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How to stay positive in difficult times

Find out some great ways to stay positive in difficult times. Our top tips will help you to stay positive after sad news or a challenging period. From mental resilience to mindfulness, learn more here.

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If you want to learn how to stay positive, even when the pieces of the jigsaw of life don’t seem to fit, this post is for you. We will cover how to stay positive in everyday situations, as well as discussing how to stay positive at work when disputes occur or if you don’t land that promotion you deserved.

Reasons why we might feel down right now

2020 has been a difficult year for most people – there are more stressors about physical health, many people are suffering financial difficulty, and you may have found lockdown difficult to deal with. With so much going on in the world, and so many negative news stories, it’s sometimes easy to forget that there are plenty of day to day difficulties that we faced even before COVID, wildfires, and political disruptions. All of these have a chance of impacting your mental health and resilience, which is why it’s important to check in with your feelings and make sure that you’re taking the time to build yourself up.

Latest statistics on mental health

The latest statistics from UK mental health charity, Mind, reveal that 25% of people in England experience a mental health problem at least once per year. Moreover, one in every six people experience a mental health issue every single week.

That is a huge number of people dealing with mental illnesses, which result from an agglomeration of situations and circumstances – and cannot be seen. If you are feeling down about something and dealing with anxiety, depression or just feeling a little sad, remind yourself that you are not the only person who feels like this, and unfortunately, it is quite common.

First, tell yourself it is okay to feel down

The first thing to do when you feel down is to acknowledge that not feeling okay is, in fact, completely okay. All of our feelings are temporary states that cannot be kept forever. We cannot be happy every minute of every day and that means sometimes we are going to feel unmotivated or sad.

The first step in staying positive when things don’t feel right is to acknowledge that it is perfectly acceptable to feel down every now and then. It’s a normal part of the emotional spectrum and, in fact, it’s unhealthy to try to feel happy all the time. It’s especially natural if you haven’t seen your loved ones for a while and your usual routines and support systems are disrupted.

Building emotional resilience can help

Emotional intelligence is often defined as reacting well and strategically to bad experiences and stressful situations. When these instances occur, such as the death of a family member or not getting your dream job, our emotions may go into meltdown. But it’s not just there for extreme circumstances – good resilience helps you deal with approaching deadlines at work and just those days where nothing seems to go right.

How to develop emotional resilience

So, the obvious question is how can you build emotional resilience? Here are some answers to a complex question: 

  • Understand the 5 components of emotional resilience
  • Be aware of your feelings and your responses to different circumstances
  • Practice thinking and talking before acting
  • Gain an understanding of your negative responses which may undermine your positivity and resilience over time
  • Create a decision-making framework that helps you cope in difficult circumstances
  • Focus on solutions to problems and improve your mental flexibility
  • Practice good self-care to avoid feeling overwhelmed
  • Allow yourself to fail without treating it like a defining moment or characteristic


Other ways to stay positive

Emotional resilience is one of the important ways to stay positive. But there are lots of other things you can try and learn about to improve your mood:

Stay social (but make sure you have some you time)

If we are going through a rough period, you might want to lock yourself away and try to lick your wounds. That’s perfectly fine, and you should give yourself some you-time to be alone. But it is best not to block out all your social interactions.

We have friends and family because they love us, support us, and help us when things are difficult. Even though you may want to be alone more than on other occasions, try to still meet up with those that care about you. If that’s physically difficult, try to have catch ups over the phone or video calls.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is a word we hear a lot these days but many of us still don’t really know what it is. That’s a shame because it is useful for helping us to develop positive thinking, and it ties in with emotional resilience.

Mindfulness is a way of becoming more aware of yourself and your surroundings. You could consider it a way of clearing the picture of your life and daily experiences. The different techniques to achieve mindfulness are extensive, ranging from breathing exercises to yoga and much more. The aims are to make you present in the moment, rather than worrying about work, money, or other things which can sap your enjoyment and increase your stress levels over time.

Exercise more

Exercise is not just to lose weight or build strength. It is a way to make us feel good about ourselves, and it’s proven by science. When we go for a run, a hike, or to the gym to work up a sweat, an array of chemicals are released, including endorphins and dopamine.

These chemicals are super powerful to the body because they make us feel happy, reduce our stress levels and get this – some chemicals that are released can even increase our physical pain threshold!

You don’t even have to go hard when working out. Just some simple exercise that gets you a little sticky will do the trick. It’ perfect for when you are dealing with a personal problem or a stressful situation in school or work.

Explore nature

The mental health charity, Mind, states that spending time in nature has been proven by researchers to help with anxiety and depression. This special way of making us feel more positive even has a name. It’s called ecotherapy and involves getting into nature away from the big smoke – and often combining your leafier outing with some exercise.

If you want to try ecotherapy, you could:

  • Go hiking in a national park
  • Go camping with friends or family
  • Take a walk in your local city park
  • Visit some nearby villages away from the crowds
  • Visit the seaside, attend a zoo or go bird watching

Improve your nutrition

Some of the activities and exercises that will help you stay positive require you to be more active. And with that comes a need to fuel your body with enough energy to go hiking up mountains or on a jog with friends. Having better nutrition will help you to accomplish these things and feel good. But that’s not the only reason to eat your fruit and veg and prepare colourful platefuls of food.

Scientists have discovered that nutritional foods change the way we think and our overall mood. By eating well, we are less prone to mood swings and behavioural imbalances. The connection between foods and mental health is starting to become a hot topic.

Listen to music

Music has been an ever-present part of human experiences since our ancestors walked the planet. So, it might come with no great surprise that music changes how we feel. In fact, multiple studies have identified a significant connection between listening to music with improved mood and better mental health.

But does that mean listening to happy and joyous music only? Not exactly. Whilst there is lots of evidence to make out a connection between upbeat music and a new positive energy, there is even evidence to suggest sad songs can make us happier too.

A study by the University of Durham found that music that is considered downbeat or sad actually made some people feel better. However, this did not work for everyone so if you are undecided what to listen to right now, maybe reach for a happier track over your Adele albums.

Accept and ask for help – and help others!

Some people avoid asking for help, whether that is a friend to vent with or professional help, just because they think it makes them look weak. With mental health awareness growing exponentially and the general population more sympathetic to mental health, there is no better time to seek help from others. There is nothing weak about asking someone for advice or support, quite the opposite. It shows strength that you are taking hold of your life and trying to move it in the right direction.

Another point on this topic is that offering to help others – who may or may not ask for help – is also a way to feel good. Studies have found that good deeds make you feel better and can help you deal with your own issues as well.

A special word on your digital diet

We believe a special word is needed on your digital diet, i.e. what content you are consuming on your laptop or smartphone each day – and how much of it. Research suggests many of us are spending the same amount of time online as a part-time job. And this isn’t healthy. 

But it isn’t just the usual suspect of social media that can be making us feel down. Reading lots of news stories can do the same.

Most of the news is not good news and we get to hear about too many upsetting stories due to the ease of access and push messages from news apps. Those who follow terrorism news stories closely for long periods may even experience PTSD, which was proven when people kept following the 9/11 attack. Moreover, reading lots of negative news articles can even make us more susceptible to diseases.

So, is it time to set your digital mealtimes?

If you think you may be consuming too much online content and news stories, you can counter this with a digital diet that includes set “mealtimes” of when you can consume. Make it work for you. Maybe you will only consume within certain hours or take weekends away from the online world altogether?


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