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How to keep smiling during challenging times

How to keep smiling during challenging times

Boy oh boy, have we been having through some challenging times around the world this 2020. Forest Fires, protests, landslides, explosions – oh and a little thing called a pandemic. It can be hard to keep smiling in the face of such adversity. To keep focusing on the good stuff, when the news is full of panic and there are people dying across the world from Corona.

However, the worst thing you can possibly do is fall into a pit of despair and sadness. It’s hard to keep working, being supportive to friends, family, children and neighbours if you’re struggling to get up in the morning and it all starts to feel a little pointless.

  • How can we keep smiling when we’re living in such challenging times?
  • How can we keep our peckers up and keep putting one foot in front of the other?

One of the ways is to take hope from people who have come through enormous challenges themselves. 

People like Victor Frankl, inmate 119104 in a Nazi concentration camp, who was able to survive three years inside, when most of his family and even his pregnant wife died. Victor put his survival down to finding meaning, even in the most horrendous circumstances. Victor worked as a therapist in the camp, reminding others to find meaning in their lives and look outside their current situation to what might be in their future.

Victor wrote in his best-selling book Man’s Search for The Meaning:

the last of human freedoms…to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

His words remind us that the only thing we have power over is how we react to situations. We often can’t change what is happening around us. We generally have little control there. But what we can control is how we feel.

When I was 29 I was diagnosed with cancer. I was a single mum and had a one-year-old baby. It was horrendous. I was scared of dying and leaving my daughter alone in this world. I worried that she wouldn’t know who I was, that I wouldn’t be there to care for her.

I would say there were 2 distinct things that got me through those times and actually enabled me to have a lot of fun while I went through the arduous 6 months of chemotherapy.

One was Victor’s finding meaning in my life, in the sense that I had to survive for my daughter.

There was no way this would drag me down. I started to look for ways I could be in control. I cut my hair before the chemo could take it from me. I organised a rota of friends bringing us home-cooked food. And I asked for help from my best friend to come and look after us. And I let go of the things I couldn’t control.

I also asked myself what I could learn from the situation.

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How could I come out of this a stronger, better person? I saw the experience as just another life event, which I had to get through.

This made it seem much less catastrophic. Back to our central question. How can we keep smiling in challenging times?

  1. Find some meaning in your life. What goals do you have for the future? What people need you to know and will need you in the future? How can you help others and be of service to them?
  2. What can learn from this situation? Life is always throwing us curveballs, it’s just what it does. So what can you learn? How can you move on stronger and more resilient?
  3. Focus on what you can control, and let go of what you can’t. Rather than reading the international news and focusing on events halfway across the world, can you focus on what’s happening in your local community? You can’t help people in Brazil, but could you bake a cake for your elderly neighbour and brighten up their day?

There are tons of other elements I could add in here. Time in nature is proven to improve your mental health. A good sleep makes everything seem better. Connecting with others.

Laughing and simply smiling, even when nothing much is happening releases endorphins and makes you feel better.

So why not go for a walk and pass a smile onto a stranger? It will make you and they feel just that little bit better.

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