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Harvard Medical School
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General Medical Questions
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Question : How do you pull yourself out of a funk or slight depression?
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The Trusted Source
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Howard LeWine, M.D.

Michael Craig Miller, M.D., is Senior Editor of Mental Health Publishing at Harvard Health Publications. He is an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Miller is in clinical practice at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, where he has been on staff for more than 25 years.

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July 09, 2014
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Mood shifts frequently result from minor or trivial disappointments. So much that gets us down is inconsequential. Yet it can be quite difficult to let meaningless matters go.

A small funk can turn into a persistent depressive episode. Therefore early detection is vital.

Often, a mood shift starts as an automatic reaction to a small disturbance. You can prevent or interrupt a funk by becoming a better observer of your thoughts. Pay attention to reactions that you usually allow to happen mindlessly. The simple act of paying attention can help you control your reactions.

Some experts recommend practicing mindfulness meditation to become a better observer of your thoughts. Sitting quietly, focus on your breath. You will probably notice your mind running away with itself. Refocus on your breath.

Upsetting, irritating or anxiety provoking thoughts may continue to bubble up. Try to cultivate a less critical attitude toward them. Notice instead what, if anything, is triggering them.

There are proven benefits to this kind of practice, but you don't have to meditate to be mindful. Your goal can be simpler:

  • Recognize the patterns that make you feel sour.
  • Don't just give yourself over to the bad feelings.
  • Ask whether the triggers are really worth the distress you feel.

It's at this point that you can try to refresh yourself or press your own reset button. Take a break. Connect with a friend or family member you like. Exercise. Do something you enjoy. Use a relaxation technique. If it appeals to you, meditate.

You may continue to be stuck. Your bad feelings may persist or recur. The trigger may be something important rather than trivial. If that's the case, then you may want to seek help from a professional who can help you evaluate the problem.

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