3 Mindful Strategies for Staying Positive in Difficult Times

Photo of hand reaching down to a new flower in the grass to touch it with a fingertip. Sunlight in the background.Regardless of your political views, if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that the past few weeks have been emotionally taxing for many people. As a therapist, I basically spend my days helping people deal with life when it doesn’t make sense. I will admit my own skills in this area have been challenged lately, so I’ve had to become more mindful of the tools in my own toolbox so I can support the people in my care on their own journeys.

Here are a few tips you may find helpful in getting through times when everything around you seems to be chaotic.

1. Limit Your Exposure

In today’s world, we are pummeled with news (and opinions about news) 24/7. It’s on our televisions, our radios, our phones, and now it can even be on our own wrists. We need to become skillful at protecting our eyes, ears, and minds from too much negativity.

It’s like food. When we put junk in, we feel like junk. When we put good stuff in, we tend to feel better.

I recommend limiting exposure in a mindful way, by deciding how much time, if any, you will spend on any given social medium or screen-time activity. I personally took a two-month hiatus from Facebook recently and noticed a marked difference in my stress level.

Start by turning off notifications that pop up on your phone. Identify the “friends” who post too many negative or upsetting updates and either “unfriend” or “unfollow” them. Spend some time in nature, or at least take a walk to clear your head of negative energy. If you can’t tear yourself away from screen time, replace channel surfing with Netflix or another streaming service where you won’t risk coming across the news. TED talks are another great alternative. Read an actual book … remember books? And if all else fails, there are always YouTube videos of puppies playing with babies. You can’t lose there.

2. Reframe Your Thoughts

It’s like food. When we put junk in, we feel like junk. When we put good stuff in, we tend to feel better.

Becoming aware of your thoughts, and reframing your choice of words in describing those thoughts, is an effective way to limit the stress in your brain and body. So while you may be disheartened or even afraid of what you see on the news—on any given day, not just this year—you can examine a thought and reframe it. For example, let’s say you’re watching the news and seeing people suffering. This leads you to question your own family’s safety. Sit for a minute with the thought and/or feeling. Identify it. Then reframe it with an “Even though _____, I am _____” statement: “Even though there is chaos in the world and I am fearful, I am safe right now and able to control my emotions.”

When you’re going through something adverse, step back, look at the situation as if you’re seeing it from a bird’s-eye view, and identify what you have control over and what you do not. Focus on what you actually have control over. Let go of what you do not. What we focus on, we make bigger.

3. Let Peace Begin with You

Call me sappy, or maybe even a dreamer (… I’m not the only one), but music has a tremendous effect on my mood. One of my favorite songs is “Let There Be Peace on Earth” because of the line, “Let peace begin with me.” It is so true that peace in the world begins with peace within. To piggyback on one of my previous suggestions about examining what we can control, we cannot control others’ opinions, thoughts, or actions, so don’t try. Focus instead on your own peace. You can control that.

Recently, my cousin and her 5-year-old daughter decided to make a bold move to pass on some happiness in the face of fear. They went to a local flower shop, bought several bouquets of roses, and left them on the cars at a neighborhood Islamic center. While they were passing out the flowers, a group of nearby ladies from the center asked what they were doing. So began a conversation about how they wanted to spread love and kindness. As you can imagine, hugs, tears, and new friendships emerged from that simple act. One woman told my cousin, “Your rose will remind me of your kindness. You saved my day; I was so sad.”

Often, it’s the smallest acts that make the greatest difference.

I recently saw (yes, on Facebook) a shared post that read, “Remember sitting in history thinking, ‘If I was alive then, I would’ve …’? You’re alive now. Whatever you’re doing is what you would’ve done.”

Limit your exposure to the negative. Look for opportunities to reach out to others. Keep your own mind peaceful. And together, we may just be reminded we really are more similar than we are different.

© Copyright 2017 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Janeen Herskovitz, MA, LMHC, GoodTherapy.org Topic Expert

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • rod

    February 7th, 2017 at 4:45 PM

    You are right
    for most of us it is true that the real peace, and the meaningful kind, is that which will begin with you and me

  • Glenda

    February 8th, 2017 at 11:32 AM

    I have started shutting off the news and not reading all of the stuff that I see online because it was driving me to feel such anger and confusion, like what is this place that we live in because I don’t even recognize it anymore. I loved growing up in a peaceful town where we all knew one another but now if you differ politically from someone they will ghost you like you are a stranger. This is not the world I want to live in and it frustrates me to see that in actuality this is what it has all boiled down to. So I am being oblivious on purpose, not because I don’t care, but because I do.

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