First of all, when everything is going wrong in your life, you should keep in mind that emotions are big fat liars. You feel everything is going south, but it’s not true.
Adversity is often a stepping stone to success. That is, if you don’t give up because the cloud of dark emotions discouraged you completely.
A couple of things NOT to do:
1. Don’t focus on what’s wrong
When everything seems to go wrong, you have this unfortunate tendency to focus on what’s wrong. Don’t.
When people practice speed driving, they drive their cars where their sight goes. If they stare at the approaching wall, they invariably steer the car toward the wall, even if they know very well they should turn the wheel and the car.
Your life goes where your attention goes. If you dwell on what’s going wrong, you will only get more bad things and events. New Age believers will tell you that you “attract” negative energy or your quantum vibrations emanate negativity, so positivity has no access to you. They may even be right.
I think the explanation is a bit simpler. Your brain’s primary function is one of a search engine. It absorbs millions and millions of sensual impulses every second and its main job is to segregate this ocean of data so your nervous system and conscious mind can make sense of it.
Bad things and good things are happening all the time in your life. The focus of your conscious mind determines which data your search engine will fish out from the data ocean. The title says it very aptly: it appears everything goes wrong. Positive impulses will be weeded out from your brain’s query, so the end picture will get darker and darker.
2. Don’t beat yourself
Blaming yourself for the situation is a default option. Let’s not philosophize why, just assume it as an axiom. In your internal dialog you always assume you are the center of the universe, so if anything goes wrong, it must be your fault, right?
You may be even right about this. All in all, most of what you receive in life is the result of your thoughts, words and actions.
But beating yourself won’t improve the situation one bit. It will make it even worse. If you get yourself into the present situation, guess who can take you out of it?
Yes, you. And if you beat up the only person who can get you out of troubles, getting out of troubles is unlikely.
It may be wise to examine how your vices and past stupid decisions brought you to the miserable place you are in now. If you can reflect on the past with an inquiring mind and track down your mistakes, you can figure out eventual solutions.
Sadly, most of us are incapable of such impersonal detachment and we fall into the default mode: beating ourselves up.
If you know you get on that path too easily just don’t go there. It’s a slippery slope and you should attempt a sober reflection only when you are skilled in self-analysis. If your emotions got in the way, don’t even try. There are better ways.
3. Get your personal philosophy straight
I can give you dozens of tips on how to survive tough times, but if you are stuck in a dark place there is no use bombarding you with advice.
You need to know deep in your heart that it is still worth trying to get better. You need to be convinced that hard times are only temporary. And in the end YOU need to implement the advice. Knowledge without implementation is as useless as ignorance.
I went through periods of depression in my life; some of them were relatively mild, others were downright excruciating. I know what it’s like to be unwilling to raise your finger because nothing makes sense and your soul hurts. You need a driving internal power to get you out there. You need reasons to keep trying.
What are your deepest beliefs about hardships? Is it a punishment from God or a trial? Can you see it’s just a passing state of affairs or you feel like you’re closed in the dark room?
If you are a Christian, then I encourage you to turn to God. There are never true “wrong” times in a Christian’s life; everything is under God’s providence.
4. Be with great people
An amazing shortcut to fixing your personal philosophy is spending time with people you want to be like. Do you know someone who went through times when everything appeared to be going wrong in their lives? Spend more time with them. Surround yourself with such people.
Do a simple mental exercise: reflect on your hardships and think of someone who was in your situation and not only survived but came out of it thriving. Remember the “everything appears” part? The fact is that it’s almost sure there was someone in your situation in the history of humankind who dealt with it.
Someone broke your heart? Happens all the time.
Your close friend or relative died? Death will accompany humanity as long as it exists.
Are you terminally ill? That was the fate of millions of people before you.
Your child made terrible life choices and ended up suffering like a dog? This is the story of many parents.
Were you fired? So were countless folks before you.
Find them. Search for stories of people who experienced what you experience and became stronger. Let their stories affect your self-centered thinking. If they did that, you can do it too.
The secret of those who survived similar hardships was their attitude. It’s not what we go through, but what we think about it.
Thousands of people got their bodies destroyed and landed in wheelchairs after car accidents and they cracked. Hal Elrod, after an initial shock accepted his situation and was happy that he was alive. Doctors said he would never walk again. Because of his positive attitude he recovered to full health miraculously fast.
The Best Tip
Don’t dwell on what’s wrong. Put your mind on what’s right. Your brain is a search engine. Give it orders to search for what’s right.
The easiest way to do it? Keep a gratitude journal. Every morning write down three new things you are grateful for. It will unlock your thinking patterns. You will stop focusing on things going south and rewire your brain into positivity. You will notice positive events and influences. You will see new opportunities.
It’s a very simple habit to get into. Even if you suffer heavy depression you can write down three bullet points. It doesn’t take much time. You don’t need special resources or skills to do this. It’s easy.
This article was originally published on Medium.