As you may have noticed by now, life doesn’t really care whether you’re having a good time or not. The one thing you can control through life’s peaks and valleys is yourself. Positivity is a choice you have to practice making. Dr. Barbara Fredrickson says it comes down to choosing hope over fear. Her book Positivity lists 10 positive emotions: joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.
When the world seems to be crashing down around you, remember: Everything is temporary. Here are 12 tips for feeling more happy, relaxed, confident, peaceful, and positive through 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.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Life coach and licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP) Joe Wilner says that, “A major part of learning to deal with our feelings is being able to label and identify our emotions. It can be difficult to connect with our emotional state if we don’t have awareness about the feelings we’re having. Name your feeling. Is it sad? Scared? Angry? Once you acknowledge how you actually feel, you can begin to process it.
Write down your worries, fears, thoughts, and emotions. If a real journal is too “dear diary” for you, start a doc on your PC, jot a note on your smartphone, or just use a piece of scrap paper. Feelings just want to be felt. Once they’re written out, you might find those feelings taking up less space in your head.
Practice Mindful Meditation
Deep breathing, self-reflection, and goal-setting in the morning set the tone for a positive day. According to Forbes, mindfulness and meditation reduce anxiety and increase body satisfaction. Whatever you call it—self-reflection, prayer, mindfulness—meditation is a free and efficient way to press pause on negative thinking. Being mindful gives you space between a stimulus and your response, so you can manage moods and emotions. Get started with guided meditation by making a YouTube playlist and/or downloading the Calm app.
Take Care of Your Body
When we’re bummed, it’s easy to sink into the couch with a bottle of wine for a marathon binge sesh. Unfortunately, that’s not going to solve any problems. Make sure you’re eating nourishing foods, moving your body, and getting enough sleep. 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.
Use Your Senses
Knowing there’s no point in worrying about stuff that’s out of our control is a lot different than being able to let that stuff go. When you feel anxious or overwhelmed, try focusing on what is immediately around you. The 5-4-3-2-1 technique is a little trick for coping with anxiety:
5: Name five things you can see
4: Name four things you can feel/touch
3: Name three things you can hear
2: Name two things you can smell
1: Name one thing you can taste
Focusing on what’s going on around you lets your brain get off its hamster wheel of negative thoughts. You can’t worry about the future or dwell on the past when you’re focused on the present. You can also use your body’s built-in sensors to cheer yourself up by listening to your favorite music, watching a funny movie, picking some flowers, or eating some chocolate.
Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Change your thoughts, and your life will follow. Negativity is a vicious cycle. Even though it can be difficult to be thankful during tough times, it is important. Gratitude promotes optimism and helps us to develop a more positive outlook by increasing the feel-good neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin. To begin a daily practice, set a “gratitude check” reminder on your phone. When it goes off, think of and/or list a few things you are appreciative of, no matter how big or small. If you’re thankful for a person, go ahead and let them know it.
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.
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 ukulele, 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.
Turn off the TV
Garbage in = Garbage out. Newsflash: The negative news cycle and reality TV aren’t edifying or uplifting. Turn off the TV and read a book, go outside, or listen to a positive podcast.
As the talmudic saying goes, “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. Perhaps the circumstances really are as bad as you thought, however, your perception of reality is often just the narrative your mind came up with.
According to Psychology Today, “Interacting with others boosts feelings of well-being and decreases feelings of depression.” Even if you can’t get together in person, schedule a group video chat to catch up with friends.