt

Fuel is what keeps the fire (or in this case, dynamic joy) going. Our pinball is in play. How do we keep it bouncing around as long as possible? 

For me, it’s a familiar little concept you might have heard me talk about before: Simple Pleasures, Deeply Felt. 

What does this mean? It means taking on a shift in perspective and how we perceive the world. In action, it means slowing down and noticing the small things. Getting incredibly present. Amplifying tiny moments of joy by sitting with them and feeling them to their fullest.

Many of us live in societies where everything is so fast-paced. It’s so easy to get swept from one moment to the next, and at the end of the day, be left with nothing more than cursory memory of those moments, where nothing really stands out. Going through each day at this pace leaves us with very little to reflect on, to enjoy, to remember, and to experience in the moment.

It’s been said by many a philosopher: You find what you look for. If you’re looking for beauty, you’ll find beauty. If you’re looking for negativity, you’ll find that too. In a similar way, when we make a conscious decision to immerse ourselves in simple pleasures, we find more and more simple pleasures, and build a stronger gratitude for life overall. Scientists call this phenomenon “predictive processing” or the “expectation effect”, which means that what you see is mostly defined by what you look for. So, if you have the choice, why not look for simple pleasures to fill your life with?

I have this philosophy tattooed on my arm to remind myself each day to appreciate the simple pleasures of. It’s incredibly intentional. Really take in each moment.


Goodbye Rut!

I hope these steps to finding joy and getting inspired help to liberate you from your rut, so you can go on and do better things! (Or at least just find your peace.) 

Do you have go-tos that help you get out of a rut when life gets a little wacky? If so, we’d love to hear about them! Drop us a comment and let’s share our solutions with each other. 


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Jaden Rae
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I'm Jaden Rae, a TV chef, cookbook author, recipe developer, and the creative force behind Steamy Kitchen, a 19-year food blog focused on Asian cuisine and mindful living. Steamy Kitchen has been featured on The List, the Today Show,, Martha Stewart Living Radio & more.

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