No one's life is perfect, but the attitude you choose will make or break you.
Life happens. And sometimes it seems like the worst of life hits us all at once: a dream gets shattered, a relationship ends, finances dry up, sickness comes knocking at the door … each of us has our share of hard times in life. It’s part and parcel of being human. But we have a secret weapon that can turn those tough times in a new direction: our attitude.
Pain is never permanent.
Yes, life happens, but we don’t have to be victims of it. Our attitude is our personal response to whatever life throws at us; at bottom, it’s a choice. A positive attitude helps us change our way of perceiving things, to live the same life in a different way. If the day dawns gray, a person with a positive attitude chooses to bring the sun inside and carry its light wherever she goes. With the right attitude, however dark life may be, we can always live with hope for a better tomorrow.
Pain and suffering
First off, we need to distinguish between pain and suffering. Pain comes without warning; it simply appears, and many people get visited by it often.
By contrast, suffering is a choice. That is to say, we choose to suffer under the painful event that happened to us. This doesn’t mean we can’t cry, sob, scream, and even shut down when pain hurts our soul. What it does mean is that, in the right moment, and after having grieved and wept, it is best to try to find the positive side of it and not dwell permanently in the suffering. This is a choice. The ideal is not to make suffering our permanent home, but a catapult so that the next time something good happens to us, we can actually experience happiness and gratitude deeply.
Remember that happiness doesn’t come just from circumstances, but from our chosen attitude in those circumstances. Life always presents difficulties and these can help us grow and bear many fruits, but it’s up to each of us to see these difficulties as obstacles or as opportunities.
Do you want to be happy even after going through painful moments or a crisis? Change your attitude!
- Give in. Do what you can and leave the heaviest part to God. Recognize and accept that you are not alone in this. And I am not necessarily talking about physical company.
- Change your mental chip. Either you can choose to be a victim of life and circumstances or you can start taking responsibility for what you are today or what you are going through.
- Let go of any fear. Fear has a way of invading and leaving us helpless, because it paralyzes us and keeps us from changing and making progress. Just remember that “do not fear” appears 365 times in the Holy Scriptures.
- Accept the circumstances that you are in — or that you have chosen — and try to see everything in a bright and cheerful way.
- Give thanks for everything. Now that you have already gone through the worst, you will be better equipped to help others who are going through it too. That awful event, and your response to it, forged you into the person you are today.
- Seek the support you need. Look for as much emotional, psychological, and spiritual help as you need.
- Try to live with the simplicity of a child. “Children — in their inner simplicity — carry with them the capacity to receive and give tenderness. Tenderness is to have a heart of flesh and not of stone, as the Bible says. Tenderness is also poetry: it is to feel things and events, not treat them as mere objects, just to use them …” (Pope Francis).
- Recognize and accept that every crisis brings with it a hidden miracle, positive changes, and wonderful teachings if we choose to walk in that direction.
- Let yourself feel. Don’t harden your heart for fear of suffering. Smile and cry when your heart asks for it. The only requirement is always to have a hopeful thought. Do not block any feelings. Live your life from the heart. “Many times our smile turns into a cardboard smile, something lifeless, a smile that is not cheerful, even an artificial smile, like a clown. Children smile spontaneously and cry spontaneously. It always depends on the heart, and our heart is often blocked and loses this ability to smile, to cry.” (Pope Francis).
- Make a list of your blessings. May your first thought of the day be an act of gratitude towards… something.
How anxiety thwarts gratitude and joy, and our interior well-being
So remember, even in the midst of the worst circumstances, there is always a choice and an opportunity: today is a good day to have a great day.
[Editor’s note: There are situations when mental illness can impair a person’s ability to help themselves and professional help is necessary.]
This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.