The Bright Side

I am constantly moved by how people can overcome obstacles in life and still see all the beauty that there is.  The fact is, many of us will face something pretty catastrophic at some point in our lives. Whether it’s a devastating loss of a child or a partner, a chronic illness, an accident that leads to a disability.  It’s actually pretty amazing that people come out on the other side of these things. Of course, not all setbacks are going to be so severe…but they can hurt just the same.  

So how can we build resilience?  How do we know we are starting to heal?  What prompts someone to come out of total darkness and start seeing some light?  And what does “looking at the bright side” really mean? Is it different for everyone?  

There are several ways that we can build resilience.  Being able to regulate oneself is essential. This means that we can assert some control over our behaviors and can manage the range of emotions we might feel.  

We can develop resilience by building a strong support system.  It’s important to seek out relationships that are healthy and supportive.  Having a network of people who care about us and are dependable during times of stress is essential.  

Healing from trauma is a long process, and it is important to acknowledge progress along the way.  One of the biggest contributors to healthy healing is finding some meaning in the struggle that one has been through.  Is there something to learn from the experience? Is there an opportunity to reach out to others going through something similar?  Maybe an opportunity to educate or advocate?  

How many times are we told to “look on the bright side?”  It sure sounds nice, doesn’t it? But, like most cognitive exercises, it’s easier said than done.  Luckily, there are some ways to enhance your ability to look on the bright side:

  1. Search for a silver lining.  Has there been ANY positive outcome…no matter how small?  Did you grow somehow? Are there things that you appreciate more?  
  2. Start a gratitude practice.  Start and end the day by listing 3 things you are thankful for.  Pretty soon you will find you are naturally noticing the good things.  
  3. Choose a positive visualization.  Pick something that evokes good feelings.  It can be a good memory, a person, place or thing that you love, or something that you are looking forward to in the future.  Be intentional about focusing on this visualization when you are going down a negative thought spiral.  

Try some of these strategies and see how it feels.  Remember that these strategies take practice, just like developing any other skill. Feel free to be creative and discover what works best for you!

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