Lately, life has been difficult and challenging for most people. We hear news about COVID, how bad the economy is, and contentious political discussions that have resulted in increased anxiety and depression for the American public. However, when we look back on the past, most of the time it is the challenges that cause growth and/or new perspectives. We don’t feel like this while in the midst of a crisis, but if we can look at these incidents in a new positive way, it can help us to cope.
“Being positive isn’t pretending that everything is good; it’s seeing the good in everything” (Ask-Angels.com). My family recently suffered some setbacks that, at the same time, made us realize how lucky we are. One of these centered around the family car. My son and daughter-in-law were driving their cat to the vet using my car when it began to smoke under the hood. They pulled over, and the smoke increased and turned into flames which devoured the car. The good out of this situation? My loved ones and their cat were able to exit the car in time to escape the fire and were safe.
“Positive psychology is not about denying difficult emotions. It’s about opening to what is happening here and now, and cultivating and savoring the good in your life,” says Ron Siegel, PsyD, assistant professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School. There are several avenues we can pursue in order to stay positive in the midst of turmoil. One is to express gratitude, and there is a multitude of ways we can accomplish this. One is to keep a gratitude journal; I started one three years ago and have never regretted it. In it I list “things that I’m grateful for” including hot chocolate, my best friend, warm socks and broccoli soup. The idea is to keep adding to the list whenever you realize something is causing a smile, a warm heart-felt feeling, or it adds to our feelings of contentment and happiness. The list has grown to over 4,000 items in the few years I’ve been keeping it, and rereading pages here and there when calamity strikes assists me in remembering what’s good and what makes me happy, no matter how small.
Another way of staying positive in the midst of chaos is as noted above. Yes, my car is totaled (and in the month I finished paying it off!), but an automobile is not a person; a car can be replaced – someone we love and treasure can’t. My son was very thankful that someone called the Fire Department, that they got out in time, and that they were able to save their cat. Yes, car payments go on but that pales beside the fact that I also still have my loved ones to treasure for however long life wills it.
A third way of staying positive has been adopted by one of my clients (I am a mental health therapist). She previously would spend the day crying heavily over the loss of a loved one when their birthday or anniversary occurred. We talked about how this added so much grief and misery to her life and looked for a way to mitigate the sadness. This wonderful woman decided to celebrate rather than mourn a life; for example, on her father’s birthday anniversary, she wears his uniform cap and celebrates by dining at a local restaurant where veterans usually eat. Her “sad” day turns into a day of celebration – she is usually treated to lunch – and the tears are saved for a truly sad occasion.
Jon Gordon, whose best-selling books and seminars have inspired people around the world, wrote “Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” We always have a choice whether or not to remain positive, and sometimes that can be very difficult when life throws us a curveball and we’re wallowing in depression. However, as Helen Keller once wrote “When you’re in the sunshine you can’t see the shadow.” Sometimes it may feel as if life keeps throwing us problems, but in the midst of the darkness, we always have a choice whether to wallow in despair or to remain in positivity. An unknown author wrote “Be strong because things will get better. It may be stormy now but it never rains forever.” May we all find the way to step out of the darkness and look for the positive that life presents us with every day, no matter how small or insignificant seeming at the time.
About the Author
Linda Bayer is a mobile therapist at The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth (TLC). She operates in TLC’s crime victim services program – Heather’s Hope: A Center for Victims of Crime. Heather’s Hope provides free counseling and case management services to children and adults living in Montgomery County who have been affected by crime in the past or present, whether the crime went reported or unreported.
The Lincoln Center for Family and Youth is a social enterprise company serving the Greater Philadelphia Area. Founded in 1970 by a behavioral health hospital, TLC is an entrepreneurial nonprofit providing innovative education, coaching, and counseling services to individuals and families, as well as grant writing and management services for school districts and universities.