It’s easy to be positive when times are good.
But what about when times are bad?
What about when money is tight, relationships are shaky, health is questionable… the future is uncertain?
How do you stay positive when you feel out of control?
How do you experience joy when it all seems hopeless?
That’s what we’re going to talk about.
First, a story.
Meet Sydney, Who’s Daughter Has Leukemia
From close to the moment that Harper was born, she was sick.
At first, Sydney — a 21-year-old mom with a love for art and a contagious personality — chalked it up to normal off-and-on child illness.
Which, until one particular night, is all it seemed to be.
But when a 10-month-old Harper woke up screaming in pain with a fever of 103, pale as a ghost, Sydney rushed her to the emergency room.
A few tests later, the doctor said, “I have some news that you’re not gonna want to hear.”
Sydney’s heart dropped into her stomach. “What is it?”
“Your daughter has Leukemia. She has cancer of the blood, bone marrow, and spinal fluid.”
After that ER visit, Sydney and Harper didn’t go home for 8 months — they stayed in the nearby Ronald McDonald house.
And the past three years have been littered with doctor’s appointments, new treatments and symptoms, bills and donations, and even a messy divorce.
The path has been difficult.
But talking with Sydney made me realize a few things about finding joy in life’s valleys… a few things that we could all use to remember.
1. Bloom Where You’re Planted
Suffering is tough.
But at some point, we’ve got to realize that suffering is also a natural part of life… and some things will never go away.
You see, there’s power in accepting your situation as it is… no matter how bad. When you embrace your challenges, you can then work to do your best with what you’ve been given.
With acceptance, you might even find that your challenges provide a unique opportunity to make an impact on others.
No matter who you are, no matter what you’re going through, you’ve got to bloom where you’ve been planted.
That’s your only option.
2. Just Show Up
You’ll have good days and bad days.
And sometimes, all you can do is show up.
But that’s okay — on difficult days, showing up is itself an act of bravery.
So if that’s all you can do today, give yourself grace. Show up, do what you can do, and remember that there’s always tomorrow.
3. Drop An Anchor
When the seas of life are treacherous, you’ve got to drop an anchor.
And your anchor can be anything that gives you a sense of control.
At times, Sydney’s anchor has been painting. At other times, eating a specific meal.
Whatever you have control over, cling to that.
It could be waking up at a certain time, drinking coffee, writing, or any other positive habit that gives you a sense of control.
4. Find Joy in Creative Expression
There’s something really meditative about creative expression.
Putting headphones in, listening to good music, and painting, drawing, writing, or even putting legos together.
These are some of the art pieces that Sydney’s done over the last few years to recenter herself and find peace in difficult times.
Even 30 minutes of creative expression can lower your anxiety, quiet the crazy monkey in your head, and help you stay positive in uncertain times.
5. Focus On Others
When times are tough, the last thing you’re going to think about is helping other people.
Still, shifting your focus outward can have an unexpected healing affect.
When you work to help others through their challenges, you don’t only contribute to the world in a meaningful way, you also diminish focus on your own problems.
And when you’re not focussing on your problems… you’re not suffering.
It’s not healthy to avoid your problems altogether, but serving others can offer a much-needed respite from your own challenges and negative thoughts.
For Sydney, this meant creating her online personality, Marvelous Myrna, as a way to practice her art and help others going through similar difficulties.
6. Believe That This Is Happening FOR You
We all tend to cry, “Why me?” when we’re overwhelmed by what life’s throwing at us.
And while that’s understandable, it’s also not good for our mental health.
The belief that something is happening to us, without our control, is a disempowering belief. It doesn’t matter if it’s true. If it hurts us internally, then we should shift our thinking to something that empowers us.
Sydney believes that this is happening for her, for others, even for Harper.
That is, there’s some purpose for the suffering.
Whether it’s true or not, that’s a very empowering thing to believe when life isn’t going the way you expected.
This is happening for you. Not to you.
You CAN Be Happy, Even If It Doesn’t Make Sense
It’s okay to choose happiness, even when your situation doesn’t merit happiness.
It’s okay to choose joy, even when your situation doesn’t merit joy.
You are not, after all, a result of what’s happening, but a result of your perception of what’s happening.
Why not choose empowering perceptions?
Why not bloom where you’ve been planted, show up, drop an anchor, be creative, focus on others, and believe that this is happening for a reason?
Eckhart Tole once said, “Fear can’t exist in the present moment. It can only exist as a projection of the future.”
So breathe; this very moment, you have nothing to be afraid of.
Mike is the founder of Get Your Gusto Back. He has a passion for traveling, he LOVES to write, and he’s been mentioned in Forbes and Entrepreneur for his expertise as a marketer and personal-development expert. He currently lives in Hawaii with his wife and two-year-old daughter.