Strategy 1 - Change the story you’re telling yourself
When bad things happen or plans don’t work out, we have a tendency to go around in circles, re-hashing the events again and again and stewing in negative emotions. It’s a toxic and self-reinforcing cycle. The challenge is to break free of that.
Simply saying ‘look on the bright side!’ might sound like naive and cliche advice. But there are concrete steps you can take to break out of negative cycles of thought that make it realistic and effective.
One strategy is gratitude journaling. This is a practice in positive psychology, which involves recording things you are grateful for on a regular basis. You can do it every day, or just start out with the end of every week.
The things you list can be anything from that burger you had for lunch or the nice weather, to graduating from school or getting a new job. Some days you’ll have to look deeper to find three things than other days, but over time, this practice will improve your perspective and increase overall happiness.
P.S. Make sure you keep the habit up!
Strategy 2 - Face your fears
‘Exposure therapy’ is the process of tackling our fears in small, incremental doses. For example, someone afraid of spiders might start by just looking at a photograph of a tarantula, then move onto one in a glass box, then one being held in front of them. It slowly changes the associations we make with a certain scary thing.
The idea behind this is that the more we encounter a situation, the better we’ll be able to deal with it. So, when you encounter a difficult situation that tempts you to quit, consider it a stepping stone to mastering similar circumstances in the future.
Strategy 3 - Practice forgiveness
Practicing forgiveness, both towards ourselves and others, allows us to let go of grudges that are holding us back.
It’s not about excusing what happened or reconciling with whoever caused the negative experience in the first place. It’s an exercise in internal and external self-awareness; it’s about gaining insight into why people act the way they do, looking more kindly on situations, and opening up avenues for self-growth.
Watch the video below, by the School of Life and philosopher Allain de Botton, on the process of forgiveness.