How to Stay Positive When Life Gets Difficult

We have to face the facts, life is hard sometimes.

No matter how hard we try to avoid them, we all experience low points from time-to-time. Sometimes because of bad news, sometimes because of other people, and sometimes, for no reason at all.

We can do our best to stay happy every single day, but life rarely goes the way we plan.

Life’s a journey, and that journey happens to be pretty tough. Pain is a fundamental part of life and that’s why it’s critical that we learn to stay positive when life gets us down.

Here’s how.

1. Focus on the Positive

When we start feeling sad, it’s easy to get stuck inside a cycle of negativity — and that only makes us feel worse. Much worse.

You have to fixate on the positive. It’s cliché, I know, but that’s because it works. Fixating on the positive is about appreciating what you do have, the good aspects of your life — not all of that bad stuff that’s getting you down.

Focus on your family, your health, your career, accomplishments: focus on anything and everything in your life that brings you joy.

Think about the things you’ve done well today. Maybe you ate healthily or stuck to your workout routine — or maybe you just managed to get out of bed this morning.

It doesn't have to be anything brave and noble, but just remind yourself that, actually, you’re not that bad.

You don’t need to change any material aspects of your life, you don’t even need to do anything! Just take a little time to appreciate what you have and give yourself some grace for the things you’ve achieved.

2. Surround yourself with positivity.

Behavioural psychologists agree that your environment shapes your thought processes and personality — even if you don’t realise it.

When you surround yourself with toxicity, you start to think negatively and behave differently.

You pick up the habits and beliefs of the people that you spend your time with; your internal environment is shaped by your external environment which is why it’s crucial that you surround yourself with positivity if you want to feel it.

Since I started spending my time with happy, kind and humble friends, it’s been far easier to stay optimistic when life gets tough.

And it isn’t always about the people. Sometimes, just tidying your bedroom or decorating the rooms you spend the most time in can really affect the way you feel. (Apparently it’s called Feng Shui.)

Put on some music, light an incense stick, buy yourself some plants; go grab a beer with that friend that’s always smiling or take your dog for a walk.

Remind yourself that, amidst all the bad stuff, life is pretty good — even if your thoughts are telling you otherwise.

3. Think solutions over problems.

It’s easy to ask yourself why me?

During difficult times we start to feel like bad things happen in spite of our happiness. How could life be so cruel? That’s so unfair!

This belief is often unjustified and largely incorrect. Life isn’t trying to screw you over, things just happen.

It’s not about what happens, it’s about how you respond. In fact, when life becomes difficult, there is only one person who can fix it: you.
‘What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.’ — Maya Angelou

The best way to remain positive during trying times is to admit to yourself that you are unhappy and it’s up to you to try your best change that. It might mean quitting your job, asking a friend for advice or seeking counsel from a professional. It might even be far simpler than that.

It takes a lot of motivation and commitment, but you can’t rely on anything external to make you happy. You have to find it within yourself.

You know that the rut you’re in is only temporary, and you know that because you’ve been here many times before. You fixed it before, and, chances are, you can probably find a way to make it better for yourself now.

Take a hot bath, tell your boss how you feel, go for a run. Put your happiness first, just for now.


It’s normal to feel unhappy from time-to-time — but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do about it.

To summarise the points made in this article:

  1. First, appreciate what you have and show yourself some love for the good things you’ve done today.
  2. Then, change your environment. Surround yourself with happy people and things you love: pumpkin-spiced lattes, evening walks, your partner’s warm embrace.
  3. And lastly, in your newfound state of bubble-bath-induced joy, think about how to solve the problem that caused your unhappiness in the first place. Put right what went wrong before.

Perhaps not all problems can be resolved, and that’s okay, too. We don’t need to worry about those — life has those things under control.

In the wise words of Steve Maraboli:

“Incredible change happens in your life when you decide to take control of what you do have power over instead of craving control over what you don’t.”

Visit educational philosophy blog, The Apeiron, for more of Jon’s work.

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