(Exactly) How to Stay Positive When Bad Things Happen

It’s a harsh reality of life that bad things happen.

On a global scale, wars, famine and natural disasters can really shake the foundation of the world, while deaths, failure and personal tragedy can make you question everything.

But we can’t change that.

All we can do is learn how to stay positive when bad things happen, and this post is all about being strong in the face of adversity.

As we talk about staying positive when bad things happen, I want to reiterate that the point is not to never feel sadness or to not let bad things affect us.

In fact, part of the healing process is feeling our feelings and working through them and doing things to calm ourselves when stressed.

Think of this as more of a guide on how to get positive again after bad things happen and renew your hope for the future, including how to stay focused and how to not give up.

Okay, everyone grab your inspirational calendar like this one to keep you going.

Personal stories of staying positive when bad things happen

Within a span of about a year, I had lost my grandmother to a quick moving cancer, my grandfather to old age and the loss of his wife, and another grandma unexpectedly after a failed open heart surgery.

On top of that, in a one week window, people close to us lost both people and pets they loved. 

It’s enough to make you feel like there’s no end to the tragedy and you’re just waiting for the next thing to go wrong.

For me, learning how to stay positive when bad things happen was a conscious effort and not a natural process at first.

The unfairness of the world can be a lot to take, but there is hope on the other side.

Tips for staying positive when bad things happen

This guide on how to stay positive when bad things happen contains both practical and attitude driven advice on how to carry on when bad things happen.

1. Think of a time when bad things weren’t happening

When bad things happen, particulary in a string of events, it can be hard to think about or remember times when things weren’t going wrong.

But staying positive when bad things happen requires you to know that there will be a more peaceful time in your life to come.

Part of how I focus on this is by thinking back to days or periods of time in the past when I was particularly happy or peaceful. 

Sure, bad things will always happen and you can’t stop them altogether, but for most people they don’t happen constantly, day after day.

There will be better times ahead, even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

2. Plan something to look forward to

Having something on the calendar that gets you excited is one way to be positive again after bad things happen.

When we have nothing to look forward to, we can become stagnant and listless. 

Planning something to look forward to could be anything from a vacation to a dinner with friends to buying yourself something small.

Just think of some things you want to do and try and shift your focus from the bad things that have happened to the fun or fulfilling things to come. 

Making a gratitude journal sounds cheesy, but if you’re really struggling to see the positive after bad things happen, training your brain to notice things you’re thankful for rather than what went wrong can be a lifesaver.

Whether you want to write down one thing or five things or ten things, the goal each day is to make a note of what you’re grateful for and things that have gone right.

It could be the bare minimum, but even in tragedy, you can find the good in every day.

It doesn’t mean that things aren’t hard or that horrible things haven’t happened, but it does help you to see the world in a more complex way that also leaves room for the good stuff.

3. Tell people you need help 

Communicating with friends and family is a major way to help people stay positive after bad things happen.

Having a community around you has always helped, since the beginning of human existence, and when people know you’re struggling to stay positive, they can make it a point to bring as much good as possible to your days.

Sometimes, just voicing that you don’t know how to stay positive when bad things happen can be a cathartic experience.

You may find that others are feeling the same way and can work through it together, or just the experience of getting that thought out into the universe can help you overcome it.

This could also include getting help from a therapist using a site like TalkSpace.

4. Make changes to your habits 

Sometimes, we need a little shake up after bad things happen in our daily routines to get us out of our funk.

It could be something as easy as having a full glass of water before you get out of bed each day to focus on your health, or it could be altering your daily schedule using one of these getting things done tools and moving things around for a little bit of a different experience.

No one likes to hear it, but exercise is fantastic for your mental state so if you don’t already move a lot, signing up for a Zumba class or taking up jogging daily can really help you stay positive after tragedy.

Use this habit tracker to keep you on schedule.

5. Put things in perspective

You are allowed to feel however you feel when bad things happen to you.

You should never minimize your own feelings because other people have it worse, because it’s just not helpful and makes you feel even worse without being in any way helpful to other people who are also struggling.

When I say “put things in perspective,” I mean from a very personal standpoint.

Maybe your friend died, but instead of constantly focusing on the loss, can you think about your friendship as a whole and all of the moments you laughed together?

Maybe you lose your home in a fire, but focus on the fact that your whole family is safe.

When we try to put things in perspective in our own lives, it helps to keep our attitudes positive.

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