Mental Health Healing Man

Staying Positive Through Tough Times

“Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” — Theodore Roosevelt

It’s easy to have a positive outlook on life when things are going well, isn’t it? We notice the beauty around us; we have a bounce to our step. We appreciate the people and things in our lives.

And then…life happens. We suffer setbacks in our careers or our health. Our relationships turn rocky. We worry about retirement, our children, and a host of other things. Sometimes we go through a rough patch that lasts for weeks, months, or even longer. How do we stay positive when life gets tough? Here are some proven ways to build strength and resilience in order to stay positive – even when we have every reason not to.

Face the situation head-on. Ignoring it and hoping it will go away will NOT help. In fact, it will make the situation seem to grow. There is something powerful about turning in and directly facing the circumstance. When you do this, it says “I’m not afraid of you. I will face you and I will do what it takes to defeat you.”

Allow your feelings. There is no such thing as a “negative” emotion; what is important is how you respond to those emotions. Anger, fear, and worry exist for a reason. Allow and honor the feelings that arise, and allow yourself the time you need to move through them. For example, research has shown that tears have cleansing and healing properties. They release toxins and stress chemicals from the body. One important note: be on the lookout for times you may be tempted to “stay stuck” inside an emotion. That can feel like a comfort because it can seal you off from what is happening. However, it keeps you from moving the tough time. It keeps you stuck and can magnify what is happening over time. Honor and allow your emotions while you move through your circumstance.

Develop and maintain a sense of optimism. Martin Seligman is a pioneer in the area of Positive Psychology. His research has found that optimism has a natural component but it can also be learned. To overcome a difficult situation, tap into your sense of optimism and confidence that you will ultimately overcome whatever you are going through.

Practice resilience. That is the ability to roll with whatever is happening, to bounce back from adversity, to roll up your sleeves and get to work instead of wallowing in self-pity. There is a natural rhythm and flow to this. When life deals a tough blow, it is natural to be affected by it. You may be shocked, depressed, or react in any number of ways. The key is to acknowledge it, honor and allow the emotions that come with it, and then bounce back with strength and confidence. There are several things you can do to increase your resilience:

  • get a support system
  • take care of yourself
  • seek professional help if you are unable to bounce back on your own
  • find something meaningful in the situation
  • call on your spiritual faith
  • find inspiration from others who have bounced back from adversity

Create a plan and get to work. This is a powerful way to overcome adversity and feel positive about life again. Taking action gives you a sense of confidence and momentum. Think of steps you can take and concrete things you can do while you are going through a tough time. And then start doing them.

Believe in yourself. This is one of the most powerful strategies for staying positive. Trust in your strength and your ability to overcome tough situations. If needed, ask people who know you well to name some qualities they see in you. Name your qualities. Say them out loud. Make a strong statement: “Today I will stay positive by ______.” Notice when you are actively being positive and use it as a statement of hope and confidence.

Practice acceptance. Sometimes a tough situation is one you can change by taking action; other times, the only thing you can change is your perspective. Life does not stay still and change is a part of life. Remember to acknowledge emotions that come up when something happens that you cannot change. Honoring those will help you accept what is, so you can step into a positive outlook. For example, parents whose children have left home for college may be experiencing intense feelings of loss and even depression. These parents cannot force their children to remain at home. It is a natural part of life. That does not lessen the intensity of the situation. Accepting what is can be a powerful way to regain a positive outlook on life.

Tough times never last, but tough people do. — Robert Schuller​

Being positive through adversity gives you strength, perspective, and the momentum you need to persevere. Take the opportunity to tap into this tremendous resource within you.