During a tough time of my life, I learned how to remain positive in difficult times. I used certain techniques to overcome pessimism and negativity bias so I could stay optimistic and happy.
If you’ve ever wondered:
- How to get through a breakup
- How to stay positive at work
- What you can do to remain positive when you’re ill
- How to stay positive during lockdown
- How to stay positive working from home
- Or how to be happy regardless of anything, these tips will help.
How To Remain Positive In Difficult Times [7 Ways]
These excellent techniques help us to remain positive.
1: To Remain Positive in Negative Times, Meditate daily
If you’re genuinely going to remain positive in negative situations, you’re going to need inner peace and calm. For most people, it is too easy to become angry or upset when negative situations arise. By meditating daily, you ensure that you’re always starting on the right foot. You can make sure that your baseline is calm and positive. That way, you’re more equipped to deal with negative situations when they occur.
Meditation promotes the parasympathetic nervous system to boost feelings of wellness, it also reduces sympathetic nervous system activity, reduces amygdala activity, and balances cortisol according to research on the National Center For Complementary And Integrative Health. All of that means that it makes you relaxed and relieves stress.
But what meditation technique should you do? Get started with my positive-thinking meditation techniques.
2: To Remain Positive During Tough Times, Tell Yourself It’ll Pass
So, you’re going through a difficult time. And you’re struggling to remain positive. Take the heat off yourself. Remind yourself the moment will pass. Always be hopeful in life.
Life is like a journey on which we take many paths. Some paths are easy to walk, they’re joyous, they’re enjoyable. Others are harder. But the problematic roads you cross will lead you towards another positive path.
When something negative happens, tell yourself “It’s just a moment. It’ll pass”.
When my father passed away last year, I was deeply upset. I faced sadness and grief. I truly needed to know how to remain positive in this difficult time. I got through by changing the way I was thinking. Every time I experienced a sad thought, I would force myself to remember a happy time with my father. This trained my mind not to be falsely positive (which is never helpful) but to balance the negative with the positive.
Ever since, this has been one of my favourite positive thinking strategies. This is one of the exercises of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, a system devised by Dr Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s, while he was a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania.
3: Take it as a challenge
Hands up who likes a good challenge? I know I do. Negative situations are now one of my favourite challenges. Every time something negative happens, I tell myself, “This is a test of my positivity”. The trial gives me the motivation to remain positive, similar to how we fight to keep going when we’re running a marathon or conquering some other difficult physical feat.
When we view tough situations as a challenge, we change our mindsets. We start to use negative energy in positive ways. Sometimes the key to happiness and success is to refuse to give in and to persevere.
4: I get by with a little help from my friends
I count myself lucky to have some amazing friends. In November 2013, I had an incident in which I passed out and was rushed to the hospital. It was terrifying. I’d been fine, and I hadn’t had anything to drink or anything like that. So suddenly passing out and waking up in an ambulance was a serious concern.
But there was my good friend Vince. Vince is a fantastic guy, the type of guy who’s there for everyone. He rode in the ambulance with me, stayed in the hospital with me, and when I was let go, he took me out for a meal. A damn good friend. I am so grateful.
Turn to your friends at tough times. They will be there.
One of the things I’ve learnt with age is that when you ask people for help, they are genuinely pleased to help you. You’re not a burden. You’re not irritating anyone. People love to help. Being kind makes people happier and healthier. Heck, personally there are very few things in life that make me happier than helping a friend. When you’re facing an adverse time, let your friends be there for you.
5: Realise it’s not as bad as it feels
I bet your situation is not as bad as you think it is. I’ve been through a lot of rough times in my life (my father dying, going through depression, immigrating). During negative times, positivity did not come easy. But now I look back, it is obvious to me that not one negative situation in my life was as bad as I thought it was.
Sometimes the mind goes crazy, and your imagination blows things out of proportion. It’s one of the common types of negative thinking. Evolutionary psychologists tell us that the mind has been trained to think of the worst because when we are prepared for the worst, we are more able to survive it. Negativity bias is essential to survival according to research from the Psychological Bullet. But in the 21st Century, we no longer need to think that every shadow on the wall is a T-Rex.
Rein in your negativity. Things probably are not as bad as they seem. You’re going to get through. Good times will come again. Let’s keep everything in perspective.
This is particularly true when you’re dealing with other people. The human mind tends to perceive other people as threats because, again, of evolution. People that were more prepared to defend themselves were less likely to be killed. This is not helpful today, however. It is time we stop thinking of everyone in negative terms.
Are you upset because of something someone else has done? Did you expect too much from them? If so, know this; they almost definitely did not do anywhere near as much harm as you think they did, and their motivations were probably not malicious.
6: Live in the moment
Living in the moment is one of the main traits of positive people. Living in the moment helps to stop us from getting stuck in the mind. Remember, the mind is often the real source of pain. By being mindful, we prevent ourselves from getting lost in negatives, such as painful memories.
