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5 Tips for Staying Positive When Life Throws You Lemons [PLUS What is Toxic Positivity?]

Updated: Oct 16, 2023

At the risk of sounding gung-ho especially when people are advocating the dangers of toxic positivity, I always try to find the bright side when life throws me lemons. It hasn’t been particularly easy these past two years and there have been days of sheer hopelessness.

But, I choose to find ways to navigate these times so that I can maintain a positive mindset – most of the time!

Before I share my tips for staying positive when facing challenging or difficult situations, I’m going to talk about toxic positivity. It’s a topic that keeps coming up and there’s plenty of advice for how to manage this state of being.

So, let’s check it out so you can decide for yourself whether staying positive even when feeling overwhelmed is still your first choice.

What is Toxic Positivity?

VeryWellMind defines toxic positivity as “…the belief that no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset.” The same article believes that while staying optimistic has its benefits, the problem comes in when difficult emotions are being rejected in favor of a cheerful façade that’s often false.

Well, there goes my stance on staying positive when life gets hard! But they have a point and it’s vitally important for our overall well-being to be aware of and to work with our painful emotions. Only through acceptance of our feelings can we find mental and emotional balance.

Psychology Today talks about toxic positivity being “…an act of avoiding, suppressing, or rejecting negative emotions or experiences.” Their article goes on to say that, “…denying negative feelings long-term is harmful because it can prevent people from processing their emotions and overcoming their distress.”

Positivity plays a vital role in managing life’s experiences as long as you acknowledge the hard emotions that surface when things go pear shape. Working with a therapist or life coach can equip you with the tools to work with your negative emotions so that you can have a positive mindset that empowers you.

5 Tips for Staying Positive When Life Gets Difficult

Over the years I’ve gained enough self-awareness to realize when my negative emotions are getting the better of me. Instead of denying them like I used to, I book a session with my therapist or shaman teacher to unpack them so that I can accept and embrace the feelings.

Taking this step has become absolutely vital if I want to hold onto my belief that life is full of wonderful surprises.

I am, by nature, a positive person and love the thought that every new day brings opportunities for growth, adventure, and playfulness. However, my latest life experiences have really tested my resolve to stay hopeful and optimistic.

But through these difficulties, I’ve discovered (or re-discovered) tools that help me to maintain my positive mindset – most days.

I hope you find them as useful as I do and put them to good use when life throws you lemons as well.

1. Talk to Your Higher Power

If you believe in a Higher Power and you’re struggling to keep your head above water, start talking with Him or Her. It can be in the form of a prayer or simply having a conversation about anything that’s on your heart.

I talk a lot to Great Spirit – when I’m working, when I wake up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, while I’m bathing, and of course, when I meditate.

I don’t think it matters how and when you talk to our Higher Power – all that matters is knowing you’re not alone when you hit rock bottom. And, if you don’t believe in a Higher Power, that’s fine. Find a support group, set up an appointment with a therapist, or speak to a friend or relative you can trust to hold your space. All you need is to be heard.

The benefit of talking to a Higher Power or someone you trust is that often the solution suddenly appears or you feel calmer for getting stuff off your chest. I always feel lighter and more hopeful after a good vent with Great Spirit.

I never really knew how to have a conversation with some mystical being I couldn't see or touch until I read Neale Donald Walsche's collection called, "Conversations With God." Get the books - it's worth your while!

2. Do One Thing Every Day That Makes You Happy

There’s an exercise my new clients have to do as part of their Session Two homework. They have to make a list of 50 things that make them happy. Boy, do some of them struggle but they eventually get all 50 listed and are amazed to find that it’s the simple things that make them feel joyful.

Some of the things that make me happy include:

  • Enjoying a cappuccino while people-watching

  • Watching the sunset from our garden

  • Cuddling up with our rescue dog, Wilson

  • Going for walks with my partner, Paul

  • Doing yoga

So, what’s the point of this list? When life brings you down, it’s difficult to be positive let alone remember what makes you happy. Having these things written down somewhere means you can go to that list and pick one activity that will make you happy even when you’re feeling down in the dumps.

Doing one thing every day that makes you happy can instantly put you into a positive state of mind even while you’re dealing with negative emotions. If anything, a happy activity will help you to explore your difficult emotions with an open mindset.

3. Stick to a Healthy Morning Routine

Years ago, I implemented an early morning ritual that helped me to stay positive throughout the rest of the day. It entails doing a prayer, reading my current goal, reminding myself of my personal core values, and doing a 15-minute meditation. I also read my list of empowering affirmations – wholeheartedly, with feeling!

About six weeks ago, winter got to me. Those who know me well know how much I battle with cold weather and whether I like it or not, I tend to go into a semi-hibernation! However, this year I’ve been struggling to stay positive and started to drop my early morning routine as well. Guess what? My days would spiral downward into despair and hopelessness.

Fortunately, I recognized what was happening and after a few weeks decided to compromise. Instead of getting out of bed while it was still dark and cold in the early mornings, I’ve been doing my prayers, readings, and meditation in bed.

I’m fortunate that my remote work and coaching allow me the freedom to stay in bed longer and now I find it easier to be optimistic throughout the day.

4. Stay Active

It’s very easy to stop exercising when life gets hard but maintaining your workout routine keeps the serotonins flowing which is vital for elevating your moods. I’m always amazed how I can be feeling depressed or anxious but as soon as I go for a walk around our suburb everything suddenly seems a whole lot better. That’s the power of endorphins for you!

Staying active also helps you to manage your negative emotions in a healthy way without trying to suppress them. Choose an activity or workout program that works for you so you can enjoy it at the same time. My favorite ways for staying active are going for a long walk around our neighborhood or practicing yoga for 30 minutes every day.

When I’m active, I find it easier to face life’s hardest situations. It allows me to clear the brain fog, see things from a different perspective, and find solutions when I thought there were none. Staying active is an act of self-care and self-love, both essential for an open and positive mindset.

5. Fake It Until You Make It

My coaching clients are very familiar with this phrase, “Fake it until you make it!” Sometimes, you can fool your mind into believing all is well by putting a smile on your face even when it’s the last thing you want to do. Try it now – SMILE…now try to think of a negative thought. Difficult, hey? Before you know it, you’re in a positive cycle and it becomes easier to be optimistic.

Toxic positivity advocates may not agree to this approach but sometimes a bit of cheating is required when you want to see the bright side of life. I use this technique to raise my vibrations to avoid spiraling down into a dark hole that I really don’t want to find myself in.

I think what is important here is to acknowledge you need to work through some difficult emotions but while you’re doing it, faking until you make it keeps you afloat. Other techniques include:

  • Puffing out your chest

  • Holding your head up high

  • Sitting or standing up straight with your shoulders back

These physiological changes are subtle but they make all the difference to your state of mind.

Final Thoughts

Practicing gratitude, connecting with good friends, and surrounding myself with positive people are all other ways I use to maintain a state of optimism and hope. Tapping into my self-empowering toolkit allows me to respond positively or at least, to return to a better state quicker if I react negatively.

I hope you find my tips useful, simple, and practical. But if you need more support, contact me and find out how my life coaching program can support you in both difficult and happy times. Okay, I’m off to do my yoga now!

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