Knowing how to stay positive in a negative situation is actually pretty simple in theory. You need to learn how to rationalise, lean into your emotion, and move past it in a healthy way.
However, as you can probably imagine, in practise, it’s a little trickier, which is why I’ve laid out 12 steps that I personally use to keep a positive attitude in bad situations.
While I talk about trying to stay positive on this blog, I appreciate it’s not always that easy. Especially where negative situations are concerned.
In fact, sometimes, it’s impossible to see any silver lining. At least at first.
And, you know what? That’s okay! Life isn’t always going to be all sunshine and rainbows. We all have to take the rough with the smooth in order to really experience what life has to offer.
Feeling a whole range of positive and negative emotions is actually really valuable.
What’s important to remember is: bad things happen to everyone. And 99% of the time, they’re out of our control.
You’re not alone. There ARE ways you can get through it and move on.
How to stay positive in a negative situation
Before I get on with my 12 tips for how to stay positive during difficult times, I want to add that there are some situations in life that you can’t put a positive spin on. I’m not about to tell you to bury your head in the sand.
Human beings need to learn to process negative emotions in a healthy – or at least capable – way. Toxic positivity is a thing.
When certain life events occur, I’d really recommend you speak with a professional and perhaps seek out talking therapy, to help you harness your inner strength and push through.
For now, here are the tips I personally use to stay positive in a bad situation.
#1. Allow yourself to feel negative emotions before you heal
First and foremost, I want you to know that it’s okay to feel.
It’s okay to be sad, angry, devastated – it’s okay.
Learning how to be positive in a negative situation isn’t about sweeping the problem under the rug, avoiding it, or denial. It’s about feeling the negative and everything that entails, owning it, and moving on in a positive way.
While dwelling on your negative emotions isn’t productive, it’s absolutely healthy to feel them and acknowledge them.
#2. Practise self-care
Making time for self-care is crucial during difficult times.
Don’t let your own basic needs fall by the wayside in favour of dwelling on the negative.
Self-care doesn’t have to mean bubble baths or face masks, it can mean purely looking after your personal hygiene, eating regular meals, drinking water, taking your medication, getting sleep, and seeing your therapist.
#3. Accept the situation at hand
Accept that most situations are out of our control. We can’t change or affect other people’s actions and you have to accept that.
Acceptance is the first step of moving on because it means you’ve come to terms with the negative situation.
For example, in the case of a break-up, feel the sadness and then accept that you can’t force someone else to be the person you want them to be or to want to be with you against their will.
- Related – How to Stop Thinking Negatively
#4. Recognise that you control how you react
While you can’t control how other people act and you often can’t control the cause of negative situations, you CAN control how you react.
The way in which you react dictates how you move forward and how positively you do so.
What’s more, how you react now will affect how you respond to similar negative situations in the future.
Reacting positively will help you feel much better about the situation and potential situations to come.
Owning your own reactions and emotions can be really empowering.
#5. Talk to someone you trust
Ever heard the saying that ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’?
Well, it’s usually true.
Unloading your feelings and thoughts about the situation can help you deal with them rationally, and also offer a new perspective.
Make sure you surround yourself with positive people who will give you balanced opinions and not people who will likely only fuel your negative emotions.
I recommend a trusted, close friend or family member, or a therapist.
Betterhelp are an online talking therapy service if you’re currently unable to afford to access a therapist in person at this point in time.
#6. Find the silver lining (if you can)
I know that in a lot of negative situations, it’s almost impossible to see the silver lining. Death, for example, can seem so final and cruel. And, in those situations, I understand that looking at the bright side probably isn’t possible. That’s okay.
However, in most situations, you can find the positive.
How you can make a negative situation positive
Whether that’s you becoming stronger as a person, learning a valuable lesson, or discovering other opportunities that might arise, it’s usually possible to find the silver lining in most situations.
Although, don’t get me wrong, BOY does it take practise!
When something bad happens, in order to see the positive, consider these journal prompts:
- What have I learned about myself from this?
- What can I take forward from this situation?
- What do I need to do to heal from this in a healthy way?
- How will I allow this situation to help me grow as a person moving forward?
Going back to the break-up example, while you’ve lost someone you probably loved and shared good times with, it allows you to become stronger as an individual, spend some time working on yourself, and find someone who’s even better suited to you in the future.
#7. Do something positive with your day
Instead of dwelling on the negative situation, try to do something positive with your day that will make you feel good.
Help a friend move house, clear your parent’s garden, check in on an elderly neighbour, start a blog.
Fill your day with positivity, even if you’re not ready to see the positive.
#8. Keep positive people around you
As I said earlier, it’s really important that you surround yourself with positive people who are going to offer unbalanced opinions and lift you up.
Negative people will only fuel your negative emotions and bring you down.
Surround yourself with people who will help you see the bright side and help you move up, not sideways or down.
How can you stay positive in a negative environment?
Living in a toxic environment can severely hinder our mental health and ability to think positively.
While I could write a whole post on how to stay positive in a toxic environment because I’ve been there, my biggest pieces of advice would be:
- Avoid the negative people that bring you down as much as possible.
- Create boundaries. Where possible, limit your time and exposure to the people making your environment toxic.
- Start a side hustle or, if possible, get a full-time job so that you not only have an escape but a way to make money.
- Save money and have, at the very least, a rainy day fund so that you don’t feel totally trapped.
- Talk to people outside of your negative environment – vent and let them know the situation.
- See a therapist.
- Have an escape, whether that’s gaming, watching YouTube, reading, or working out.
- Stay motivated to get out of the environment when you can.
- Know that this isn’t forever – you WILL get out of this.
#9. Rationalise: Are you overreacting?
It’s always good to be self-aware. This means looking at the situation and how you’re reacting objectively.
Is it really as bad as it seems? Could you be overreacting?
Overreacting doesn’t mean that your feelings aren’t valid because your feelings are THERE. You’re feeling them. They’re real. However, they’re not always rational, especially if you suffer from anxiety or depression.
Once you’ve acknowledged that your feelings might be blown out of proportion, you can rationalise, move on and learn to think more positively going forward in order to prevent this happening again.
I want to point out that by questioning your reaction, I don’t want you to invalidate your response. You’re probably not overreacting and you’re perfectly in your right to have reacted negatively. However, self awareness is always a useful practise.
#10. Don’t take it personally
Most situations, as I’ve said, are out of our control. You can’t control someone else’s actions.
With this in mind, try to stop taking things so personally. Even if the problem IS personal.
Going back to the break-up analogy, you may take the break-up personally because it’s YOU they’ve broken up with. How can you not? You feel as if they’ve left you because YOU’RE not good enough.
However, really, they’ve ended the relationship because THEY feel like something is lacking.
(Obviously, this isn’t a hard-and-fast rule. If you’ve done something wrong in order for them to end the relationship, you have to acknowledge that, own it, and respect their decision.)
#11. Start your day positively
Starting your day in a positive way is a great way to set the tone for the rest of it.
Wake up early, make your bed, get dressed, have your breakfast, brush your teeth, and start the day with intention.
Start as you mean to go on.
If you need some inspiration, here are some morning routine tips for positive thinking.
#12. Practise gratitude
Practising gratitude is great for positive thinking, as it allows you to see the bright side and the good in your life, even when dealing with a negative situation.
I invite you to spend a few minutes each morning write down five things you’re grateful for.
I know this might seem a little ‘woo woo’ and time consuming, but I honestly urge you to give it a go.