When life feels hard, we can ask a little question to open up our mind.
Life is 50:50
The thought that our life experience is and will always be 50:50 – 50% positive and 50% negative – can be very helpful, especially at times when we feel a bit overwhelmed by the demands and challenges that our daily life throws at us.
It can be a relief to deliberately remind ourselves that ‘there are two sides to every coin’ and that ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.
But how can we flip the coin so that we can see the positive side
- when everything just seems to be so dark, and dull, and hard?
- When our intellectual knowledge about the power of positive thoughts doesn’t help us at all because we just can’t find anything positive to think about?
A little two-step exercise to shift the focus of our mind from negative to positive
Step 1: We accept our ‘dark’ thoughts and feelings, we no longer fight or resist them.
We decide to stop feeling bad about feeling bad. We allow ourselves to experience the negative thoughts that our human mind tends to bring up in challenging times.
Being human is not easy all the time, as we all know.
Being human includes that we sometimes think and feel that life is too hard, that we experience some days or periods in our life as dark and painful. And that’s okay. We don’t always have to try to change it, we can decide to just accept it as it currently is.
Step 2: We open up our mind by asking ourselves: What else is true? (Source: April Price)
As we no longer have to argue with our mind about the hard parts of our life and we no longer have to resist the negative thoughts and feelings it brings up, we gain mental space and new energy to now say,
‘Yes, okay, this is hard. But what else is true?’ What does the other side of the coin look like? Where is the silver lining?
This little exercise can very quickly help us
- redirect our attention to the positive things in our life (which are always there, and always make up 50%),
- without denying or suppressing the negative parts of our current experience (which are always there, yes, but make up only 50%).
This is one example of how I used the 2 steps during the pandemic 2020:
My four sisters live in Germany, far away from me. During Covid, I worried a lot about them. I knew that they felt frustrated and sometimes isolated and lonely because of all the restrictions and regulations. I thought of them often, I felt sorry for them, and sad.
I did the little exercise in writing. This is an excerpt from my notes:
“Step 1: I accept my thoughts and feelings.
Okay, that’s how it is at the moment. I believe that life is difficult and hard for my sisters right now. The consequence is that I have thoughts that make me feel sad about/for them. And that’s okay. No need to force myself to think/feel better about it.
Step 2: I ask myself, ‘What else is true’
I list all the answers that come to my mind:
My sisters are more connected to each other now because they are all in the same situation. They have more empathy and understanding for each other. They help and support each other. They are all strong and capable to cope with this situation and they will get even stronger because of it. They are all doing comparatively well – they are healthy, have their families around, have their jobs/enough money.”
At the end of this little exercise I still felt sad – and that was okay – but I also felt calmer and less worried.
Give it a try – Create a balance of positive and negative
What’s a situation that you are experiencing as negative or hard, that you have ‘dark’ thoughts and feelings of worry or sadness about?
Could it be helpful to you
- to first deliberately accept these thoughts and feelings, and then
- to ask, ‘What else is true about this situation?’