Staying Positive Despite Problems

Okay, here’s a confession. Even though I write a blog focused on finding bliss and happiness, sometimes I have days when it feels like problems are overtaking my life and weighing me down.

Whew, now you know and I feel better.

So is it possible to be happy when persistent, scary, and frustrating problems keep rising to the surface and smacking us in the face?

I know, happiness can seem a million miles away sometimes. Problems can make us feel stressed, upset, disappointed, powerless, angry, and depressed. Maybe some or even most other aspects of our lives are going well, yet we still tend to focus on things that go wrong.

So what can we do?

happy-womanI don’t say this lightly because it’s not easy. Problems are very real and can be overwhelming. Nonetheless, we must remember that our happiness depends on our perspective and not our circumstances. Problems may make us feel powerless and defeated, but we can control our outlook. We can still choose to be happy.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

Separate Yourself from Your Problems

The more you focus on your problems the more magnified they become. Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings like anger and depression that drain your energy and prevent you from being in the present moment.

Instead of allowing damaging thoughts to build and grow in strength, find a quiet, peaceful place. Think of your problems and then forcefully push them aside. As Mark Twain wisely said, “Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.”

Another quote I like: “Give your stress wings and let it fly away,” by Terri Guillemets. In other words, close your eyes and visualize placing your problems on the wings of a butterfly and watch them float away. Focus on your breathing, pray, or listen to soothing music.

If problems start popping back into your head, force them right back out. With practice you’ll be able to create a serene place in your mind that allows you to escape from stressful thoughts and feelings.

Do Something Creative

Research has shown there is a strong link between creativity and better mental health.

I love to read, but when I’m really stressed, nothing calms me down like the focus and concentration writing requires. Maybe you love to sing or paint. Instead of stewing about your problems, do something creative and you’ll be forced to look inward and listen to yourself. It will help you shut out the world and its problems for a while.

In fact, if you make the time to be creative, you’ll be happier, less stressed, more resilient and better equipped to problem-solve in the face of hardship.

Force Yourself to Think Happy Thoughts

Purposely direct your mind to focus on things that make you feel happy.

You might recall something funny your grandchild did or said, reminisce about one of your favorite memories, or plan a trip for the future.

Or write down five reasons you can feel grateful and force yourself to focus on those things. Put inspirational, happy quotes on post it notes and spread them around the house.

Again, with a little practice you can train your mind to naturally gravitate toward more pleasant thoughts.

Of course, these tips won’t make your problems magically disappear, but they can help you better able to cope with challenges.

Like a quote I saw on Pinterest: Life is like a roller coaster. You can either scream every time you hit a bump or you can throw your hands up in the air and enjoy it.



Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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4 Responses

  1. Tamara says:

    This is so true. For me, creative outlets are crucial to finding peace and contentment amid the chaos of life’s problems that are beyond my control. This in turn carries forward into all the areas of my life that I enjoy. My spirituality, my relationships with friends and family, and even my work. I wish for all the discovery of whatever their creative side is. I believe everyone has one.

  2. Linda Biggs says:

    Never underestimate the power of creativity. In my mind to focus on a creative project for a few hours is a perfect (and guilt free) distraction from negative thoughts and feelings. Tamara is right when she says she believes everyone has a creative side. I believe that too.

    • juliegorges says:

      Me too. PBS had an article that said the good news is, everyone is creative—and everyone can nurture their creative side. They made a few suggestions like challenging yourself, changing your environment, and broadening your knowledge to help you discover your creative side. Another tip: “Keep a notebook or voice recorder with you and next to your bed. Make it a habit to pause and jot down ideas and observations as they come to you.” Sometimes it’s just a matter of taking the time to nurture your creativity.

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