It can be really hard to stay positive in tough times, particularly when the tough times linger around for months or even years. But the reality is we are not helpless to what is going on around us unless we believe that we are.
Whilst we might not be able to influence or change what is happening, we can control how we react and what meaning we give to the things going on around us – and that is the key to staying positive.
Here are 7 ideas that I believe will help you to stay positive. They have certainly helped me through some hard times over the years –
1. Think more about what you have as opposed to what you don’t have.
In tough times it is really easy to obsess about the things we haven’t got or the things that we are at risk of losing. There really isn’t much to be gained from this and in my opinion the more you focus on these negatives the more likely they are to become reality. It is much better to live a life of gratitude for the things you do have in your life. Often the people with the least in the way of material possessions have the most in the way of spiritual prosperity. Life always gives us more of the things we focus on – so I think we need to learn to be far more grateful for what we have.
2. If you lay down with dogs you get up with fleas.
Misery loves company. How many times have you found yourself feeling pretty good about life, until you run into someone who has nothing but doom and gloom gushing from their mouth? Within a few minutes you are ready to put your head in the oven and end it all. We become like the five people we spend most of our time with, so it is pretty darn important that we spend our time with the right people. Distance yourself from the doom and gloomers, find more positive people to spend time with.
3. Be careful about what goes into your mind – because it has a big impact on what comes out of your mouth.
I recently met a man who is worth over $200 million dollars. He is an American entrepreneur, he has thrived during the Global Financial Crisis and he keeps going from strength the strength. What is his secret? He stopped watching, listening to or reading the news fifteen years ago. Clearly being “out of touch” hasn’t had too much of a negative impact on him. We need to protect ourselves from the mass of negativity that exists out there. Be careful about what gets feed into your brain, because if you hear negativity often enough your brain believes it – and your mood, hopes, dreams etc can fade to grey. Not all media is bad, far from it, but be selective and filter what you choose to watch, red or listen to.
4. Celebrate loud and celebrate often.
I am a strong believer in the importance of celebration and the vital role it play towards our state of mind and overall happiness. Unfortunately in the tougher times we tend to stop celebrating because it can often feel like the wrong thing to do – well it isn’t. Now lets not get silly, we don’t have to throw a party for getting to work on time, but we should stop and acknowledge at least one victory every day. I keep a white board in my office and during the course of the year I keep track of my greatest achievements. By the December it is normally an impressive list and most of the things on there I would have forgotten about if there wasn’t a list in front of me. Whenever I am struggling or feeling flat, I look through my list in a few seconds my state of mind shifts from feeling depressed to feeling proud and positive about what I have achieved. Celebrate your own successes and the successes of those around you as often as you can.
5. Do more of the things you love.
When we are feeling depressed we often stop doing the things we love. I’m not really sure why, but we do. I suggest making a list of the ten things you absolutely love to do and put a tick beside each of them every time you do them. The aim here is keep increasing the number of ticks each week. Our state of mind changes when the endorphins are set free and doing things we love gets that process happening.
6. Keep one eye on the horizon.
When times are tough we can get caught up in the overwhelming here and now. It can be dark, it can be scary and it can feel hopeless. That is why we have to keep one eye firmly on the horizon and where we are heading in our life. I recently met Michael Hill the incredible entrepreneur and jeweller – his advice is to have a 30 year plan at all times. This lets you stay focused on where you are going instead of getting bogged down in the day-to-day dramas. In the space of 30 years there will be many ups and downs, but the ability to have long-term focus makes the ride a little smoother, particularly when you are going through the rough sections of the journey.
7. Help others.
One of the best ways to stay positive in tough times is to reach out and help others in need. Now by all means donating money is important, but giving up your time and expertise and actually getting your hands dirty so to speak is a great way to change your perspective and your state of mind. This might be simply “adopting” an elderly neighbour, walking dogs for the RSPCA, helping at the sausage sizzle for the local sporting club or even helping strangers in the street who are clearly looking for directions.
Life will always throw challenges our way, that’s its job. And there are definitely times where it all seems too hard. Sadly for many people it sometimes is. I think we have two choices in life when it comes to the challenges that come our way– we can either become bitter or better, the choice is yours.