Life doesn’t care whether you’re having a good time or not. It’s going to keep ebbing and flowing either way. We all have bad moments, days, or heck, years. Positivity is a choice you have to practice making. We all know the tropes and cliches that are supposed to get us through dark times. “This too shall pass”. “It’s always darkest before the dawn.” “The sun will come out tomorrow.” “The only way out is through.” All of these are cliches because they’re true, but it’s not really practical advice. Read on for 13 ways to practice positivity during tough times.
Drop the victim identity
When something bad happens, it’s easy to fall into the feeling of being victimized by circumstances or another person. You may feel powerless, or like the world is against you. Remember that everyone else is living their own lives, and they don’t revolve around you. Playing the victim will further prolong negative feelings and may deter others from helping. The common denominator in life’s ups and downs is always you. Psychology Today recommends overcoming victimhood by taking responsibility for and owning your wants and needs. Many times disappointment stems from unrealistic expectations. Recognize that everything isn’t going to go your way all the time, and be prepared to roll with the punches.
Name the feeling. Is it sad? Or is it frustrated, angry, lonely, scared, anxious, worried, etc.? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Feelings just want to be felt. Once you acknowledge how you actually feel, you can begin to process it.
Write down your worries, fears, thoughts, and emotions. It doesn’t have to be a legit journal dedicated to feelings–you can start a doc on your PC, jot a note on your smartphone, or just use a piece of scrap paper. Once they’re written out, you might find those feelings taking up less space in your head. If you’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, writing to them in a journal can be really healing.
Practice mindful meditation
Whatever you want to call it: self-reflection, prayer, mindfulness–meditation is a free and efficient way to press pause on negative thinking. Mindfulness helps manage moods and emotions, giving you space between a stimulus and your reaction. Research shows that mindfulness and meditation can reduce depression and pain, and boost emotional well-being. To get started, check out our article on the Benefits Of Mindful Meditation For Older Adults. Download the Calm app for a guided meditation on the go. Deep breathing, self-reflection, and goal-setting in the morning set the tone for a positive day.
Take care of your body
When we’re bummed, it’s easy to sink into the couch with a bag full of Cheetos for a marathon binge sesh, but that’s not going to help the situation. Don’t get us wrong, rest is important. In addition to making sure you’re getting enough sleep, eat nourishing foods and move your body. Exercise like swimming, walking, and yoga not only gets your endorphins and other feel-good chemicals pumping, but focusing on the physical can help clear and focus the mind.
Adjust your focus
When you feel overwhelmed, try focusing on what is immediately around you. What do you see? What does it smell like? What sounds can you hear? What can you feel on your body? Focusing on the outside gives your brain a break from its hamster wheel of negative thoughts. When you’re focused on the present, you can’t worry about the future or dwell on the past. (There’s no point in worrying over what you’re not in charge of, anyway.) You can also use your body’s built-in sensors to cheer yourself up. Listen to your favorite album, watch a funny movie, light a scented candle, eat some chocolate, or hug someone.
Develop a gratitude attitude
Being grateful during tough times is easier said than done, however, it is important. Negativity begets negativity. It’s a vicious cycle. Gratitude promotes optimism and helps us to develop a more positive outlook. What’s going well for you? Sometimes the silver lining is more of a dull gray, but at the very least, you can be grateful that things aren’t worse than they already are. Change your thoughts, and your life will follow.
What have you learned from this experience? Treat failures, mistakes, and obstacles as learning opportunities. You can’t repeat the same actions and expect different results. Is there something you could change to prevent it from happening again? How could you do better next time? This doesn’t mean beat yourself up–keep it constructive. Picture the “you” that you aspire to be and align your actions accordingly.
Help someone else
When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, do something for someone else. Not only will altruism help put your problems in perspective, but helping others will, in turn, improve your mood.
Guard your mind
Garbage in = Garbage out. Are you hanging out with negative people, comparing yourself to others, or filling your head with negative news? It’s time for that old adage of letting go of that which no longer serves you. Perhaps this means deleting social media from your phone, turning off the TV, or choosing not to spend time with Negative Nancy. Replace the garbage with something edifying, like an uplifting podcast.
Step outside of the situation
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are. Take stock of what’s actually happened. Question your thoughts, because unfortunately, you can’t always trust your brain. Maybe it really is as bad as you think, however, your concept of reality is often just the narrative your mind came up with.
Take yourself out of the situation and pretend it’s happening to a friend instead. What advice would you give them? You wouldn’t blame them, belittle them, or call them names. So, do yourself the same kindness. Practice turning negative self-talk into positive re-enforcement. It might help to pretend like you’re talking to a younger you. You wouldn’t be mean to a little kid, you’d encourage and support them. Be sweet to yourself. Getting an outsider’s opinion by talking to friends, family, a professional, or a support group can help reframe your reality.
While speaking with outsiders can help you be objective about your situation, being social can also help you stay positive. Especially if the reason you’re bummed is that you’re lonely. According to Psychology Today, “Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.” Invite friends to dinner or host a game night. If you don’t have anyone to hang out with, check out our article on Ways to Make New Friends After 60.
Do something you love
Whether it’s an old hobby or a new activity, keeping yourself busy keeps your mind off of, well, yourself. For instance, when you’re learning to play the ukelele, it’s hard to think of anything else besides the next note. Immersing yourself in a good book can distract you from problems that aren’t going anywhere any time soon. You get the idea. If you need a new stress-free hobby, check out these ideas.