“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” ~Desmond Tutu
I hate my life. Does this statement ring true to you at all? Do you feel like you’re at rock bottom? The good news is, it might not be as bad as you fear.
I spent a lot of time feeling afraid of everything.
I had an emotional collapse, and it made life suddenly seem terrifying. What had happened? Had the town I was living in changed? Had my country suddenly become different?
No, I had changed the filter through which I saw the world, from one of hope and joy to one of fear and hopelessness.
My biggest problem wasn’t that I was feeling terrible, but that I had unconsciously bought into the idea that the problem was ‘out there,’ or that perhaps I had lost my mind. It frightened me to experience that level of darkness, where everything looked gloomy and hopeless.
When We Believe Our Self-Talk and Perceptions of Our Terrible Life
What had really happened was that, after a series of bad experiences, I got very sad and then a whole lot sadder. I didn’t realize that, after the initial painful problems, I was continuing to create a lot of my upset with my thinking processes.
I was seeing—through my perception filter—only the darker parts of life. Everything felt greyer somehow. It got gradually worse and I became more and more entrenched in the grip of it.
Had the bad situations caused it? Perhaps, but the real problem was that they had caused me to change my filter to grey, and I was stuck there. The more I saw the world this way, the more I expected it. The more I unconsciously expected it, the more evidence my senses found for me to confirm my fears.
Therapists and books, in trying to help me get past my sense of pain and suffering, took me back to the time when the collapse happened, and even back to my childhood.
I established what the original problem was and ‘worked through it.’ I agree with the necessity to work through old wounds and baggage to a degree, and it is sometimes crucial for mental wellness. However, for me, it was re-traumatizing and mostly just dug up old things I’d already accepted. I found myself back at square one over and over again. Far from recovering, I was in a circle of regression.
What kept me going back over it was simple: The bad situations I had experienced were long over, and I had done the forgiveness and grieving, but I was still feeling bad. The only reason I could find was that I needed to do more healing work on the past. However, now that I look back, it seems what was really keeping it alive was my own belief that the problem was still there.
The Wake-Up Call
Here was a major truth bomb for me: While I’d certainly had experiences that were traumatizing when they happened, I was the one who was now perpetuating my pain. I had a habit of hating my life.
Did that mean it was my fault? No, I was just doing what we all do. I had practiced feeling terrible every day, and after a month or so it had become habit. I was a professional fearful person.
Yes, maybe the original upset or difficulties in my life were bad, but they were no longer happening. I kept them alive two ways: 1. Through learned habitual behavior and 2. By constantly picking over them to find out why I still felt bad.
Don’t Put a Happy Face Sticker Over It
There’s a lot of talk now of toxic positivity and concerns about putting a happy face sticker over problems. I do get that people sometimes do this. It is irresponsible to run away from a real-life problem, but I do not believe that most people who talk about toxic positivity are really warning about that.
I believe that many people who talk about toxic positivity are actually stuck with their filter on grey, and they are arguing for their own limitations.
There is an increased stigma around the idea of “love and light.” It’s become an almost contemptible topic. I agree that it’s ridiculous to think that “love and light” is the answer to everything. But if you feel stuck in old stuff and find that you feel less than happy about your life, I challenge you to give it a try before disregarding it as naïve or evasive.
Please remember that even some apparently very wise spiritual and transformational helpers or gurus are still themselves very much stuck in their egos. They still want to be the hero battling their pain and discussing their survival. Just because someone is well-known and well-loved does not make them any less human. Just because they claim to know better, does not mean that they do.
Positivity gets a bad rap in certain places on the internet, but please remember this idea that we don’t have to dwell in the difficulties is age old and has been supported by mystics and gurus since the beginning of time.
As the old Buddhist saying states, “Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional.” I get that there is a time and a place for facing pain—dealing with circumstances and processing grief is incredibly important. But we do not need to suffer beyond the original pain.
How to feel the Pain Without Getting Caught in Suffering
Yes, you’ll encounter difficulties, and sometimes they will be terrible, awful, and shocking. However, once you’ve done the initial processing and the grieving process is well under way, there is a lot to be said for introducing a happy face sticker! Not to go over the wound, but to go alongside it. We don’t need to dwell in toxic positivity or negativity.
What do I mean by initial processing of difficulties in life? It will be different for everyone and it depends on the circumstances, but what I really mean is this: Allow yourself a reasonable time to feel the feelings and then make efforts to move forward with your life!
No one would expect you to be happy the day after you witnessed some horrible crime or after the death of a loved one. This is ridiculous and what is really meant by toxic positivity—the notion that you should be happy all of the time regardless of your circumstances.
But there comes a time when we have to choose to shift our perspective and find reasons to smile, because it only happens if we make it happen.
