how to stay positive

How to Stay Positive (When There’s Chaos All Around You)

Rachel Sharpe

When things are going wrong, people tell us to be positive. However, staying positive during difficult times isn’t something we can all do. Sometimes, life roughs us up, making it virtually impossible to see the good at the moment. If you’re going through a difficult time, know that it’s okay if you feel frustrated, overwhelmed, sad, or helpless. However, looking at the world from an optimistic lens while still acknowledging the difficulty of the situation can help you look for solutions instead of staring at the problem. It can help you escape from your own helplessness and move forward to overcome obstacles. In this article, we’ll share how to stay positive when things aren’t going well.

How to Stay Positive (When There’s Chaos All Around You)

1. Meditate to become aware of your thinking

It’s impossible to stay positive if you aren’t aware of your thoughts. When we have ruminating thoughts, we’re often thinking fast about all the bad stuff. If you don’t catch yourself in that state and think, “okay, these thoughts are not serving me or helping me out of this situation,” it’s easy to get stuck in that thought cycle. Sometimes, we love thinking about worst-case scenarios. It makes us feel good. Why? Because it allows us to know what to expect. It gives us our biggest fears so we can mentally prepare for it. However, often, life doesn’t hand you the worst case scenario. And if it does, your brain goes into control by going into a survival mode of fight, flight, or freeze. So when you meditate, you catch your thoughts early on to move on to the next step. You can watch meditation videos to help you become more aware of your thinking. 

meditate on thoughts

2. Replace negative thoughts with positive ones

After meditating and recognizing your thoughts, you can do some internal work to replace negative thoughts with happy ones. In therapy, many people with thought disorders can overcome negative thinking by catching their negative thought in action and replacing it with a more positive outlook. For example, instead of thinking, “I’m not good enough to solve this problem,” you can think, “I have solved difficult problems on my own many times before, and I will get myself out of this too.”

3. Continue to be kind

The easiest way to stay positive in difficult situations is to be kind. When we hit rock bottom, it’s so easy for us to obsess over our situation like no one else has problems. We end up pushing people away by talking about our problem too much. Instead, challenge yourself to do an act of kindness every day. When you see how much you’re helping others, it reminds you of how much good life has to offer. It’s easy to stay positive when you’re contributing to that good. Your good deeds and kindness can have a ripple effect to improve your situation. When you act positively, you’ll get the love and help you need back. You might not get help from the people you expect, but life will ripple out kindness and inner peace back in your direction. 

being kind

4. Express gratitude for the good

Creating a gratitude list of all the things and people you’re grateful for in your life is a great way to stay positive. It’s easy to find positive things when you look at the glass half full instead of half empty. But, knowing you’re grateful for many things reminds you that you’ve still got a lot of good going on in your life. When we focus on the negative, we can’t see all the good things we have. However, when we focus on the positive, we know who can help us and what skills we can use to support ourselves out of our messy situation. Knowing how to stay positive isn’t always easy, so writing down things you’re grateful for is a good start at switching up your thinking. But, of course, having an attitude of gratitude can make a difference in our mental spirit. With so many benefits of gratitude, it’s clear that gratitude and staying positive in tough times go hand in hand. 

5. Remember that life is cyclical

Everything in life is temporary. Bad days turn into good days. Good events have disastrous consequences. A bad event teaches you a valuable life lesson. Life is an ebb and flow of good and bad flowing in and out of each other. There’s nothing inherently good or inherently bad either. But that can be a good thing too. It means that bad moments are just as temporary as good ones. While hitting rock bottom is never a fun experience, the climb back up makes everything meaningful. You learn how resilient you are when faced with tough moments. If you need to know how to stay positive, the reminder that the good will come back to your life is all you need to know. Nothing remains bad forever. Good moments are always a few moments away.

rock bottom

6. Look to your support system

The best way to stay positive is to turn to a positive support system. Keep in mind that not just any person can support your situation. Some people can’t relate to your situation, so they don’t realize how tough you’ve got it. Others will gaslight you because your suffering is hard for them to imagine in their happy states. So your support system needs to be carefully thought out. You might find a therapist who’s helped people in your situation. A friend who’s been through a similar event might provide support for your emotional pain because they understand the hardship well. Positive people might be easy to turn to if they’re grounded in reality enough so that it doesn’t seem like superficial positivity. You can always find a supportive ally to help you through your situation to help you learn how to stay positive in a difficult situation. 

