We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are – Anais Nin
International Happiness Day last month passed me by without too much of a fanfare which is a shame as I am definitely the kind of person who likes to celebrate any occasion! Birthdays, anniversaries, day that ends in a ‘Y’ – love it. However, it had been a stressful couple of weeks on my side, so perhaps I wasn’t feeling in such a celebratory mood. But if International Happiness Day wasn’t a bit of a sign from the universe to fix up, look sharp and stay positive when bad things happen, then I don’t know what is.
I like to think of myself as a person who can generally stay positive, but when something really rains on my parade, it can hit me quite hard. I’d love to be one of those totally thick-skinned rhinos who just shake it off Taylor Swift style, with two middle-fingers up to life. And sometimes I can be like that… But equally, if it is an issue that affects me deeply, such as my relationships with the people I care about, being trapped in a toxic situation or being unfairly treated, I find it takes time to turn my frown upside down.
I started thinking about the fact that sometimes shit happens on the road too. Things that can threaten your good time and good humour if you let them.
Things like getting sick on holiday and not being able to leave the room, the hotel messing up your booking or it being a roach-infested hell-hole, or even just finding a place that’s not at all what you expected or hoped for (just thinking of the time my sister had rocks thrown at her in one part of Vietnam!). Even just getting a bit homesick and feeling sorry for yourself if you’re travelling solo or on a long adventure can bring on the blues. Hell, even a bad order when everyone else’s meals look delicious can put a downer on the night.
Basically, shit things and shit people happen everywhere – so this post is a little cathartic reminder on how to make lemonade when life chucks you lemons.
How to stay positive when bad things happen
1. Express yourself
I’m lucky enough to have an amazing circle of friends that are always happy to lend an ear if things go pear-shaped, and I know that I try to do the same for them. Bottling up grievances or stress is never productive, it literally poisons you from the inside out. So, call your mates for a summit meeting down the pub, or ask your travelling companion if you can have a good old moan, or Skype your sister or mum for a vent. Sometimes just talking things through can help you stay positive. You might be able to find a productive solution or at least feel less caught up in your own head.
On the other hand, remember that everyone else also has a life! So, the pity party can only go on for so long. As much as bending a friend’s ear is important, there’s only one person responsible for your own happiness: YOU.
2. Look forward, not back
They say that positive people focus on solutions, not problems. It’s terrible when a problem just gets stuck in your brain and it comes naturally to replay it to yourself. But then you get stuck too – in a not-so-pleasant place.
So, after letting off steam about how annoyed you are that your bus didn’t show up and has set your journey back by a day, or that your luggage has ended up somewhere wonderful in the world that isn’t where you are, or that someone has royally peed you off, try to remind yourself that you can’t control unfortunate events or unfortunate people’s thoughts or actions. Just your reaction to them. Then you can focus on the action you can take to make things better.
3. Remind yourself of the good stuff
When the chips are down, it’s easy to forget that life isn’t a total lost cause and that there is usually some kind of silver lining to go with your cloud. Just taking some time to be thankful for what you’ve got can do wonders to brighten your mood and help you stay positive. Looking at the fact you have a great relationship, enjoy your job, have a full week left of an amazing trip, or something amazing coming up on the horizon will prove that life isn’t all a pile of pants. I know some people write down when good things happen to them so that they have something to refer to when they are feel negged out. Whatever works for you.
4. Know how to unwind
Being constantly on the go whether physically, mentally or both can raise your stress levels to the point that a molehill can become a mountain in 0-3 seconds. So, give yourself space to unwind – be it with a long, hot shower or sweating it out by having a run. Or maybe just giving yourself a full lazy day at the beach or losing yourself in a good book will work. Yoga is great for this – it’s a moving meditation so you’re so busy focusing on not falling over and holding the pose that you don’t have space for any negative thoughts. Or at least, that’s how it works for me. Plus, they say that laughter is the best medicine, so if you can turn even the bleakest situation into a joke, you’re sitting pretty.
5. Make someone else feel good
They say there are two types of people in the world – radiators and drains. Radiators give off a warm glow and put out good vibes and energy to people. Drains suck all the fun out of a situation and take all your energy.
I’m sure we all have the ability to be both at times, but making a conscious effort to be more like a radiator, to say or do something nice for someone else, usually has the effect of making me feel better too.
6. Let it go
Whether you’ve had your money nicked while abroad or someone at home has said something to make you feel small, once you’ve taken action, do as Elsa says and let it go. Because actually, if you don’t, the only person it really damages is you. If you’re doing the best you can or the matter is outside of your control then really letting yourself fall into negative self-talk or worrying is just a waste of time and energy. My time is certainly too precious to waste. I bet yours is too.