Does anyone else feel like they are on a rollercoaster of emotions lately? One minute I am being super productive and happy, and the next I’m sitting there staring at the wallpaper wondering “what’s the point?”. I’m definitely not alone in this experience, and if you are also going through an emotional rollercoaster right now, please know that this is normal! Learn how to stay positive in a negative situation below.
But it’s not exactly fun, is it? When I feel like this, I do my best to regulate my moods and in short, learn how to stay positive in a negative situation that is completely out of my control.
As an occupational therapist and mental health professional I’ve had years of training on this topic, but it’s a completely different experience when you put the theories into action for yourself. Still, I’ve definitely made some headway.
I am now feeling much more steady and happy in my moods – I would love to help you do the same.
How to Stay Positive in a Negative Situation
I think some of the most important things we can do to stay positive include maintaining our connection to friends and family, acknowledging that our negative situation is temporary, and building small daily habits that bring comfort.
Below are some of my top (very actionable!) tips if you’re also looking to build the positive energy in your life.
1. Remember That Everything is Temporary
Now, I definitely don’t want to be part of the noise surrounding “toxic positivity.” No thanks. That’s why I want to point out that cultivating optimism doesn’t mean you have to put forth a never-ending stream of happy thoughts and positivity.
I recently read this article about what being an optimist really means, and I loved this quote from Dr. Deepika Chopra:
“[An optimist is] someone who is very aware and mindful of all the setbacks and roadblocks and less-than-ideal things that happen in their life. The caveat is they are just aware that those things are temporary, and they have the ability to overcome them.”
I know things probably feel overwhelming right now. Not everything is awful, but a lot of it certainly is, and ignoring that fact won’t help you feel better – it will just fester in the background.
Instead, I’ve found it helpful to acknowledge that yeah, some things suck, but they are temporary. Nothing lasts forever – and if we can get through this we will be stronger on the other side.
2. Stay Connected With People You Love
I’ll be the first to say that I don’t always want to have a phone call or a massive group Zoom call… but I also never regret it when I do! For a lot of us (myself definitely included), our natural instinct in a negative situation is to withdraw and isolate ourselves.
I always try to meet up with my friends and family in person. So much can be gained by close social interaction. This isn’t always possible (hello long distance relationships!) so I do the next best thing.
Instead, make the effort to reach out and connect with people online. Maybe a Zoom call with friends every few days – don’t over schedule yourself!
Start a new group text, or Instagram DM group. Send your friends and family memes to make them laugh. And remember, each conversation doesn’t have to be some deep, heart-opening thing.
Try playing some silly multi-player games like Jackbox.tv, virtual Settlers of Catan, Evil Apples, Words with Friends, and more!
3. Send an Encouragement Card in the Mail
An easy way to stay connected with people you love, even when you don’t have the emotional energy for a lengthy phone call or video chat, is to send snail mail!
I’ve talked before about how much I love sending (and receiving) letters. MyPostcard, which is a service I’ve used for a long time to send personalized postcards, had their Encouragement Campaign in response to COVID-19 but is also so relevant since then.
They’ve made it super easy to log on to their site or app, and pick from a huge selection of funny, cute, and quirky encouragement cards. You can choose one of their pre-made designs, or input your own photos to personalize it.
I did this myself and honestly I felt so much better just designing and sending these cards, and my loved ones far away were sooooo happy to receive them.
Prices start from $2.49 and that includes postage and mailing. Send your personalized encouragement card here.
4. Get Moving, But Give Yourself Grace
Exercise is the ultimate mood booster (thanks, endorphins!), but when you’re feeling low it can be really hard to motivate yourself to get moving. I definitely struggle with that.
For a lot of us, it can be way too easy to slip into feelings of guilt surrounding exercise. It’s hard, but try to give yourself grace when it comes to working out. Remind yourself that, especially when you’re already in a negative situation, exercise is a gift you give your mental health and not a physical punishment.
Start (and maybe stay) small with gentle exercise like yin yoga, stretching, or walks. Choose meditative exercise that will make you feel at peace, and not stressed out.
