Sunday, 28 August 2016

When Life Gets Tough, Stay Positive

"How do you stay positive in a world that is such a negative and hateful place?"

We all have bad days where we come across everyday obstacles and challenges, not to mention people or situations that really test our patience and lead us to lose faith in people and the world around us.

But when it’s getting to point where a bad day has turned into a bad week…then a bad month, it’s time to take a step back and re-evaluate your circumstances and more importantly, your mindset.

Image credit: Maialisa
I’m not trying to minimise people’s problems. Trust me, I know how much it sucks when it seems like every aspect of your life is going wrong, causing you to feel helpless, stressed and overwhelmed; when life feels like a long, lonely journey with no relief in sight.

Life can be tough man, what with stressful jobs, financial instability, crappy living situations, disappointing relationships, unreliable friends and rubbish support networks.

But the truth is, everyone has problems. No one’s life is peachy, all of the time. Everyone has stresses, worries and concerns. Granted, some people’s problems or circumstances may be more extreme than others. But generally, if it seems like some people are happier than others then it’s because there’s a difference in how they deal with things.

Some of the strongest, seemingly happiest-on-the-surface people have had the most traumatic experiences. They’ve just learnt how to handle and overcome setbacks.

I’ve personally had times where life has kicked my arse so badly I’ve not wanted to be here anymore. At my lowest point, I was fully prepared to do something about it and I was truly in a vulnerable state. The mind is such a powerful thing.

I don’t even recognise that person anymore. Sure, finding a purpose or real desire to be here is still something I struggle with, but those dull feelings are nothing like that feeling of despair I had during that particular dark time in my life.

Now I figure, I’m here…so I may as well make the most of it. So I've had to change the way I deal with things.

It’s still a work in progress and I have moments where perhaps I don’t deal with things in the best way. But I constantly come across happy-go-lucky people so it proves it is possible to be a positive person and gives me something to aspire to. Also, for the most part, I’ve managed to overcome some real trying times and I want to show that there are ways to deal with the crap that life throws at you, without kicking your heels in defeat.

Here is how:

Do...absolutely nothing (except maybe cry it out)

As much as I advise against wallowing in self-pity, we all need those self-indulgent woe-is-me days. If something or someone has gotten you down, it’s going to affect our mood. You wouldn’t be human if it didn’t.

But the trick is, you just have to feel it. This is the part where people usually stumble – they can’t deal with the intensity of their feelings so they start to go off-the-rails, self-medicate or engage in otherwise destructive behaviour to escape the pain.

Honestly, you just have to ride it out until it passes. A bit like a cold. There is no quick, easy fix but it’s okay to lock yourself in a room for a couple of days just to mope or even cry.

Me personally, I’m not much of a crier. If I do cry, it tends to be more out of frustration than sadness.

But actually, sometimes crying can bring about a sense of relief, as opposed to pushing down your feelings and keeping it all in.

I don’t advocate isolating yourself in a sad state for too long (you could end up in a very dark place), but yeah, take some time to face your emotions. As tough as it can be, it can also be healing and eventually, your mood will pick up and you’ll start to feel positive again. Due to the rawness of your emotions, it’s probably best you do this in private.

Get busy

No, not like that, although if that helps you de-stress then more power to you. No judging man, do your thing - it’s been a long 8 months since I last got any action, unless being frisked at the airport counts?

But anyway, what I mean is get yourself up and outside, doing things.

I had a few holidays from work to use up recently, and I was fully intending to spend those days in bed because recently, I’ve been feeling emotionally, mentally and physically drained. However, I forgot about some vague plans I’d already made with friends so I ended up having to drag myself out. And you know what? It was good to force myself to be sociable.

Hang out with your family. Do things with your friends. If your social life is limited (like mine once was), then now’s a great time to pursue your hobbies. Join a Meetup group. Go for a walk. Visit an art gallery. Plan a trip somewhere. Go by yourself if you have to, you never know who you may meet along the way. Plus, it’s good to have stuff to look forward to.

The more you distract yourself with activities, the less time you spend obsessing, overthinking…and on social media :P. There is nothing worse than sitting at home stewing in anger or in a depressed, emotionally-heightened state for extended periods of time, thoughts racing.

"An idle mind is the devil’s workshop."

Look after yourself

Admittedly, I have my lazy days where I’m sat at home, binge-watching TV programmes whilst munching on a family size bag of Doritos. It's either that, or my appetite completely disappears when I'm not feeling too great, and I have to remind myself to eat.
Image credit: condesign

It’s not a long-term lifestyle choice I’d recommend. 

Try and get regular exercise - we spend so much time in front of computer screens or on our phones. Put your devices away and get yourself outdoors. Become active, even if it’s just for half an hour a day. It can be something as simple as a brisk walk around the block. Failing that, aim to get moving at least three times a week.

Also, try and eat as healthily as possible. I’m not suggesting you immediately opt for an all-vegan, organic diet…but try and limit the eating of rubbish to once or twice a week, and eat fresh food and healthy home cooked meals as often as possible. 

Not only will you generally feel a lot better, but it’ll also keep/get you in shape, and (at the risk of sounding shallow) when you look good, you feel good. 

Change your mindset

Depending on the severity of the situation, I do think you can actively make the choice to be happy, in the sense that you can train your brain to not be as bothered by things. 

For example, as much as I enjoy where I work, it’s almost a daily occurrence where I have to deal with erratic customers and irritating colleagues. But I find on the days where, en route to work, I give myself a mental pep talk to not let work irritations overpower my mood, 9 times out of 10 I end up having a better day.

