Personal Development

How To Stay Optimistic Even When Your Life Isn't

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"Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is the perspective, not the truth." Marcus Aurelius

I found it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

I wanted to climb into a deep hole in the earth and never come out again.

I saw only the most dire future for myself after this divorce was completed.   It didn't seem like life was worth living anymore.

If you're facing a lot of challenges and difficulties right now, it's easy to want to give up and throw in the towel. If you're going through a divorce, a breakup or a loss of some other kind, it's hard to stay afloat in the stormy waters of life.

optimisticLife's traumatic changes often are often accompanied with grief and it's difficult to keep our perspective. It's difficult to get out of bed in the morning and difficult to show up in the world. Our thoughts overpower us and make us feel like we are specks of dust in an unkind world. It appears as though everything is out of our control when we are confronting challenging circumstances in our lives.

The good news is that you can shift your perspective. You can shift the way you view the events that are unfolding in your life no matter how daunting or negative.

Here are 9 ways to stay optimistic during your most difficult hour:

1)           Look at what can go right.

When things go wrong, our minds love to jump to conclusions and think of worst-case scenarios. We want to play out the worst possible outcome. We love to think that we are going to be homeless, alone and playing for loose change in the subway. This kind of catastrophic thinking isn't useful. See what can go right for a change. Focus on what the best-case scenario can be.

How can circumstances break in your favor?

2)           Know that everything "“ good and bad "“ passes.

No matter how bad things are, they will pass. Has there ever been a life event or situation you've been in that hasn't gone away? Either the situation will change, your perspective will change or your life will change. What the Buddhists say is true about everything being temporary and passing. You're not going to suffer forever. You will see happiness again. You will jump out of bed again in the morning. Walking the path of the grieving process is necessary to letting go and moving on when facing loss.

3)           Imagine the life you want to have.

One way to keep your head and spirits up is to imagine what's possible. Instead of focusing on things you can't do anything about (the past), why not envision the life that's possible? Why not go about setting intentions and desires for the changes you want to see? Don't let current circumstances dictate the future. No matter how bad it is, it can get better. There is power in setting intentions and seeing a new picture in your mind's eye. If visualization works for world-champion Olympians, it can work for you.

4)           Treasure the moment in front of you.

While it's best to release the past and envision the future, the ultimate place of being is the present. See, in this moment right now, as you're reading this, that everything is ok. You're fine right now. You're fine in each instant you pay attention to. This is what's called mindfulness. If you can be completely in the moment at hand, you won't suffer the pain of the past or get anxious about the unknowns of tomorrow. Strive through meditation, silence and awareness to bring yourself to the moment in front of you. It's all you really have.

5)           Look for peace within, not around you.

You can't find peace when the situation changes. You can't find peace when a few years have passed. You must cultivate peace. It comes from within you. Peace resides within you at all times, but it's how to access it that's the question. We let our minds have a battle royale and entertain us with their wacky scenarios. We have to be the ringleaders who tame the mind and calm it down. Still your thoughts, become aware of your feelings and seek refuge in your calmness. When you tap into your peace within, the circumstances around you begin to shift. If there's a peaceful river flowing inside you, the world will be more calm around you.

6)           Remember what is working in your favor.

There may be things you can't do anything about, but what is helping you? Who is part of your support system? How can something develop more positively? What are the lucky breaks that may resolve the situation? Having a positive and high-frequency attitude towards the way things are going to play out will help move circumstances in a positive direction. Believe that the world is going to conspire to help you and support you. You're going to come through and come out better off than when you went in.

7)           See life as an adventure "“ get excited about change.

One way to break out of the fear and frustration is to view change as a game or adventure. This may be hard to do, but if you can think of yourself as the protagonist of the game, you're in charge. You're in control and the joystick is in your hand. You may die or lose a life metaphorically, but in this video game it's never "game over." You have another chance. You have unlimited "lives" to keep getting it right. Go forth with adventure and optimism. Do not believe the game's over. You are the hero! Look at how you can make change, shift the situation and win the day.

8)           Look for ways to give.

When you get caught up in your problems, you tend to focus on yourself and become preoccupied with what's happening to you. A simple way to break this pattern of self-sabotage and ruminating on your problems is to do things for others. Help someone. Be there for someone who is suffering a problem in their life. Do volunteer work. Take a friend out for lunch. Call a family member who might need to hear from you. Buy someone a coffee. Do something nice for someone. Be an agent of generosity and kindness.

9)           Use more empowering words.

The words we use reflect our thinking and our beliefs. The way you talk about a situation can impact how you see and feel about it. Talking too much about a negative life event or circumstance doesn't help, either. Don't spend hours sharing your negativity with everyone you know. Be mindful of your language and the words you use to describe the problems you're facing. The more gentle you can be with your words, the better you will feel about the situation.

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About the author


Vishnu Subramaniam is the writer behind the popular self-help blog where he writes about starting over in life. For Vishnu's latest book, Does True Love Exist: 15 Simple Ideas for Finding Your Life Partner, click here.