I’ve been loving my evening yin yoga sessions with dimmed lighting, a dab of essential oils, and either a Youtube video or Zoom yoga class from my local studio.
Maybe move to higher intensity exercise like runs, HIIT workouts, and more. Getting sweaty can be a really awesome way to let off stress! Make sure you don’t burn yourself out with this, though.
5. Print Photos to Reminisce on Good Times
Another thing I’ve found very mood-boosting lately is to print photos from my past travels and favorite memories with loved ones. Even when you’re not doing many “photo worthy” things, there are soooo many great memories to look back on.
There are so many things to do with these photos, too:
- Pin them on bulletin boards
- Frame them and keep on your nightstand or desk
- String them up with clothespins for cute decorations
- Write little notes on the back and mail them to your family and friends (I’ve sent a bunch of Sri Lanka photos to my Grandma, who has always been this travel blog’s #1 fan!)
- Create a scrapbook
I use MyPostcard to print photos as it’s just sooo easy. You can use the app, and photos will be mailed to whatever address you choose.
6. Give Yourself Mindful Alone Time
Connecting with others is super important for maintaining positivity, but alone time is equally valuable. I really think that mindful solitude can be so refreshing in terms of your mental outlook.
I’ve found that on days when I have constant phone calls, video meetings, Zoom chats, etc. I can start to feel a lot more negative and begin to snap at people.
I’ve heard this feeling referred to as the “presence of absence” – in that all the virtual social contact that is now part of our lives sometimes just drives home the fact that we are not, actually, together. When I start to feel this way, I make sure to take a big breath and a step back.
Retreating into my own space, whether that’s for meditation, yin yoga, or simply just sitting by myself for a bit, has been really helpful.
7. Help Others
Honestly, one of the best and easiest tips I have for how to stay positive in a negative situation is to be of service to others.
Nothing puts your own problems into perspective like giving a helping hand. Often when I’m in a negative spiral it’s because I feel like what I’m doing is pointless, or a situation is out of control. By helping others you can take that control back and really see a tangible difference.
Some ways to help others:
- Offer to get groceries for your neighbors
- Donate to a charity that is meaningful to you and your community
- Draw colorful signs for your window or with sidewalk chalk to brighten your neighbors’ day
- Get takeout from local restaurants (and tip!)
- Take online fitness classes from local studios and gyms
- Foster or adopt an animal from a local shelter
- Donate supplies to homeless shelters, food banks, local schools, and more
- Share about important charities or movements if you have a platform like a blog, Instagram, etc.
There are so many other ways, too. Let me know your suggestions in the comments!
8. Set Social Media Hours
There is sooo much research on the negative impacts of social media on our mental health.
As a blogger I would argue that there are equally positive impacts of social media – I’ve met so many friends through Instagram and found a really wonderful community online.
However, when you’re in a negative situation either in your personal life or, you know, a global pandemic… it’s best to take a step back from social media.
I’ve started setting myself social media “hours” and noticed a big improvement in my mood. I’ve particularly found that limiting my Twitter use – where the comments seem especially divisive and angry and it’s way too easy to sink down a social media black hole – I’ve felt a lot better.
Start by taking baby steps, like not using social media an hour before bed, or until you get out of bed in the morning. Maybe don’t use social media after 5pm, or before 5pm.
Or even delete your social media apps on the weekend, or altogether! My partner, Dan, has done this with multiple apps (doesn’t stop him using the webpage every now and again though!).
9. Practice Your Meaningful Occupations
And finally, as an occupational therapist, I have to give a shout out to meaningful occupations! An occupation is basically a fancy word for an activity that brings meaning and value to your daily life.
Engaging in these occupations has health and wellbeing benefits. There is so much research out there proving that everything from singing to gardening to cycling to walking to cooking and everything in between can improve your physical and mental health.
I would identify 2-3 leisure occupations that are meaningful to you – for me, they would be writing, yoga, and walking. Make an effort to incorporate these into your daily and weekly routine, and I promise you’ll feel better for it.
I really hope you found these tips for staying positive in a negative situation useful. It’s so important to look after yourself.
How are you staying positive right now? Any tips I missed? Let me know below!