The year 2020 will go down in history as one of our most challenging and disliked years. No question we all have been struggling in one way or another. However, some of us may already have been experiencing hard times in a variety of ways, whether it be mental, emotional, physical, social, or financial.
When we are in the middle of hardships, we lament our circumstances with what should’ve, would’ve, or could’ve been, if it weren’t for that particular difficulty. We get stuck with emotions, thoughts, judgments, sensations, and urges to want to control what we cannot, especially our internal pain.
We may not notice that affliction can lead us to personal growth. We may be lacking the right tools to face adversity with courage and resilience. There may be days when we just want to scream, “It’s not fair!” Yet, none of us will be able to escape tribulations.
As you think of the people you admire, have they also endured great challenges? Most likely, their trials have led them to develop unconditional love, empathy, patience, compassion, and flexibility. They understand emotional, physical, and mental pain. Their turbulent times may have been the catalyst for advocacy. Their perspective about life may be less complicated. They are able to find joy in the simplest things.
As you face hardships, your natural reaction may be to push away the unpleasant emotions. Your problem-solving mind may provide unhelpful advice. Though life is not fair, it can still be good enough to enjoy!
Notice the small and simple things
- Find a simple reason to smile, either by yourself or with others, even when no one can see your smile because of the face mask you’re wearing. Just smile, and watch what happens within.
- Observe mother nature’s simple gifts. Take a minute to enjoy the earth’s beauty.
- When someone shows you a kind gesture (smile, nod, says thank you), make it a point to pay it forward.
- Instead of mindlessly saying “thank you” because it’s the polite thing to do, take a second to savor gratitude in your heart.
Expand your perspective
- When you are getting ready for the day, think of a person you admire. What attribute of theirs would you like to emulate in a small way? Notice why, and then do it! Vitality is developed one step at a time.
- At the end of your day, take a few minutes to ponder the advice you would like to leave behind for your posterity regarding adversity. Write it down.
- When pain gets you down, visualize someone you know who is also suffering. As you hold their image in your mind, place your hand to your chest, take in a deep breath and slowly breathe out; then say, “May you have the courage to accept what you can’t control; may you be well and recognize the silver lining in your suffering.” Feel kindness and compassion for this person. What would you like to add?
Continue to slowly breathe in and out, then imagine that person telling you, “May you have the courage to accept what you can’t control; may you be well and recognize the silver lining in your suffering.” What else would they mention?
Lastly, bring yourself to the here and now. Breathe in and exhale slowly. Place your hand to your chest and say, “May I have the courage to accept what I can’t control; may I be well and recognize the silver lining in my suffering.” Take a moment to show kindness and compassion to yourself.
Consider these questions to enhance your growth and gratitude every day.
- How did those activities help my overall perspective?
- How did I adapt to circumstances I couldn’t control today?
- What quality did I utilize or began to work on (e.g., patience, humor, compassion) to help me with my afflictions?
Trust the process, even when you want peace and comfort immediately. When you can’t change the situation, focus on what you can control –how you respond. See if you can slowly develop more flexibility and gratitude despite the pain. Let the process teach you.
“Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall.”
―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Quotes,” Goodreads, accessed October 7, 2020, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/21185-be-still-sad-heart-and-cease-repining-behind-the-clouds