Have you been working hard, doing the best you can to create an ideal life for yourself but all the forces seem aligned against you?
Why must life test you so?
There are no easy answers but here are some empowering things to remember:
- Tough times make the good times all the sweeter. Without the lows, there is no appreciation for the highs.
- Hard times give you the opportunity to reach down into yourself and discover just how resilient and amazing you are.
- No matter how bad you think your life is right now, there are countless others who wish they could have what you have.
- You have to learn how to get through the bad times so you can teach others how to do the same. Life is funny that way.
So how do you remain optimistic when the weight of the world is on your shoulders?
Here are a few suggestions that have helped me though hard times, hopefully they will help you too:
1. Practice Passionate Gratitude
If life really sucks right now, gratitude sounds awfully counter-intuitive. Why be thankful for a life that sucks (at least for now)?
Well, as already mentioned, there’s somebody out there who wishes they could have what you have even if it’s just the fact that you’ve eaten today and have a safe place to sleep tonight.
And no doubt you’re already thankful but what we’re talking about here is taking a few minutes each day to be passionately grateful for the simplest of things that when you think about them are actually pretty significant things.
Start a simple gratitude journal in a place that’s most convenient for you: an old school notebook, your cell phone, it doesn’t matter. Just doing it mentally is fine as long as you do it consistently.
Write down three things first thing in the morning or last thing before you go to bed at night each and every day – write down the first three things that come to mind.
It doesn’t matter what it is…your cat, your dog, your shoes, your grandmother, your bed…and meditate for a few minutes on how these are blessings in your life.
Gratitude is a transformative practice which fills you up with optimism.
2. Show Kindness to Humankind
When you are kind to others, you are kind to yourself.
When you restore someone else’s faith in humanity, you restore your faith in yourself.
Most of us are taught from an early age to start setting up barriers to other people: “don’t let people run over you, don’t let them take advantage of you.”
Well, of course not, but this doesn’t mean you can’t be kind and gracious toward everyone you meet, especially the butt-holes because they need it most.
No matter how down you feel at the moment, project positive energy towards other people, compliment them, encourage them, and seize upon simple one-minute opportunities to help them and you’ll be amazed at how your own outlook improves exponentially.
3. Express Your Creativity
The whole thrust of human existence is to create. When you’re not creating, life is dull and boring.
So if your creativity is not satisfied at your job, come home and create something that fills you up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a flower arrangement, a dog house, a poem, or a meal.
Find that thing you like to do and put your whole creative spirit into it.
As long as it allows you to express your personal authenticity, it will give you a sense of meaning and purpose which in turn improves your whole state of mind.
4. Seek Soulful Solitude
Sometimes you need to retreat from the buzzing world around you and quite frankly you need to retreat from your own buzzing mind. This is called meditation.
“Meditation” is a popular word these days that is talked about a lot more than is actually practiced because we make it more complicated than it actually is.
In its simplest form, meditation is getting still and being quiet. You don’t necessarily have to get into the yoga meditation pose. Just sit still in a quiet place, breath deeply and slowly, and focus on your breath going in and going out.
If nothing else, you can do it with you morning coffee or whenever you take a coffee (or tea) break. Sip your beverage in a place where you can avoid as much noise and distraction as possible. Just sip and breathe without music, without internet, without anything.
Say you don’t have time to be quiet? That’s just another indication of how badly you need it. It’s a reset, a centering mechanism. Get centered and watch your thoughts improve which in turn improves your whole state of mind.
5. Raise Your Physical Vibration
Scientific research has shown that physical exercise improves your mood. When you move your body, your brain rewards you by releasing endorphins (aka the “feel good” chemicals) into your bloodstream.
If you’re already an exercise enthusiast, you already know what we’re talking about here.
If you’re not an exercise enthusiast, that’s cool and don’t worry, we’re not talking about joining a gym and hiring a trainer, we’re just talking about getting up, getting out, and moving your body around a bit.
Take a walk. Take a swim. Take a hike. Ride a bike. Make it fun. The more you move around, the more you feel positive and optimistic.
6. Put Failure in Its Place
There’s a file in your brain labeled “perspective”. When you run up against failure, take it and put in in this file.
If your efforts are earnest, failure is but one more step toward achievement. Successful people all over the world have demonstrated this truth over and over throughout the ages.
- J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
- Thomas Edison created 1,000 light bulbs that did not work before he made one that did.
- Lucille Ball was told by her acting instructor that she should try another profession.
- Elvis Presley was told by the manager at the The Grand Ole Opry that he was better suited to driving a truck.
- Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lack of imagination and he went bankrupt a couple of times before building Disneyland.
Every successful person you can think of has many chapters about failure in their book. So cheer up, as long as you keep failing, success is right around the corner.
7. Quash Pessimism
Pessimism is a weed. It needs no fertilizer. Left unattended, it grows and multiplies, choking out the flowers of optimism.
What do you do when you see a weed in the garden of your mind? You pull it out by the roots. Otherwise, tomorrow there will be three, the next day 6, and the following day 30, leaving no room for optimism to grow and prosper.
Optimism and pessimism are alike in one way: they’re both self fulfilling prophecies.
So when you sit and ruminate over worst case scenarios, you give the worst case permission to become reality.
Whenever you notice a negative thought entering your mind, stop whatever else you’re doing. Now visualize your hand grabbing that weed at its base, yanking it out by the roots, and tossing it into the incinerator.
8. Go to Nature
Even if you are the most adamant city dweller, you came from nature and someday you will return to nature. If you can’t get away to a trail or the beach, try something like:
- Look out the window and meditate on a big white puffy cloud or on the sunset.
- Go outside, find a big tree, put your hand on it, close your eyes, and feel its vibration.
- During the next big rain, run out the door and let yourself get soaking wet.
- Walk barefoot in the grass, feel the sustaining power of Mother Earth.
Get as creative as you want in experiencing nature as often as you can.
Nature puts things in perspective and reminds you that you’re just one beautiful particle of one giant organism called the Universe. Feel this and when you see the sun shining brightly, so will you.
9. Transform Your Space
How does your living space make you feel? Honestly, how does it make you feel?
Does it sustain you? Are you proud of it? Does it relax you when you need to rest? Does it inspire you when you need to create? Does it energize you when you need to produce?
You don’t need an expensive home with expensive furnishings. You do need a home that reflects an optimistic vision of yourself.
The conscious mind is very adept at blocking out the dirty dishes, the unkempt bed, the messy closet, and the crooked picture on the wall but the subconscious mind sees it all too well.
Your home should make you feel better than any other place in the world. It’s your refuge, your temple.
If it doesn’t make you feel like your best version of yourself whenever you’re in it, clean things up and move things around until you notice that your mood has lifted.
10. Lean on a Friend
Don’t want to burden your friend with your problems? Then don’t. Just call her up and connect. Let the conversation flow.
If you are truly friends, she’ll know something is wrong and draw it out and console you – and vice versa.
Human beings are genetically designed to depend on other people. Some people need that connection more than others but if you’re feeling lonely that’s an indication that you need to connect.
When you make a connection with someone, an honest, genuine connection, you get a deeper sense that things are going right in your world.
11. Laugh Like a Jackal
Most of the time, humor is nothing but putting a positive spin on an unpleasant situation. Laughter transforms your mental state from low to high. Therefore, laugh as hard and as often as you can.
It’s easy to get a good laugh. Just go to Pinterest or Youtube and type in “funny”, or “LOL cats”, or whatever you think is humorous.
Better yet, laughter is best when shared, so grab a bestie and head out for a funny movie or sit on a park bench, tell funny stories from the past that you’ve lived through, and laugh like jackals.