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How to break free of apathy

5 simple steps to pull yourself out of apathy. By Antonia Beamish

We’ve all experienced a state of apathy in our lives.

It’s like a dull lens that we view our lives through; nothing shines, we’ve lost our capacity to imagine and life seems monotonous and tiring. It’s the opposite of feeling passionate, excited and joyful. Instead, we feel resigned, disinterested and disengaged.

When we're in a state of apathy it's like we've lost our spark. Instead, we feel flat, listless and drained by our daily lives rather than enervated and inspired by them. Our soul has been muted and we can't hear it singing.

Emotionally, apathy can also feel like a sense of hopelessness, disappointment and pessimism. We ask ourselves, “what’s the point?", so discouraged are we by our lives and ourselves. It’s like a fire has gone out inside of us and we have no idea how to spark it back up.

Yet, apathy isn’t just an emotional state, it’s very physical too. Apathy can result in our physical bodies feeling drained, tired and lacking in energy. It’s heavy sleeping or light sleeping. It’s a lack of appetite, not just for food, but for life itself. Or too much of an appetite to eat away our feelings of boredom and ennui.

It’s a dullness that comes out in our skin and hair. How can we shine with radiance on the outside when we feel like a damped flame on the inside?

How apathy is bred from discontent

Apathy is a miserable place to dwell in. It’s like we want to help ourselves but we just can’t quite snap out of it. I find one of the biggest causes of this state of apathy is living in circumstances that are draining us of energy and joy.

Perhaps we are working in a job that we no longer enjoy or one that sucks the life from us and we haven’t yet had the courage to face up to leaving. So we keep on going, hoping it will get better (it never does). We might be stuck living somewhere we no longer want to be; a country, city or an environment that doesn’t nourish us but one which we struggle to figure out how to leave.

It could be that we have a passion for something but we’re too fearful to try it for risk of failure or embarrassment. We may have once had a desire to change yet the fear was too insurmountable so we retreated to safety and right back into the arms of apathy where it embraced us in its hopelessness and disappointment.

We might even be in a long-term relationship that we feel resigned to staying in, even though, in our hearts of hearts, we know it’s just not right.

Apathy can swallow us whole when we remain in a situation that we know, deep in our souls, doesn’t nurture us. Our soul is crying out for change, inspiration and action but we’re scared to act on it, distrusting that quiet voice within us.

If you can recognise that you’re residing in a place of apathy that has its grip on you, it becomes much easier to break free. Below, I’ve outlined five tried-and-tested ways to start pulling yourself free.

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1 Start with baby steps

Snapping out of a state of apathy can seem daunting, especially when we’re so deep in it we can no longer see the light of hope. Often, we sabotage ourselves by setting the bar too high. We overwhelm ourselves with the vastness of expectations, fall at the first hurdle and give up completely.

We think we need to discover our passion, quit our jobs and start a new business in a matter of weeks. We think we have to move abroad, find the perfect course or change our lives in a matter of days.

Absolutely not.

Don’t focus on the big picture, don’t even look at it, just focus on what you can do to start making small changes now. Be gentle with yourself and take your time.

2 Kickstart your motivation

Like kickstarting an engine, sometimes we need a powerful spark of oomph to fire ourselves out of the pit of apathy and into a state of hopefulness and curiosity about life. This could be anything but you definitely want it to be something that you’ve never tried before, and, if the idea of it feels uncomfortable, then that’s even better.

It could be doing a hands-on workshop, getting a psychic reading, going to a live talk, a well-being retreat with strangers, signing up for a team sport, going camping or visiting an unfamiliar city.

Or if these things seem too much, it could be smaller; trying an interesting recipe, exploring somewhere unfamiliar where you live, reading a book you’d never normally pick up, going to a junk sale, booking an online workshop or writing in a journal.

3 Declutter your life

One of my favourite things to do when feeling stuck in a state of listlessness and apathy is to clear out and declutter an area of my life. This isn’t so much based on a ‘tidy space, tidy mind’ principle; rather, you are clearing the debris from your life to make room for something dazzling to come in.

There’s also something about decluttering that calms the mind and allows space for ideas and clarity to rise within us. Ideas of decluttering could include; your wardrobe, your car, your bookshelf, your computer desktop, your garden shed, or even your cupboard under the stairs.

4 Move your body

Moving your body has to e one of the most important things you can do for yourself. If you already have a yoga practice or exercise routine, I want you to try something different and break free of your routine. It might be getting up at 5am, making a flask of coffee and going for a walk around the streets or fields where you live. Or going for a swim or bike ride. Or trying something completely different like ariel yoga, trampolining or tai chi. 

Physically shifting stagnant energy is so powerful for waking yourself up to inspiration. Just remember, no one has ever come back from exercising feeling worse and you will be surprised at how invigorated you feel moving your body in a completely different way.

5 Open yourself up to ideas

Open yourself up to inspiration from books, podcasts, music, videos and conversations. Set the intention for yourself that you’re open to receiving exactly what you need and just wait and see what comes across your path. It might be a friend who recommends a book, an article you catch a glimpse of in a magazine, a song that comes on the radio or even a conversation between strangers in the queue in front of you.

The key is to be open and receptive to anything that sparks your curiosity. We are receiving signs all the time; we just need to be open and willing to see them. Apathy narrows our vision and makes us downcast and low, so start lifting your head to really see the vibrancy around you and soak it all in.

Antonia Beamish

Antonia is a Systematic Kinesiology practitioner based in the UK.