They’re out there for everyone; tough times. No matter how glamorous, perfectly filtered, or flawless a person’s life may seem on Instagram, tough times ensue for us all.
God rains on the just and unjust, my dad used to say. Bad things happen to good people. It’s a horrible fact of life.
OR is it something we can leverage, having knowledge and awareness to get through the tough times?
I think one of the biggest myths we humans believe is that we just have to settle for what life throws at us. We have no choice in the matter but to suffer, be miserable, and complain.
When I woke up to the reality that my power is in my RESPONSE to the bad things that happen to me, a light turned on. A big, wonderful, radiant light. And I’m never shutting it off, no matter how ferociously the tough times tell me otherwise.
Think of it this way, with tough times being inescapable, isn’t getting through them perhaps the most noble act of control our human selves can partake in? And not just get through them begrudgingly and in deepened pain, but get through them with grace and perhaps even some joy sprinkled in with the pain. We cannot control circumstances, but we CAN control our attitude.
Hallelujah! There’s some hope!
Now, easier said than done, but here are three simple ways to find joy in tough times.
1 Lower Your Expectations
Say what? Sounds like a bad thing. But in this instance, it’s not.
We as humans like to think we are privy to a hardship-free life. When it rains on our one off day, when we spill coffee on our shirt, when something deeply horrible happens to a loved one, we all have this notion that bad things shouldn’t happen to us.
If we check in with reality, that is a vast world full of billions of possibilities and outcomes, we see that bad things are really just THINGS that happen. Murphy’s law. We as humans label them good or bad, based on their meaning to us.
Next time you trip or find yourself catching every red light, think of it as simply a biproduct of all the amazing things happening in the cosmos at once. Out of ALL the people, possibilities, instances, and happenings, one is bound to go awry to YOUR personal preference and viewpoint of the world, is it not?
When we manage the mindset that bad things shouldn’t happen to us, we open the door to receiving tough times as simply a temporary season of life, not a crushing blow to our eternal happiness.
2 Return to Gratitude
You know that saying, “bad things come in threes?” Or, “when it rains, it pours?” It seems like when tough times come, they’re met by more tough times, sort of like a series of ocean waves beating us over the head again and again.
Can’t we catch our breath?
It’s easy to develop anger and start feeling as if the world is out to get us. We can become fearful and bitter.
The anecdote for both of these unpleasant emotions? The remedy to the venom that is fear? GRATITUDE.
I’m not kidding. It might sound corny, woo woo-spiritual, or just plain ineffective, but I can tell you with 100% certainty and experience in my own life struggles, gratitude is an amazing solution to the pain of tough times.
Dwelling on the hardships will only breed ground for more suffering and unpleasant emotions in our mind.
Pause when these thoughts begin to race, when the pain feels crushingly deep. Close your eyes, put your hand on your heart, and breathe.
Think of one thing you are grateful for, one thing that is good in your life. Is it a loved one’s face you see coming into your mind’s eye? Is it the patch of flowers on your commute to work that sprouts from the concrete miraculously? What is one thing that you can truly appreciate, something that didn’t have to befall upon you, something goodness or grace provided you.
Think of another thing you can be grateful for, fill up with the thought of it. And another. And you’ll feel the fear subside, the pain halt. Because you cannot feel fear and gratitude simultaneously.
I learned this technique from Tony Robbins and it really is a groundbreaking way to get through tough times. Better yet, it allows room for actual JOY during tough times, something I really never even thought was possible.
In addition, I’ll often pour through old cards and letters or photo albums to remind myself of all the beautiful connections and joy I’ve experienced in life. I can actually feel my spirit lifting when I do this.
3 Tactile Remedies
Not much for the mindset stuff? Try these tactical remedies that subconsciously affect your mood and outlook.
Take a shower. It feels refreshing and in the midst of hardship, is a valid accomplishment. The cascading water produces negative ions, a naturally healing effect that lowers cortisol and improves sleep. SCIENCE.
This isn’t woo woo (populated cities and stagnate indoor air produce positive ions, the opposite effect).
Dress how you want to feel. This might not be for everyone and I totally support sweatpants as daily attire. BUT, when I have to go out in public I’ve noticed I can ease the burden during a tough time by wearing something truly fabulous, taking a few extra moments to curl my hair, or whatever little action that makes me feel bomb.com
I notice my days at work are more productive and I feel better overall.
During a recent dark time, I think I successfully styled my hair and applied makeup more often than ever before. I personally can’t bare to feel crummy on the inside and outside all at once.
This is a simple way to show my mind HOW I want to feel.
Tough times are something we can also choose to sit with as long as we want. Pain requires attention, emotion, and processing and I don’t want to belittle any of that. There is a healing journey that takes place for many of us that experience tough times, but the above methods can help for when you’re right smack in the MIDDLE of the toughness, when joy seems near impossible.
I hope you read something here that blessed you, that was eye-opening, or interesting. And if not, thank you for taking the time to read another soul’s words. That in itself is such a kind, admirable act!
If you have any other ways to find joy in tough times, I would absolutely love to hear, please comment with them below or message me on IG 🙂
Cheers to seeking joy in pain.
Psalm 30:5 There may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.