28 September 2020

Top tips for staying positive during difficult times

old couple happy

When times are tough, it can have a big impact on our mood. Whether you are fretting about global events or have perhaps suffered an injury leaving you reliant on stairlifts at home, a positive outlook can be hard to maintain. However, it’s important to try and combat the feelings of negativity and stay positive if at all possible. The good news is that there are some helpful coping techniques for doing so and in this article, we highlight some tips for staying positive, helping older people to cope during difficult times.

Remember what you have to be thankful for

grandmother with child

While you may be struggling right now and have legitimate concerns that are weighing you down, it’s important to try and remember all the things you have to be thankful for. Try making a list that you can refer to during those difficult moments. You might be thankful for your family and friends, thankful for the roof over your head, the food on your table, that you are alive and able to enjoy the life you have when others have so little. When you really think about it, there are so many things each of us have to be thankful for and reminding yourself of these can help create those feelings of positivity.

As an example, Leanne, from the midlife blog Cresting the Hill, spoke to us about her advice for staying positive, sharing that her top tip is to try and enjoy the small pleasures in life and be thankful for them:

“My approach to remaining positive during unsettled times is to focus on the good in every day. It’s easy to slide into feeling a little lost and hopeless, but when you pause for a moment and look for the small joys in your day, your attitude lifts and gratitude arrives. I make sure I get outside every day and appreciate the sunshine or the lovely breeze. I’m very grateful that I can see my family and friends – even if it’s in an online video call (which are free and so much better than the old days of expensive long-distance phone calls).

“You can’t change your circumstances, but you can choose your response to them – seek out the positives, make a point of looking for opportunities to smile at people, leave your phone at home and go for a stroll, or sit in a little spot of sunshine and enjoy a cuppa. All those small pleasures add up to a positive attitude – and that helps us deal with these difficult times we’re currently living in.”

Stay connected with loved ones

elderly couple on ipad

When we are feeling negative, it can be easy to cut ourselves off from those around us. This is a mistake, however, and can make the situation worse. Sarah, from the lifestyle blog Life in a Breakdown, spoke to us about what she has learned from her own experiences after battling with illness, sharing that staying connected with loved ones can be a big help:

“Being connected to those you love really helps. I know sometimes technology can seem difficult or out of your reach, however, once you get the hang of it, it is really simple. For instance, many phones these days offer some form of video calling, where each end sees a video of the other and it can take just a couple of button clicks to connect you. It is amazing how seeing the face of a loved one, alongside hearing their voice, can help bring a little more positivity to your day.”

Remember one good thing each day

There is good or something enjoyable in each day, even if it is a tiny thing. Sarah suggests that trying to focus on one good thing that happened to you or that you enjoyed each day can be another helpful mechanism for staying positive:

“My blog was started in a dark time of my life. The idea behind it was to remember one good thing that happened each day. While that isn't what I now share on my blog, it is something I remember to try and do at night. It doesn't have to be something big, it can be enjoying a drink, or seeing the sun, speaking to a neighbour or loved one. Just something that bought a smile to your face that day. Remembering these things and being thankful for them can bring a little spark of positivity to each day.”

Have things to look forward to (no matter how small)

grandmother and child

It can sometimes feel like things are a little hopeless but by creating activities/occasions to look forward to, no matter how small they might be, you can stop yourself from dwelling in that negative space. You can break this down into short, medium, and long term. You could have a delicious meal to look forward to that evening, favourite TV show to watch next Saturday, a day spent with family in two weeks times, and a holiday planned in a couple of months. Try and plan things to regularly look forward to, that you will enjoy, and then focus on those. Don’t dwell on the negative, think about how excited you are about what’s coming up or how nice it will be to do that activity.

Find absorbing hobbies

Hobbies are a wonderful distraction, a way to relax, and enjoyable to us by their very definition. So, identifying some and not abandoning them during tough times will be very helpful. Glen, a visually impaired accessibility advocate from the blog Well Eye Never, spoke to us about the importance of hobbies:

“My tip would be to try and find hobbies or interests that you enjoy and can absorb yourself in - whether it be long walks, sports, gardening, DIY, writing, art, crafts, music, games, quizzes, volunteering work, etc. Losing yourself in something that makes you happy is great escapism from the world. It can be an important outlet for your stresses and emotions, it can help you think more clearly and give you a fresh perspective on things, and it can be a great way of connecting with other people if you're able to join groups in person or online who share the same interests.”

Don’t immerse yourself in negative thinking

One of the most important things you can do to remain positive is to not immerse yourself in negative thinking. Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemies, thinking constantly about what’s afflicting us and even seeking out more negativity. Avoid this at all costs. For example, global events and politics are rife with negativity, sadness, and can provoke great anxiety. So, try not to be constantly reading the news, checking for updates, and consuming content that is going to make you upset. You can stay up to date in a healthy way by watching the evening news but try to limit your exposure to the latest political talking points or news story. Concentrate more on the happy things in your life, your loved ones, and the good you can do for others.

Think about your purpose in life

old man sunset

Human beings crave purpose, meaning, and value. When we feel like what we do doesn’t matter, that can create tremendously negative feelings that can be hard to escape from. Think about what your purpose is, what gives your life meaning and value. Your purpose might be to be there for your grandchildren. It might be doing charitable work in your local community. Your faith might drive your sense of purpose and provide your life with meaning. Merely lurching from one day to the next, content with just existing, isn’t going to help your mindset but by discovering your purpose, your life can have a meaningful direction that fuels all of your actions.

Have a plan and tasks for each day

During difficult times, having nothing to do each day or no concrete plan can allow you to sink into negative thoughts and actions. So, it’s good to be productive and have tasks you want to accomplish each day. Make a list of what you will do the following day, such as errands you need to run, chores to do at home like cleaning, time spent enjoying a hobby, appointments you have booked etc. By giving your day structure, you can keep yourself busy and feeling that something has been accomplished each day.

How to stay positive during difficult times

  • Remember what you have to be thankful for
  • Stay connected with loved ones.
  • Remember one good thing each day
  • Have things to look forward to (no matter how small)
  • Find absorbing hobbies
  • Don’t immerse yourself in negative thinking
  • Think about your purpose in life
  • Have a plan and tasks for each day

We hope the above tips and advice have been useful. No matter what it is that is getting you down or the difficult times you are facing, there are ways of coping and keeping yourself focused on the positive.

For more tips, make sure to visit our news and advice page.