Put a Happy Face Sticker Next to it and Start Hanging Out There
If you really hate your life, you may have gotten to the stage where you have started to believe it will never get better. Take it from someone who knows, this isn’t true. You are awake and breathing now, so there is still hope to turn everything around. I did. I am no more special than you, I have no special skills. If I can, so can you.
If you are clinically ill, get help, that is a given. If you are unsure, reach out to a medical professional and get assistance and their opinion. This is a must!
Once you are sure that you do not need medical intervention, be a risk taker and try the much maligned “positive thinking and action” methodology below.
What I suggest below is what I did, and it worked for me. It has worked for clients. Does this mean it will work for you? No, not necessarily, and perhaps you will do it slightly differently. But hopefully you will be able to understand the essence of what I’m suggesting and give it a try.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
4 Ways to be Happier (The Not-So-Magic Formula)
Firstly, suspend the idea of not wanting to buy into “toxic positivity” and try this twenty-minute morning routine for a couple of weeks. I have never had anyone report that it made them feel worse.
Exercise as soon as you get out of bed.
Okay, go to the bathroom first! After that, take two to ten minutes to do some stretches, weights, or aerobic exercises. Put on some music and then get started.
I do fifteen minutes every morning with two little weights and a resistance band. I do five minutes on my legs with the resistance band, five minutes on my core on the floor or with the weights, and five minutes with the weights on my arms. My body looks better, and it gets my good-feeling chemicals pumping.
Make a few sheets of goals, quotes, or a vision board.
Put them up in the area where you will be doing your exercises, and read or look at them as you move to get into an empowered mindset. You can include pictures, quotes, or ideas.
I have thirteen sheets and a load of sticky notes. I don’t read everything perfectly every day, but I read most of it every day as I work on my arms. I have mainly quotes from my favorite transformational authors, as I’m not a massive fan of setting specific goals, but whatever you choose is up to you.
Take one minute and list three things you are grateful for. This is a minimum requirement. If you have time, consider writing intentions for the day or listing the ways in which you feel the universe has helped you lately.
Even if you feel that there are twenty things that you could complain about, if there is one good thing, write about that.
A great addition to these exercises is to look back over previous days and notice how much you have to be grateful for or how many of your intentions you have met. If you think you haven’t met any of your intentions, remember that isn’t true! If you are writing your gratitude journal on more than one day, you are showing up for you and keeping it up somewhat. A huge number of people will not even get so far.
Be compassionate with yourself and grateful that you have shown some dedication to yourself, however small that effort may seem at first.
Listen to something motivational and upbeat every morning.
I do this while I am getting dressed or doing my to-do list. I watch something that talks about empowerment, what we can achieve, what is right with me and the world rather than what is wrong.
Is it to stick my head in the sand or deny that there’s anything wrong in the world? No, it’s so that I am pumped and empowered to actually take on the task of living life.
There is so much free content out there on social media that you can access. Do a social media search and start finding material that uplifts you and gets you thinking positively and with purpose every day.
No one gets excited about facing pain or the destruction stretched out in front of them. So, even when there are difficult things to face, it’s crucial that we can somewhat reframe it so that we can see it as a positive challenge rather than solely a painful experience.
When we do this, it is not to be irresponsible or to avoid the reality, but rather to give ourselves the best chance of being able to embrace what we need to do with enthusiasm and a good energy. This way we are more use to ourselves, the people around us, and the world
Takeaway: Summary of the Plan to Shift Out of the Pain
You don’t like your life… Okay, no need to panic.
Take a moment to check if you might need medical assistance. If you’re not sure, reach out to a health professional. Once you’ve done this and are sure you don’t have a clinical reason for feeling so bad about life, ask yourself if you are expecting yourself to feel better before you’ve had a reasonable time to grieve or recover from a recent event.
If something bad has happened, you will need time to feel it and process it. The world does seem to encourage us to always feel great, and this isn’t realistic. Our minds naturally want a simple solution and to get away from processing a painful experience, but it only prolongs it in the long run. Make sure you are not rushing a sensible grieving process.
Equally, if you hate your life today, check in with yourself and ask yourself if you are perhaps just having a bad couple of days. No one feels happy all of the time, and it is unhealthy to expect yourself to do so.
Once you’ve checked for a medical reason and that you don’t have a temporary and reasonable explanation for why you feel so bad, consider trying the ideas above and seeing what a positive start to your day might do for you.
Do it for a month and see what changes.
Perhaps starting your day with movement, motivation, and gratitude will not work, but I’d be surprised if it didn’t! Will it solve all of your problems? No, of course not. But hopefully, it will give you a boost of positivity and a sense of hope and show you that you can make changes that can help you to feel better about your life.
Once you see that small changes can make a big difference, you will get excited about all the other things you can change and improve in your life. It takes you out of reverse gear and into first. It may seem small, but it’s a start, and a very positive one at that!