How to Keep A Positive Outlook When Tragedy Strikes


Tragedies like the Charleston church shooting are a grim reminder that bad things can happen at any time. Usually, we don’t face such major tragedies, but personal issues like divorce, getting laid of, or loss of a loved one, spring up all too often.

One important way to deal with tragedy is to maintain a positive outlook. It’s healthy to grieve and feel down, but you can slip into depression if you let that go on for too long. A positive outlook helps you return to normal functioning more quickly and to process your feelings in a healthy way. According to the Mayo Clinic, it even promotes good health, giving you better immunity to common illnesses like colds, improving your psychological health, and lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Here are some strategies to keep that positive point of view even when your life is awash in negatives:

Find ways to change the negatives in your life

You can’t protect yourself and your family from all bad things, but often you can find ways to take control of negative situations and turn them into something positive. For example, if you lose your job, it could be an impetus to go back to school or to switch to a different field that you enjoy more.

You might think your tragedy is so great that there’s no possible way to turn it into something positive. It is, indeed, possible, as proven by a woman named Renee Napier. A drunk driver killed Napier’s daughter and went to prison for it. Napier got to know him, forgave him, and lobbied for his early release. Then she started visiting schools with him to lecture teens on the dangers of drinking and driving. She couldn’t bring her daughter back, but she found a way to honor her girl and do something positive in her name.

Use positive self talk to get back on track

Counseling is helpful to deal with tragedy, but so is that voice inside your head. Use it to stay on track when you’re veering off into negative territory. For example, if you’re grieving, reminder yourself that the hurt is normal and switch your focus to the positive remaining in your life. If you lose your job, acknowledge your hurt, then tell yourself, “I’m so lucky that I have my supportive partner to get me through this. I lost the job, but I didn’t lose my family.”

Surround yourself with positive people

A positive outlook is contagious, so the Mayo Clinic recommends keeping company with upbeat people. Not only will they support you as you recover from the tragedy, but they’ll also help you remember to look at the bright side of life.

Make positive plans

You might feel numb and paralyzed after a tragedy, but making positive plans will help you break out of that paralysis. It’s easy to sequester yourself in your home and to avoid other people when you’re feeling down. Make a conscious effort to plan upbeat activities like lunch or a trip to the mall with a friend, or perhaps just a meeting for coffee. If you have a favorite hobby, make sure you don’t neglect it. If you’ve always wanted to try a new activity, now is a great time. Trying something new will take your mind off the tragedy and give you a positive focus.

Don’t be afraid to laugh

It takes a while to get your sense of humor back after a major tragedy. You might even feel that it’s inappropriate to laugh when you’re dealing with the aftermath of an overwhelmingly negative experience. Laughter really is great medicine, though, with multiple studies showing its effectiveness against depression. Watch a comedy or funny TV show or hang out with friends who know how to bring a smile to your face. A few good belly laughs will fuel your positive thoughts.