You might be currently shaking your head right now saying to yourself, “But… you have no idea what I am going through right now.” And you are absolutely correct about that, no one truly understands all of your extenuating circumstances, the intricacies, and details that might have already led to one big catastrophe.
According to a Stanford University study on the Effects of Self-Focused Rumination on Negative Thinking and Interpersonal Problem Solving; when individuals kept their focus on the negative, the results only made the outcome and situation much worse. The study concluded that the ramifications of ruminating on negativity caused “long-lasting periods of depressed mood,” thus hindering an individual’s healthy problem solving skills. Researchers found that in analyzing individuals who experienced extreme chaos such as an earthquake or extreme trauma such as a death of a loved one, people who were less self-focused and more positive tended to have a shorter healing period. Negative, self-focused folks had much lengthier bereavement periods and if not previously depressed, they became depressed for a protracted period of time after the tragedy. The study went on to observe that:
“In other words, it is the depressed mood that activates negative thoughts, but self-focused rumination brings these thoughts to the attention of the person and allows these thoughts to affect the person’s judgments and interpretations of his or her current situation. In turn, these negative judgments and interpretations exacerbate depressed mood, creating the vicious cycle between depressed mood and thinking and impairing the individual’s ability to come up with good solutions to his or her problems.”
The study concluded that negative rumination actually distorted the way pessimistic individuals saw their life and the events that they’ve previously experienced. What we can gather from this study is the obvious— having a positive attitude is more effective in the long run. However, achieving a healthier attitude is much more difficult than it looks. Especially if one experiences a huge life change such as a major debilitating car accident, a death of a loved one, loss of job and home, a divorce, and so on. During moments of extreme grief, the last thing that a grieving person wants to hear is someone flippantly saying “Hey, look on the bright side. It could be a lot worse, right?”
It’s a sensitive balance, having the emotional intelligence to decipher how long you allow yourself to grieve and heal and when is it time to start taking the focus off of ourselves. Stacy Pershall, author of Loud in the House of Myself: Memoir of a Strange Girl, says it best:
“A depressed person is selfish because her self, the very core of who she is, will not leave her alone, and she can no more stop thinking about this self and how to escape it than a prisoner held captive by a sadistic serial killer can forget about the person who comes in to torture her everyday. Her body is brutalized by her mind.”
While no one has room to tell you how you should live your life; you have to ask yourself how long do you desire to stay in the type of pessimism and bleakness you’re in currently? Has your situation and circumstances improved as a result of you constantly focused on all that went wrong? My guess is that it hasn’t. Negative thoughts and beliefs don’t only affect your mental health but can equally lead to physical illness. According to an article on the impact emotions have on health, chronic stress damages the immune system and decreases our lifespan because it shortens “end caps” (telomeres) associated with our DNA strands linked to aging.
So, although it may be hard to try and see the “bright side” of things, now maybe a good time to find that “silver lining” in your situation. Is this the lowest you’ve been in your life? Have you really hit the bottom of a deep hole? If so, look up and see the light shining through. Role up your sleeves, get your hiking boots on, and figure out how you’re going to climb out of it.
It seems silly, but memorizing a positive phrase, quote, mantra, or even key word might help. Think of it this way, if you are at your worst now, it has to get better. Things can only get better from here on out. Maybe it doesn’t look that way to you right because you are neck-deep into the situation and cannot see beyond it.
Recall another time that you conquered something that was challenging. Think back on an old heartbreak that you were so sure you’d never ever get over. But, you look back now and you actually laugh and say to yourself, “That idiot lost a good thing, so glad I’m not with him/her.” You see, you did get over it. You did get through it.
That same strength you had in getting over previous trauma is still inside you. Remember, it has not gone away and you are much stronger then you think you are. You have much more courage and fight inside then you realize.
Surround yourself with positive, uplifting and cheerful individuals. It doesn’t matter if they are close friends, associates, relatives, or strangers you just met. Be sure that these people aren’t actually dealing with anything tragic themselves. You want to surround yourself with people that are in an overall healthy lifestyle and are happy in nearly every aspect of their life. This way you can learn from them, absorb their positive energy and vibe. They can help you take your mind off yourself and leave you with a feeling of optimism.
Don’t let circumstances dictate the sort of life you want to lead for yourself. If you want to be happier, more content, and see yourself out of this situation. You really can do it. You just have to have faith in yourself that you are abundant, know that you are loved, and will be so much stronger once you climb out of this dark hole and reach the surface and into the light.
Oingo Boingo said it best…It Only Makes Me Laugh
“Darkness can never last too long, when you laugh in its face.”