But is it really possible to feel good all the time? How do we deal with life's little (and not so little) annoyances? Are we supposed to live in a state of denial and take on a Pollyanna attitude? What about the devastating life experiences that shake us to our core, such as the death of a loved one or a natural disaster? How is it possible to remain in a positive emotional state when laboring under feelings of grief and despair?
The short answer is: it's not only difficult, but also detrimental to us to do so.
Our feelings are real. Trying to deny them or smooth them over with blanket statements of positive focus won't help us resolve them at a core level. Instead, it's important to honor our feelings and work through them in a positive and productive manner. How? By admitting that we feel rotten, and allowing ourselves to feel that way. It's okay to feel angry, sad, or hurt when something awful happens!
The best gift we can give ourselves is the opportunity to feel our feelings, genuinely and deeply. When you feel sad about something, let yourself feel sad. Embrace the feelings, and move through them. Write in a journal about why you're sad, and express the feelings rising up within you. Write out your rage, your pain, your grief. Scream your fury to the universe. It is only by moving through your feelings that you can come out of them eventually.
Having said that, we must also reach a point when we choose to step out of our misery and feel hopeful again. We must eventually turn our focus to thoughts of healing and peace. Continuing to stay mired in pain for an excessive amount of time can be just as detrimental as denying our pain altogether. What is considered an "excessive" amount of time? Only you can say. Your grief process might last a few days, or a few years. Simply stay tuned in to yourself, your thoughts, your emotions, and you'll know when you're beginning to move out of the grief process.
What about the smaller annoyances we deal with on a daily basis? This is the more common struggle for most of us. How do we stay positive when facing traffic jams, rude people, misbehaving children, inconsiderate spouses, demanding bosses, financial challenges, and repeated feelings of frustration that we just can't seem to get it together?
Though these experiences seem overwhelming, they are actually the most simple to deal with if you shift your perspective slightly. The best tool I've discovered for dealing with frustration is the ability to choose what I focus on.
Let's use an example to demonstrate this concept. Let's say you're running late for work and you have an important meeting to attend when you get there. You dash to your car, praying for a quick, easy ride to work so you can be on time for your meeting. Shortly after you leave home, you run into a big traffic jam. Cars are moving slower than molasses, and you sit there behind the wheel feeling angry and frustrated because you know you're going to be late for your meeting, which will bring on some unpleasant comments from your boss, and probably ruin your chances for the promotion you were hoping to get. The more you follow this line of thought, the more angry and frustrated you will become. So what can you do to turn this situation around?
Here are the techniques I've found most helpful in frustrating circumstances:
1) Intend a different outcome.
Remember that your focus will attract a corresponding result! You're already stuck in the traffic jam, so denying it would be futile. However, does the existence of a traffic jam have to bring about the negative consequences you envisioned? Not necessarily. You are making assumptions about what this experience will mean to you. If you instead choose to make it mean something else, you can actually change the outcome. How? Try affirming something like this: "Even though traffic seems to be moving slowly, I KNOW I will arrive at work exactly on time. The universe is working with me to create the most beneficial outcome possible." The trick is to put your full faith into this affirmation, and not let yourself become filled with doubt or worry. Then, any number of things could happen to support your new belief. Traffic might begin moving more quickly because the obstruction is cleared, or you might still arrive at work a few minutes late only to discover that your boss and several other coworkers were also late because of the traffic jam, so the meeting begins later than planned.
2) Choose to feel good anyway!
This is a little more challenging, but the more you do it the better you get at it. Simply choose to turn your thoughts to a more positive place. Rather than dwelling on your frustration, find something to feel good about and focus on it. Think about your loved ones, pets, or friends. Recall a happy memory that makes you laugh out loud. Carry some uplifting audio books in your car so you can listen to them when you need a boost. Turn your attention firmly away from thoughts that increase your worry and irritation, and toward thoughts that make you feel happy.
It seems difficult to overcome negative thoughts and feelings, but it's really as simple as choosing your focus moment to moment, day after day. The more practice you get at feeling good overall, the more you'll find yourself able to step calmly over minor irritations, and deal effectively with bigger issues.