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The Upside of Feeling Down: How To Thrive Through Tough Times

It isn't all bad.

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You wake up feeling…blah.

It may be because of a work issue, a personal relationship hitting a slump, or you’re fighting off a cold. Or all three. Because let’s face it, when it rains, it tends to pour.

It slowly begins to feel like you are going to be this way- forever.

I used to hate this time; I once thought it needed to end as soon as possible because I wasn’t an angry person, I wasn’t a sad person, and I needed to get back to being happy-go-lucky, stat!

This feeling still reigns true, because real talk: no one likes a negative Nancy or a sour puss Sally. But, I have come to realize there is actually an immense amount of value in feeling down.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned:

Self-reflection becomes non-negotiable

The world isn’t black or white, there are shades of grey and when you find yourself living in that grey (not like the 50 Shades novels) you are forced to ask yourself this simple question: Why?

  • If you are filled with rage and want to break things, there is likely some injustice you want to solve or someone you want to take care of who has been hurt (maybe that person is yourself).
  • If you are filled with anxiety, there is likely a threat that lingers overhead and you need to pay attention to your surroundings to find peace.
  • If you find yourself crying in sadness, this shows how deeply you care for something and how close it’s putting you to your own heart and morals.

None of this realization would come it you didn’t allow yourself to feel the emotion, to fall down into it. Emotions are here to guide you, it’s up to you to allow yourself to learn from them.

It becomes the best moment of your life

We so often get wrapped up in how things are supposed to be that we completely miss out on the opportunities that lie in the less-than-ideal circumstances.

You may be thinking, this is insane, but hear me out. There have been some really incredible moments in my life, coupled with some dark times that I chose to avoid for years because…I had to be happy, right? The reality is, whenever you think back about what made you the person you are today, the big wins likely don’t come to mind, it’s the lessons learned and the growth received from overcoming something difficult and painful.

Get this, studies have found we are hardwired to more powerfully recall bad memories because they are triggers to help keep us safe. The bad times stick around so that you won’t fall into their traps again. How kind of them.

Change becomes possible

When things are going great, there isn’t any reason to shuffle life up. Despite everyone’s love for reality TV, you want to keep your life like a show on PBS, not The Real Housewives. The truth is, consistency is comfortable, and comfort creates a sense of safety, so you stay right where you are.

But is that where you want to be forever? Chances are, no.

That sense of safety locks you into the life you have, leading you down a path of mediocrity. When you feel down, it’s a sign that you need to make a change. Whether it is leaving the job you don’t connect with, asking for that promotion you deserve, making a new group of friends or creating a healthier lifestyle — change is what you crave. Your emotions are here to tell you that.

Now, these are all great things to take away from feeling down, but this isn’t the place to hang out forever. Here are a few tips to help you move through the tough time and into a more positive state:

1. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Studies have found that your body has a 90-second physiological response to an emotion, after that any remaining emotional response is a choice. So, cry it out, scream really loud, stare off into space, do whatever comes up for you in that moment. Fully welcome the emotional meltdown in, for 90-seconds and then know, you have the choice for what happens next. Once you realize this, you are now empowered to move forward.

2. Create physical movement.

Get up and move your body. Simply put, physical movement decreases the odds of depression by upwards of 30%. This activity, even for a few minutes, spikes your endorphins and gives you that little sip of happy juice you likely need. Sign up for a workout class, throw on your favorite pump-up songs and dance around your apartment or go on a walk outside.

3. Do something intentional right now.

This time in your life isn’t going to necessarily change itself, find a small meaningful action that you can take right now to get yourself back on track. If you need a new job, you probably can’t jump ship tomorrow but, you can update your resume. If you need to pay off your debt, that won’t happen overnight, but you can log online and cancel any unnecessary subscriptions. Do a tiny task, to get momentum moving in your life. Change doesn’t happen from thought, it happens as a result of taking action.

These small actions aren’t going to make everything better in a single moment. But its the small daily steps that lead to large change.

Use the times in your life when things aren’t going great as opportunities for change. You have the power to transition a moment of feeling down into your greats hope.

This article first appeared on Medium.

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