One of the best ways how to remain positive in difficult times is by being mindful. According to Rachel Frankfurt at The Centre For Mindfulness Studies in Toronto, mindfulness builds emotional resilience. Stay in the moment. And whatever you do, don’t sink into your head. Mindfulness is a powerful way of relieving stress and anxiety. When you focus your mind on the present moment, you nullify negative feelings and emotions.
7: Have fun
One of the best ways to remain positive in difficult times is by forcing yourself to have fun. When you’re in a negative situation, the last thing you feel like doing is singing, dancing, goofing around, or laughing. However, those are perhaps the very things you should do. Because the moment you act in positive ways, you escape the negative mindset.
Laugh. Love. Sing. Dance. Do something fun. The negativity will vanish.
I learned this in 2012 when a doctor told me I had had a heart attack. At 30 years of age, I was not prepared to hear that I had suffered a heart attack. But that was what the doctor told me. I endured a stress reaction. For several days I was in a personal hell. Then, I started to live, love, sing and dance anyway. That made me feel much better. And one month later, after more results, it turned out that the doctor was wrong, and the heart-attack scare was nothing.
Having fun increases serotonin levels according to Simon N. Young [Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience], and serotonin is vital for healthy sleep, mood, and memory.
8: Meditation For Difficult Times
There are so many reasons to use meditation for difficult times of your life. By meditating, we can help ourselves to remain positive in the worst of time, like:
- Dealing with times of grief and sorrow
- Losing a job.
- Finding out someone has been disloyal.
- Having to move to a new city suddenly.
All these life experiences can shake our stability, make us doubt our strength, and sometimes even make us question our sanity. Many studies have shown the positive effects of using meditation for difficult times in life.
- Meditation can lower stress
- Meditation helps us concentrate and focus
- and meditation helps us weather significant losses
Meditation is a way to preserve our mental health and wellbeing; a constant we can rely upon when life seems to lack meaning or sense.
9: Practice Gratitude
Researchers at the University of California, Davis, discovered that having a high level of gratitude reduces the stress hormone by up to 23% and that practising gratitude improves emotions and energy. Every day, take five minutes to think back on all the things you are grateful for from that day.
10: Learn to cope with painful emotions and memories
One of the best things about using meditation at difficult times is that helps us to deal with painful memories and flashbacks.
Flashbacks are a significant symptom of PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) – a situation in which a person who has experienced trauma can suddenly be ‘whizzed’ into the past, re-experiencing traumatic events or reliving an awful moment.
One of the benefits of using meditation for stressful times is that it helps us to deal with these flashbacks. Using meditation at difficult times will help to bring you back to the ‘here and now’, to a more tranquil, peaceful state.
11: Learn adaptability
You may be on a set path when you are suddenly forced to move to a new place, take up a new job, or reframe your goals.
A study by researchers at Leiden University found that meditation can promote adaptive behaviour, enabling practitioners to embrace new goals positively. In the study, researchers tested two types of meditation: open monitor meditation (OMM) – which involves opening the mind to different thoughts and sensations; and focused attention meditation (FAM) – which involves focusing on one thing, such as a sound. They found that FAM was more useful for adapting and adjusting behaviour with greater flexibility.
12: Dealing with Health Problems
When you’re going through a health crisis, practise mindfulness.
Around 1,735,350 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with cancer in 2018. Because cancer can sometimes have little or no symptoms, a diagnosis can require a high degree of adaptation. Cancer treatments like chemotherapy also bring about unexpected physical changes, including ‘chemo brain: 9’, which affects attention, memory, and executive function. An Indiana University study found that mindfulness meditation was able to reduce post-cancer ‘brain fuzziness’ and help lower the stress associated with cancer therapy.
13: Do not distract yourself
Many people try to get through difficult times by distracting themselves. However, this is a mistake.
Studies show that trying to distract yourself from a painful event won’t help. However, meditation will.
A Massachusetts General Hospital study found that mindfulness improves our ability to regulate alpha brain waves. In turn, this helps us ‘cut out’ distracting thoughts and focus on what matters without becoming too stressed.
14: Optimism, realism, or pessimism?
Pessimism can be a real danger, not just to your mood but to your health. Research from Martin Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania shows that pessimism affects our health and causes us to age more rapidly. This is backed by The Mayo Clinic. Plus, researchers at Yale and the University of Colorado have found that pessimism negatively affects the immune system.
Optimism, on the other hand, improves performance. Martin Seligman discovered that optimistic salespeople perform 37% better than their pessimistic counterparts. Sadly, it’s not always easy to know how to remain positive in difficult times.
I recommend spending time with positive people, meditating, and practising gratitude. This will help you to stay positive in difficult times.
Thanks for reading.
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Paul Harrison is a passionate meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison