Challenges in life are guaranteed. Everyone has them in some form. It’s amazing how difficult it is to simply keep up with the basics— work, family, eating well, and exercising. When challenges arise, it’s easy to forget the good times and wonder if life is always going to be a mess. The mind can run down very negative spirals, leading us to imagine horrible future scenarios. We may find ourselves focusing on all the worst parts of life and ultimately getting depressed or totally pissed off.
How does one stay positive in the midst of life’s ups and downs? How can we habitually handle life in a happy and proactive manner?
Some of these answers may surprise you. Developing a positive relationship with life does not mean suppressing your negative emotions or ignoring difficulties. It means the exact opposite.
- Prioritize self-care. It’s easy to devote most of your time to taking care of others, working to get ahead, or mindless distraction. However, if you want to be positive, you have to be intentional about creating routines in your life that feel deeply nourishing. This looks different for everyone! Some people feel rejuvenated from a yoga class while others feel inspired by reading poetry. Some of us just need a nap. Whatever it is for you, make sure you do it. You can’t feel positive about life when you are exhausted or completely out of touch with your needs. It’s not enough to do it once a week or once a month. Invest the time to figure out what brings you a sense of peace and then create a structure in your life so that you give that to yourself almost every day— even if it’s only for 15 minutes.
- Feel all your feelings. The ironic truth is that opening completely to your difficult emotions is the healthiest way to move through them. Emotions such as anger, fear, and envy are natural parts of life. They are hardwired into your biology and won’t ever go away— regardless of your level of enlightenment or the hours spent in therapy. Your emotions are a beautiful guidance system inside of you that help you understand your needs and desires. For example, if you feel incredibly sad during a break up, it points to how much you loved the person or desire intimate relationship. When you allow yourself to grieve the loss (even though it hurts and you may cry a lot!), all that emotion doesn’t get stuck in your body. It moves through you in healthy ways, allowing you to heal at deeper levels and emerge from the experience as a more open-hearted being.
- Be honest with yourself and others. I know that confrontation is scary! We often don’t want to face painful feelings inside so we lie to ourselves and ignore what is happening. Or, we are afraid of the reactions of others and don’t want to hurt them, so we don’t speak up about what we are feeling. What do both these scenarios do? They create bad juju stuck in your body, circling around without any outlet. When all that energy remains inside you, it will build up until you simply aren’t happy with life. You feel frustrated, confused, and unsure what to do to make things better. The healthier option is to take the time to become clear with your feelings and needs, and then make the courageous choice to express them consciously with those you care about— and with yourself.
- Create time for a deep sense of connection. Practicing the above habits will help you tremendously to create intimate and fulfilling relationships with people in your life. Having supportive relationships where you feel seen and met is integral to feeling positive about life. However, I also want to highlight the importance of connecting with your soul. Humans need to have a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives to be happy. Our soul will only knock gently at the door for a while until it start screaming at you (creating all sorts of problems in your life) to listen and wake up to what really matters. Make time to get away from your busy schedule, and walk barefoot on the Earth. Let the slower pace of nature guide you to a deeper listening, so that your soul can speak— beyond even your normal self-care routines. Allow that true inner voice to guide your bigger life choices and you will stay on track with what really makes you excited to be alive.
- Let the body guide you. Spirals of negativity are generally created in the mind. Our minds can create stories of unworthiness, hopelessness, or how everyone else is to blame. These stories from the mind might seem real, but they aren’t the truth. It’s normal to have negative thoughts at times, but we do have a choice about whether we believe them. If you find yourself believing painful stories, one of the best ways to shift is to get back in your body! Go to the gym, dance in your room, or take a walk in the sunshine. Listen and trust what feels good in your body more than what you hear spiraling from your mind. If what feels good is to stand up and do a full body shake to your favorite song, then do that! With time and practice (and perhaps some professional guidance) you’ll learn the difference between painful and unhelpful beliefs about yourself versus genuine emotions such as sadness or anger that need to be honored.
With these steps in your awareness, you are on your way to living life as a highly positive person! Remember that life is a journey. If you know that all of life is giving you the opportunity to discover and create who you really are, then what matters is how you respond to challenges. Your life may be difficult at times, but this doesn’t have to be reflection of your self-worth. You can believe that everything is okay just as it is, which leads to more positivity than anything else I know.