7. Remind yourself that you’re not a victim, just human 

When life hits you hard, it’s important to remember that you’re not a victim; you’re just a human. Being a human means that sometimes you’ll have to overcome adversity, face bad moments, and go through hell. Instead of singing the song, “How could this happen to me?” reframe your thinking to understand that every single human on this planet faces bad periods. Many people experience traumatic events throughout their lives if they live long enough. Interacting with other humans means that sometimes people will insult you, physically harm you, or do things that work against you. This is how unevolved humans act. However, this isn’t unique to you. Build empathy vs sympathy in knowing that once your rough patch is over, it’s time to help people going through their hardships because you know what the pain is like. 

stay positive

8. Take care of yourself

If you need to stay positive when there’s chaos around you, you need to take care of yourself. When people fall into depression, they stop taking care of themselves. Something as simple as showering and washing your hair can help you overcome feeling groggy. Eating less comfort food and more nutrient-dense foods can give you more energy. Exercising or moving your body around throughout the day can fill you up with endorphins that make you feel so good. Stepping outside to get some of that Vitamin D from the sun can also be helpful for your spirit. Some people even do grounding techniques like gardening or walking barefoot in the grass to help uplift their spirits. You can do so many little things to take care of yourself that help you stay positive when things aren’t working out as you planned. 

9. Zero in on solutions instead of problems

When someone says “be optimistic,” we often think it means being unrealistically happy when things aren’t going well. But that’s not what that means. The difference between optimism and pessimism is how you look at a situation. You can acknowledge that a situation is a bit crummy while still being optimistic. Those who suffer from pessimism are more likely to be helpless in their situation. That means when they face a problem, they’re less likely to think of solutions and let the problem grow bigger. However, when you think optimistically, you focus on finding solutions to the problem instead of obsessing over the problem. The more you think about a problem, the more you get stuck in it because all you see are more of them. But when you switch your brain into thinking of solutions, you start finding ways to get out of your situation that you never noticed before. So when you stay positive, you’re more likely to get out of your situation by focusing on the solutions instead of resorting to helplessness. 

10. Don’t let other people’s problems become yours

When there’s chaos around you, don’t let other people’s problems become yours. Don’t get confused with what problem you need to deal with and what someone else is facing. Getting caught up in someone else’s family drama doesn’t serve you. The easiest way to stay positive is to steer clear of other people’s challenges and difficulties. You can still provide moral support without losing sleep. Everyone has their own set of challenges in life. Focus on resolving yours. When you don’t have problems, don’t look problems to solve. Instead, enjoy the moment. You can be a good friend without taking on other people’s burdens. 

11. Focus on the present

In the present moment, you have control. You can’t change the past, and you can’t predict the future. The only moment you can shape is the one you’re living right now. If you’re currently in a dark pit, ask yourself, “What can I do today to make tomorrow better?” Tomorrow might not be your best day yet because nothing changes that fast. However, using the present moment, you can change your situation, so you can slowly get out of it. Being kind, focusing on the solutions, working on improving your thought process, and seeing a therapist are all things you can do to learn and grow in this moment so your future improves. In the present moment, you are safe. In this realm of safety, you should focus on optimism to help you through. Instead of worrying about the future or getting stuck in the past, stay positive in the present moment. 

how to stay positive

12. Look at the facts instead of the beliefs

When life is crumbling around you, it’s easy to get lost in beliefs. We may believe we are in danger. Or that something terrible will happen. Or many other things. However, if we focus on looking at the facts, we can get ourselves out of our situation. Or at least out of our heads. The facts point to the reality of what’s happening. Remember that our brains are wired to keep us alive. So naturally, any perceived danger or threat will get triggered in our minds, making us fearful of the future. Anxiety and the brain are interconnected. However, we become more grounded in reality by looking at the facts rather than beliefs. We also become more clear-headed, making better decisions for our safety and interests. 

13. Don’t let other people’s ideas become yours

It’s highly common for someone to make a comment about you that gets stuck in your head for decades. Have you ever done a thought check to determine the source of your most common thoughts? Who do your worst thoughts come from? Did a person you trust, like a parent, teacher, mentor, boss, doctor, or someone in a respected position, tell you something that made you feel bad about yourself? To stay positive, all you need to do is cut out thoughts from other people from your mind. You have the most context for your life to know you’re a good person. So, don’t confuse someone else’s words with what you think about yourself.

all we have is words


Knowing how to stay positive during tough times is an important part of life. Your positivity doesn’t need to be inauthentic or insincere. Understanding that life is cyclical, looking at the facts of a situation, building out a strong support system, and looking at all the things we’re grateful for, is a good reminder that even on our worst days, life is still filled with many good things. So staying positive can turn a helpless pessimist into their own hero as optimism prevents helplessness. It’s okay to admit that you might be having a crummy time right now, but staying positive is what makes bad days more bearable. You’re strong enough to climb up from rock bottom. So, keep your chin up and remember that this pain is temporary. 

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