There’s a reason why the phrase “down in the dumps” exists. It’s a real thing. Sometimes it feels like the silver lining stood you up and now you’re all dressed up with nowhere to go. Problems are problems. No matter what size they may be. There are times when they can feel so much bigger than you and you’re all alone in an empty room with them without any furniture for you to hide underneath.
Here’s some good news: you’re not alone. At some point or another, we all encounter dilemmas that challenge our happiness. It’s how we react to these challenging times that determines how long they last, what lessons we draw from them, and whether or not we change for the better. Optimism is a necessary tool for climbing out of the dumps and a strong device to draw out the best in this world.
When you feel like you’re so far down the hole that you can’t even see it, try these steps to ascend towards optimism.
1. Find your people (or person)
Get on the phone, or better yet, meet in person with a good friend or family member who makes you feel safe and talk it out. If you don’t have this person in your life, pay someone like a therapist or a bartender with a good ear. Either way, connect with another human being who has the capacity to be warm and/or the ability to listen well.
Expressing your troubles aloud can have a cathartic effect. Getting whatever is bothering you off your chest will help alleviate some of the pressure built up from suppressing it. Plus, if you have the right people/person by your side, they can fill you up with some of that much needed optimism that you’ve had a hard time accessing.
2. Give it a name
This one you can do by yourself or you can make it a group activity. Dealer’s choice. Part of what keeps us from optimism is the inability to truly name what is at the root of our issue.
Focus – truly examine what’s making you so blue. Many times the small things that we find dissatisfactory are really symptomatic of a bigger issue. Maybe it’s not really about the fact that you lost your job but the fear that your spouse might think you’re not able to pull your weight as an equal partner. Or maybe it’s not the fact that your boy/girlfriend picked a Lebanese film tonight and you hate subtitles but that all things Lebanon remind you of the one that got away. I don’t know. Whatever it is, give your oppressor a name so you know what to call it when you tell it to leave.
This could be hard because identifying a root problem requires some H-O-N-E-S-T-Y. However, in the long run, you’ll take pride in your bravery and that can bring you closer to optimism.
3. Exercise your talents; give away your gifts
Remember what you got, because it’s a lot. I don’t remember where I heard that. What I do remember is that there are certain things that I’m really good at. You have those too. Everyone has talents; some of us have gifts.
What’s the difference?
Simply put: talents are abilities we’re naturally inclined to but need to be put into practice often in order to develop them. Gifts are characteristics that are in our nature that we operate in the world with in a more organic manner. One person can be a talented musician, well versed in multiple instruments. Additionally, they have the gift of patience which enables them to teach music to others. Pick one of your talent seeds, plant it, water it daily, and it may bring you a harvest one day. If you’re lucky enough to have a gift, then find a way to dispense it freely. Good vibes have a reflective quality. Witnessing your talents and gifts in play will definitely put optimism in your life.
4. Go outside and move around
If you’re like me, at some point, you might have had a string of days where blending into the couch seemed like a good idea. Trust me. It’s not. Motivation is scarce when you’re feeling down and maybe it really is too cold, or too sunny, or too scary to go out but you won’t know until you do it. So just do it.
During one of my few couch spells, I read an article that proclaimed that simply walking is scientifically proven to release endorphins, a stress fighting chemical, in your brain thus making a person feel better. You know what? When I finally got off the couch, showered, then went for a walk I found out it was right. Crazy. I know. The only things that should be between your couch cushions should be some loose change, popcorn, and maybe a condom wrapper- not your hind-parts sinking into them because you’ve been sitting for that long. Optimism is definitely not there. Go outside, take a stroll, and find it.
5. Buck Up
Chances are if you and your loved ones are healthy, all else is solvable. Not to trivialize what may be going on with you but to break it down to a base level: this holds true most of the time. I remember when my father had his stroke a decade ago, other problems seemed to have melted away.
Looking back at the years that followed, I never heard my father complain about the state of his health or about all of the changes he had to make in order to stay healthy. The man adjusted his diet, exercised, and monitored his blood pressure regularly. All of this he kept to consistently. Recently, I had the privilege of traveling with him to the Philippines. Through the multiple flights and long days of exploration, he maintained the stamina of a man decades his junior. He was able to do that because when the most important thing: his health, came into question, he bucked up and just did what he had to do. He didn’t get weighed down with what ifs or the negative possibilities. This may be the most important step in claiming optimism.
When you try your best, you never have to be ashamed of the outcome. Whether the scale tips to your side or not, trust that the tide is in your favor. Your best efforts will put you on the best path for you. If you can make room for trust in your thoughts, you can bypass inner judgements that often create unnecessary comparison, worry, and overall displeasure. There are so many great things around you; happening for you. Trust yourself to do right by you and you may find yourself making better decisions more suited to your overall health. A balanced mind, body, and soul are definitely in possession of optimism.
Featured photo credit: Have You Seen This Man/Tony Fischer via flickr.com