The more you approach things with a negative attitude, the more likely you are to end up in even more unpleasant situations, thus exacerbating your bad mood. It’s like a self fulfilling prophecy. You attract the vibe you put out there.

When you’re in a negative headspace, sometimes it can be infectious…or at the very least, noticeable. And so, it’s ends up putting other people on edge and it just makes things awkward and uncomfortable for everyone. 

I know we can’t be sunshine and rainbows all the time and it’s hard to cope sometimes when life is frustrating, but try your best to keep an open mind and avoid spreading negativity or creating drama. Remember, there’s a difference between observing or venting…and being a b*tch. 

People gravitate towards reasonable, positive people and although you get your occasional a**hole who is hell bent on ruining your day, a lot of this can be avoided if you approach things a little differently.

Reach out to others

It can be simple as going out of your way to check in on a close friend or family member – not because you need something, but because you genuinely want to see how they're doing. 

My social circle has inevitably gotten smaller as I’ve grown older and outgrown people (and well, I’ve also cut a lot of people out but that’s a whole other issue that needs addressing). However, I still have smart, accomplished high-quality individuals in my life who respect and value my company, and whenever they can tell I'm doubting my likeability, they will be quick to remind me of my good qualities. 

For example, occasions where I’ve been a solid, reliable friend having helped them out when they were going through tough times, and that appreciation for being there for others is such a wonderful feeling. 

Take care of yourself but take care of others too. Not because you’re getting anything out of it, but because part of being a decent person is looking out for other people. There have been random instances in my own life where strangers have been so kind and cool towards me, it’s been heartwarming and presented an opportunity for me to learn from them. 

An act of kindness, however small, may also encourage a person to do the same for someone else (paying it forward). And in that way you’re spreading positive vibes. 

Have a sense of humour

Let’s be honest, as much as life has its bad and awful moments, there’s also a lot of humour to be found in many situations. 

Life is a lot more tolerable if you’re able to laugh off a bad or embarrassing situation, not to mention the numerous health benefits associated with smiling and laughing more. Apparently, even fake smiling can release endorphins, which in turn reduces stress levels. 

Worth a shot, right? At the very least, include comedies in your entertainment which will surely lift your spirits. 

Be grateful

I don’t mean this in the "There are people starving in Africa, do you know how lucky you are? Buck up!" sort of way. 

Image credit: geralt
I mean, it’s so easy to focus on what’s lacking in our lives that we forget about the good things we have going for us, or things that make us feel good. 

For example, as much as my job grates on me sometimes, I suppose it helps that I have a cool manager and hilarious colleagues that I’m close to.

Learn to recognise the little things in life that bring you pleasure and brighten up your day. 

Forgive others (& yourself)

It’s hard not to let other people’s inconsiderate or selfish ways get you down - social interactions are a two-way street and you can never predict or control what people are going to do or say. It’s enough to make you want to avoid people altogether. 

However there are good, decent people out there who are on your wavelength – it just takes some effort to find them. 

If you have a bad experience with someone, you just have to brush these unpleasant situations off – remember, if someone treats you badly it’s more of a reflection of them than it is of you and you need to start seeing them as irrelevant. Take serial cheaters, for example. Often women blame themselves but really, it takes a certain personality type to be a philanderer. 

But what if you’re the person who has wronged someone?

Well firstly, avoid beating yourself up too much or blaming yourself entirely. We’re human, we’re not saints. Reflect on the situation, learn from it and strive to be a better person for next time.

There really is no point on dwelling on your mistakes for too long. If you did something truly awful, expressing remorse and apologising might be a good idea, but you have to be honest about your motives behind doing so - is it to ease your own conscience, to reverse any bad karma or because you want to get back into someone’s good graces because their opinion of you has changed? If so, then it might be best to just leave it as those reasons are quite selfish. 

Sometimes, the kindest thing to do when you’ve hurt someone is to just leave them alone, especially if they’ve explicitly told you to do so because they don’t want to be bothered by you anymore. Mentally wish them well instead. 

Extending an olive branch is nice, but not every issue between people gets resolved or has a happy, cordial ending. Take it from someone who tried to clear the air with someone I dated recently... which was met with anger, spite and shockingly, a string of profanities (refer to earlier point about forgiving others).

"Speaking words of wisdom...let it be."

Have faith

Personal harmony and balance
Image credit: Devanath
I don’t mean in a religious sense, although if you do practice a faith then that’s great – I’ve observed first-hand how religion and a sense of community has really helped people during crisis times. 

But if you don’t believe in God, then have faith in the Universe (at the risk of sounding like a new-age hippy). It’s good to remember that things nearly always have a habit of working themselves out in the end .

Don’t fight what is or isn’t meant to be. Any occasion where I’ve ignored my gut feeling has usually ended in disaster. It may feel crap now if things don't work out the way you hoped, but it's usually a blessing in disguise which leads to better things in the future.

Have hope that things will improve and understand that the good can’t exist without the bad, otherwise we’d live in this weird, unnatural utopia; the ups-and-downs of life are simply creating a balance of positive and negative experiences.

Finally, even though I’m not one for cliched Tumlbr-style quotes, as the Florence + The Machine song goes "’s always darkest before the dawn.”



  1. So sorry to hear that you've had a difficult time but well done for coming through it and turning it into a positive like this post. I haven't been as low but I can't imagine how helpful this would be for people that have. Looking after yourself and keeping busy is something I always do when feeling really down!


    1. Hey thanks a lot! The supportive words really do mean more than you know. I guess sharing the experience is therapeutic in a way, and offering advice to anyone who maybe going through something similar is a way to turn a negative into a positive :)

      - Lubna