Do you ever have one of those days or months or years where everything seems to go wrong? You make plans and prepare for the curveballs life may throw at you but then life doesn’t throw you a curveball, it hits you with the ball instead? It’s easy to spiral off into negative thoughts and become overwhelmed with stress. It is more important than ever to stay positive in difficult times.
I have had a lot of bad luck the past months and I’m sure some of you have gone through tough times as well. Staying optimistic during these hard times is tough but I will walk you through why you should make the effort and how to put positivity into action.
Perks of Positivity
As fun as it might be to do go down a dark hole and have a full-on pity party (sarcasm here), making every effort to stay positive during difficult times will benefit your mind and body in the long run. Below are just a few of the proven benefits of positive thinking:
- Increased life span
- Lower rates of depression
- Lower levels of distress
- Greater resistance to the common cold (yay for strong immune systems!)
- Better psychological and physical well-being
- Improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Greater coping skills during hardships and times of stress (for next time because there is always a next time)
As you can see there’s tons of reasons why you should stay positive during difficult times but easier said than done, I know. Don’t worry, I’ll get into the how next.
6 Ways to Stay Positive
1. Just Remember, There’s Starving Kids in Africa
It is really important to take the time to analyze and process your situation. Sometimes it’s helpful to compare your situation to others who are having a tougher time than you. Although you lost your job, there are people out there right now who are trying to beat a terminal cancer diagnosis. So at least you have your health, right?
Thinking of others who are dealing with worse situations helps to put things in perspective. No matter what, there will always be someone else who is going through something harder than you.
This type of comparison helps me sometimes but not all the time. Although I know someone else is struggling more than I am, it doesn’t make my situation suck less. When comparing my struggle to the struggle of others doesn’t work, I look more inward. I’ll explain.
2. Acceptance – For When There’s Starving Kids in Africa but Life is Still Unfair
When I was 19 I found out that I was going to lose several of my teeth and have to replace them with implants. This involves wearing removable teeth for 6 months and having the implants drilled into the bone in my jaw. At the time, I was extremely upset and thought life was completely unfair.
Losing your teeth in your late teens was embarrassing and it was going to be a long painful ordeal. I thought to myself, if only I was a guy on the hockey team. Then I could’ve show off my missing teeth with pride! My college is big on hockey and the hockey guys loved taking out their fake teeth when they were drunk. Unfortunately for me, this probably wouldn’t be as cute of a party trick for a 19-year-old sorority girl.
I eventually got over it because I didn’t have a choice in the decision. Either way, I was going to lose my teeth and there was nothing I could do about it. The nerves holding my teeth in place were dying and I couldn’t save them. I just had to accept that this was going to be my only outcome and move on with my life.
3. Worst Case Scenarios – For When There’s Starving Kids in Africa but Life is Still Unfair
When I was 22 I found out that the reason I had lost my teeth at 19 was because of an oral tumor. Unfortunately my original oral surgeon and dentist didn’t detect. And because they didn’t detect it, I was going to have to lose my implants, be toothless for a while again, and get this tumor taken out of my jaw. Cherry on the cake was, because my Parents had already spent thousands of dollars on my previous implants and I had already started the workforce, I was going to have to pay for this out of my own pocket. (Don’t get me started about how awful dental insurance is.) Oh, also I had zero savings. (Don’t be like me, have an emergency savings.) To say I was upset was an understatement.
The reason I was able to get over my “WHY ME” thoughts was because I took a long look at my situation. I pictured what other outcomes could have happened. Basically, I pictured worst case scenario “what if” situations. Maybe this is because of my New York neurosis but hey it worked.
I found out about this tumor by complete chance. One of my implant caps (the part that looks like a tooth) became loose (which isn’t supposed to happen) and I found a random dentist to fix it. He happened to had noticed a decently sized bump in my upper jaw so he took some x-rays, later a biopsy (horrifying experience to be awake for), and viola I had a tumor diagnosis.
By the time I was able to actually coordinate the removal of the tumor, it was almost to my sinus. If this dentist didn’t happen upon this tumor (which previous ones didn’t) then I might have lost part of my sinus. It also could have become so big that I could have suffered permanent damage which could have paralyzed part of my face. My tumor was also benign so I didn’t have to worry about cancer complications. Yes, I had so go through an expensive and painful ordeal but it sure beats being paralyzed or having cancer. Think of all the things that could’ve gone wrong but didn’t. It makes it a little easier to stay positive during difficult times.
4. Embrace the Challenge
As corny as it is, embracing life’s difficulties does make us stronger. When you go through something truly difficult whether it be losing a loved one or extreme financial stress, other challenges life throws at you seem trivial. Hitting a ton of traffic that will make you late to an important meeting is stressful. But, if you remember that you have been through harder challenges, you will realize that you can and will handle this set back.
Many of the successes in my life are because I have had challenges that made me work harder than others. If you were to count up all the things that have gone wrong in your life, you probably would have a pretty long list. I’m sure you’ve had your own hardships that I can’t even begin to relate to. But if you refuse to be a victim and celebrate how much you have overcome or are currently overcoming, you’ll realize how incredibly strong you are and how much you can achieve.
Gratitude is a big overarching message when it comes to positivity. When you think about all the other parts of your life you have to be grateful for, it makes it easier to have hope for a better tomorrow. When life is going all wrong, think about how much has gone right in your life. Think of the people you love in your life, the opportunities you’ve been able to experience, and the possibilities for tomorrow. Even knowing that you will come out of this difficulty as a stronger person is a form of gratitude.
To foster this feeling of gratitude you should create a routine. Every morning, write down 3 things in your life that you are grateful for. Physically writing them down helps you remember them later on more easily than if you wrote them on your phone or just thought of them.
6. Be with Others
Whether you are dealing with a loss, extreme job stress, financial troubles, or health issues, being with others during this time is extremely important. You may be over your head with responsibilities but a simple phone call to someone you care about can be a tremendous help.
Being with others can help take your mind off of what you are going through. They can also help with a solution or a new perspective. You may be surprised to know that they have gone through something similar. If you have a lot on your plate, friends or family can help with the small things. They can bring over dinner one night, walking your dog, or watching your kids. Just make sure that the people you surround yourself with are optimistic and positive influences. Humans are social creatures and we need to be around others, especially during hard times.
Luckily, whatever troubles you or I go through will eventually pass. Remember that you have a lot of other parts of your life to be happy about. Recognize that you also have people care about you and who are there to support you. The more you can stay hopeful and stay positive in difficult times, the more your mind and body will thank you.