How to look at the positive side of life - even in 2020

  • As the world continues to deal with Covid-19 and social unrest, you can still find good things that happened this year
  • The ‘10 Positive Things exercise’ will help you see the bright side of bad situations
Dannie Higginbotham |
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It can really help put things into perspective when you try and find the positive side of things.

We’re not going to sugar-coat it: in so many ways, this year sucked. The pandemic has forced so many changes upon us, from social distancing to online learning, that it’s easy to feel lonely and bummed out (and understandable!). However, the idea of finding meaning even in the worst situations can be helpful, especially in a year like 2020 when it can be hard to stay positive.

In their book Prisoners of Our Thoughts, authors Alex Pattakos, PhD, and Elaine Dundon have come up with an exercise for finding positivity. The book examines the work of Victor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the Nazi concentration camps.

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Pattakos and Dundon suggest doing the “10 Positive Things” exercise. This challenges you to think of a stressful or challenging situation, and write down 10 positive things that could happen as a result.

Don’t worry about how realistic or socially acceptable they are, and feel free to use a loose definition of the word “positive”. After you complete your list, go over it and let the positivities become possibilities in your head.

Hopefully, this exercise will open your mind to a higher level of optimism and let you see that what might seem like a crummy experience can still teach you something.

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You might even realise that the worst part of this bad situation is the uncertainty; when you have possible outcomes written in front of you, it can help you prepare potential solutions, or maybe even see that your fears were misplaced.

Let’s take an example that’s all too real in school: failing a test. What are 10 positive things that could happen if you fail it?
1 Your parents finally take you seriously when you say you’re bad at that subject.
2 Your teacher realises you’re struggling and offers help
3 It can help you learn what your priorities are
4 It shows which study methods work and which don’t – for you.
5 It helps you see where your true passion and strengths lie.
6 You can finally lose your “teacher’s pet” reputation!
7 It gives you a chance to communicate with your parents
8 Finally, you can fill in the “F” on your grade bingo card!
9 It’s a chance to start over
10 You’ll be happier and more appreciative next time, when you do better

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Get a pen and paper (we’re going old-school) and try to think of 10 positive things that can come out of the following situations:
You remember you have a book report due tomorrow; you haven’t read the book
You get into a fight with your best friend
You don’t get into the secondary school you wanted
Your BFF says they’re moving to another country
Your favourite band announces they’re breaking up

You don’t have to be positive all the time. In fact, that’s not healthy! But it’s also not good for your mental health if you let yourself be consumed by negativity. You don’t have much control over what happens to you in life, but you do have a say in how you react to it. Being able to find the sunny side of things will help make life much easier.

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