After suffering with anxiety pretty much my whole life, learning to stay positive is something that’s been really important to me. About 10 years ago I hit rock bottom with it all and as well as having anxiety I also became depressed. I was depressed because I felt like I couldn’t live with anxiety anymore. I’m sure you can relate if you’re someone who’s suffered too. Although there are varying degrees of anxiety, if you really let it take a hold it can be pretty nasty. It’s not a state I ever want to get myself in again that’s for sure.
The good news is, I honestly believe I never will. That’s because after working with an amazing therapist and having CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) I have my anxiety under control. I have to be careful though, after all life will always throw stuff at me, as it does us all. But it’s how we deal with it that counts.
With that in mind I thought I would share how I’ve learnt to stay positive and if you’re struggling, how you can too….
So let’s just say I catch myself feeling a bit down….
The first thing I do is ask myself a few questions:
What have I been thinking about?
This is the most important question of them all. Bad or low moods don’t just happen. Our thoughts make us feel the way we do. These thoughts could be a result of anything but in order to work out what’s wrong we need to identify them. You might be thinking this is obvious but apparently it’s common for people not to be in tune with their thoughts.
I was one of those people. It was only after I had CBT that I became really in tune with my mind. Previous to that I had no awareness of how my way of thinking contributed to anxiety and therefore low mood. The point is, regardless of what’s going on, how we feel is a result of what we think. So I have to catch my thoughts and then the next step is to work out if there’s a problem.
…. and if there is, can it be fixed?
There’s a brilliant poster in my local Chinese that has a diagram with the title ‘Do you have a problem?’. If the answer is ‘yes’ then it tells you to fix it. If the answer is ‘no’ then it tells you to do nothing at all. It’s such a simple concept, but really gets the point across that people spend a lot of time worrying about things they can’t control.
I’m definitely guilty of doing this. However, if I have a problem that can be fixed then I will divert my energy into finding a way, rather than continuing with the worrying thoughts. If I’ve been thinking negative thoughts about things I can’t do anything about then the first thing I do is:
Put things into perspective
Unresolvable negative thoughts could be the result of anything, but often they are down to a couple of things:
Yep. Someone else that has put their negativity onto you. Then you’re left wondering what on earth you did wrong. If you can put your hand on your heart and say you’ve done nothing then the issue is with them, not you. Some people do it because they are stressed. Sadly some do it because they get enjoyment when being mean. This kind of behaviour usually stems from being unhappy or jealousy of some sort. People like this need to take personal responsibility for their actions and put their negative energy into something good. When situations like this occur there’s nothing that can be done. In a bid to stay positive it’s best to just forget about it and move on.
Talking of moving on, sometimes it’s easier said than done. But when it comes to the past ruminating about all the things or people that have caused hurt is a complete waste of time. So I always try to forgive and let go as thinking negative thoughts will only lead to low mood. If I find myself getting negative thoughts about the past, then I try to replace them with positive ones instead.
For me personally I don’t think there’s that many negative thoughts that are unresolvable. Because if I’m thinking stuff like ‘I’m not good enough’ (I do this a lot!) then I will decide to either try harder until I am good enough or except that whatever it is wasn’t meant to be. Problem solved. If I’m feeling a bit sorry for myself (for example because I’m suffering with ill health – which I currently am), then I use positive distraction. Here’s what I make sure I do:
Stay in a routine
Have you ever got yourself in such a pickle that you didn’t even stay in your normal routine? I know I have and it’s really not a good place to be. Whatever it is that you are feeling or thinking, it’s important to try and stay in your normal routine. This is about being kind to yourself. Looking after yourself. Making sure you eat regular meals with good food and taking exercise if you can. You know you’re going to feel so much better if you do.
Have a treat
When I had anxiety really bad the best advice my therapist gave me was to make sure something good happened every day. So that could be sitting down and reading my favourite magazine, treating myself to a big bar of chocolate or hanging out with my best friends. Whatever it is that floats your boat, make sure every day is filled with something good.
Appreciate the here and now
The other day I said to Ollie, ‘Do you know what I think’s good?’. He said ‘no?’. I said ‘You are. Oscar is. (That’s my cat!). And I love the silence and the peace. And I’m grateful for central heating and the fact I have a house’. I honestly think he thought I had gone mad. Especially when I told him I think like that all the time! But here’s the thing, at one point I didn’t have an Ollie, an Oscar, silence, peace, central heating or a house. So, I really appreciate these things! Previous to that I also appreciated whatever it was I had at the time. Sometimes we just need to have a good look around and be thankful for what we’ve got.
Surround myself with positive people
When I think about the positive people I have in my life I’m seriously thankful for what I’ve got. It’s really important that we surround ourselves with those who are positive and upbeat. Otherwise we might end up thinking negative thoughts as I discussed earlier. Of course, I’m not talking about people that are going through a hard time themselves. (They probably need a friend right now. I guess that’s for us to decide). But personally I find I’m in a much better place when I surround myself with those who are positive, happy and kind.
Recognise that my vibe attracts my tribe
Ever heard this saying? It’s so true. If you’re going around in a negative state of mind (even if it’s through no fault of your own) you may find others back away. That’s mainly because of the point I made above. Just like it’s not helpful for us to have negative people in our lives, it’s not good for them either. So, by focusing on the positives you create a good vibe which will make happy people gravitate towards you. However, as I said earlier when someone’s going through a difficult time this is the exception to the rule. In that case it’s all about balance and give and take. You never know, you might be able to help each other out.
Always be kind
Being positive isn’t just about making sure we’re alright. It’s about making sure others are too. It’s easy to get caught up in misery living inside our own heads therefore forgetting that people might need us. We should take a look around and see what’s going on. Always be kind because most people are fighting a battle we know nothing about. Probably the best way to feel more positive about yourself is to regularly do something for someone else.
None of this stuff is rocket science, but all these things definitely help me. I’m hoping this long old post will help you too. Most of it comes from when I had CBT which gave me positivity skills for life. They say that every cloud has a silver lining and if I didn’t get ill with anxiety I never would have been as clued up as I am today! I will always be grateful for the advice I was given and for that reason I can’t help but wonder, was my anxiety a blessing in disguise?
Have you got any good tips for staying positive when life is getting you down?
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