Silver Threads: How to Weave Your Own Path to Positivity

Have you ever had something bad happen? I mean something really bad. Like losing a job in the middle of a recession, or an ugly break-up, maybe a severe illness, or the death of somebody really important. The things they put at the top of the questionnaires in therapist’s offices.

We tend not to know what to say when that really difficult stuff happens, and most of us want to be supportive and as empathetic as possible, but yikes, do we blow it sometimes! Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of catastrophic experiences. I won’t go into those here, but time after time, somebody close to me will say, with every intention of being kind, “Well, look at the silver lining…”

Nothing gets my blood boiling like that phrase, even though I know that it’s meant to be supportive. Sometimes, though, sometimes a situation is REALLY bad. So bad that there’s no “upside”, there’s no “good to come from it”, there’s no &$#@! silver lining. In fact, when those really big bad experiences happen, it can feel like a huge slap in the face or an attempt to sanitize the experience to “see the good”. My whole life is burning around me, ad you want me to look on the bright side of life?! Get out of here!

In the midst of those miserable, awful, horrible experiences, though, we can find glimpses of good, little moments of happiness.

Not magical happy endings, or serendipitous windfalls of joy, but tiny hints, reminders that as bad as our surroundings are right now, there’s hope that it will get better. Because really, if there’s one truism in the world, it’s that there’s no other constant but change. Sometimes all we need is something to hold on to until we can make that change a reality, and those tiny moments can be just the thing!

I started calling these tiny positive moments “Silver Threads”. I didn’t have a silver lining, but I had threads I could maybe weave into something substantial if I kept collecting them. At the time, I didn’t know about the Frequency Illusion or the “Law of Attraction”, I just knew I was drowning in sorrow and I needed something to give me hope. Some days, the only good thing I could scrape up was “Thank goodness… nobody threw up on me today.” That may sound ridiculous, but after weeks of a rotating stomach bug making the rounds through my four kids, it truly felt like a milestone worth celebrating.

There are really only two secrets to making this work.

1. You have to mean it. Sarcasm is NOT your friend. You have to truly believe that the “silver thread” you’re noticing, no matter how tiny it may seem, is something that’s authentically good.

2. You have to write them down. If you’re in the middle of chaos, you can tell yourself that you will remember the few brief moments of pleasantness, but you won’t. Your amygdala is wired to seek out danger, and when you’re stressed, it kicks into overdrive. If you’re going to hack into your own system and override the situation, you’ve got to write it down so you can look back every few days and reinforce that Frequency Illusion trick so your mind continues to be on the look-out for more good stuff.

You may have heard of people doing Gratitude Challenges. They work on the same principles… and the amazing thing is, they really do work.

Oh, but you’re not in crisis? Your life’s pretty good? Even better! Just like any other healthy habit, seeking out the positivity and gratitude worthy moments in your life works really well when things are awful… and it works spectacularly when things are already heading in a good direction.

So grab yourself a notebook (or a Positivity and Gratitude Journal like this one I wrote and use in my coaching business) and start capturing the good stuff. It doesn’t take a lot of time, 3-5 minutes a day at most to jot down a few words to remind yourself of the things that are going RIGHT in your world, maybe 15-20 minutes once a week to glance back over the growing list and rekindle those positive feelings. You can do it while you’re drinking your morning beverage, or as a night-time ritual to wind things down on a positive note.

Whatever you choose, however you decide to start a positivity and gratitude practice, do it as an investment in yourself, and before long you’ll have a queen’s ransom in silver.. threads, that is.


Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekin
Sarah Ratekin, founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happiness Is Courage Inc., translates the science of happiness and well-being into actionable plans that get radically positive results. An enthusiastic positivity activist, speaker, author, and researcher, she believes we can change the world for the better by being positive, grateful, and kind, and she’s often quoted as saying “Happiness is a gauge, not a goal”. Her current focus is on helping organizations and teams navigate the particularly complex reality of today’s stressors and engagement challenges by nurturing healthier workplace cultures. No stranger to weird working environments, she believes that everyone deserves the opportunity to develop their strengths, find joy in their profession, and engage in the pursuit of happiness in the workplace and beyond. Sarah has a veritable army of garden gnomes keeping watch over her extensive container gardens and is the proud mother of four amazing humans who are making their positive own marks on the world. She and her spouse Kris, both certified Laughter Yoga leaders, also travel extensively bringing the joy and power of laughter and positivity with organizations of all sizes and industries. In their downtime, they enjoy exploring the outdoors (usually by kayak), dancing, and general merry adventuring. Sarah and her family currently reside in Indiana and travel as often as humanly possible.

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  1. Hi Sarah,

    Welcome again! In my role as a therapist, I find it dismissive when people respond in that manner as one expresses their pain. I do believe, however, that the instrument of hope must prevail to see the light again. I like your ”silver threads.” This is a much more realistic view that can maintain—positivity without negating the pain. I tell everyone, ”write it down” for the therapeutic value it offers. Thank you for this.💖

  2. Sarah, welcome to BC360. We have each day of health to thankful for. We have each new day we are given to be thankful for. Be thankful we have G-d as he runs the world. In the middle of everything, it is not easy to start a positivity gratitude practice. If life is crumbling around your suggestions will not work.

    • It was precisely when life was crumbling (more like exploding violently, actually) that these practices gave me the hope to keep trying. In some ways, a positivity or gratitude practice is kind of like the proverbial “knot you tie at the end of the rope” when you desperately need to hang on. 🙂

  3. I for one, Sarah, have never enjoyed the idea that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The sun will rise again. Sometimes there is a lining and other times there is a thread. But either way, I think when we get ourselves to the place where hope abounds always, even in the midst of tragedy, doesn’t diminish the tragedy, it makes us valuable throughout.

  4. Welcome, Sarah! I’ve learned over a lifetime of enduring traumas that resilience grows out of exactly what you’ve described-the silver threads or I called them the tiny crumbs of kindness or moments of calm (like when I was in nature with the trees, the leaves, the dirt, and the ants that didn’t yell). I have discovered that transcending the bipolar world of both uncomfortable experiences and more comforting ones involves leaning into the impermanence of both-that we keep living through experiences of all kinds and all of them can pass through us. Sometimes we get tripped up because we haven’t gained tools in flowing through the painful ones and these seem to accumulate and get lodged in the “pain body.” Being present to whatever experience I’m having including disgust, grieflove, anxiety, jubilation, peace, calm, discomfort, comfort, agitation… watching these states as they pass through an open heart with as much of a witness consciousness on board as possible continues to be a practice that helps me immensely. Thank you so much for the silver threads. I’ve discovered I’m grateful for all of the experiences of life because it means that I’m still alive, able to feel and experience the pain, the “meh”, and the joys. And then I too will kick the bucket, but I will have known the deep, enduring peacefulness of the seat of my soul that remains untouched by outside, ever-changing circumstances.

  5. Thank you for this Sara! I appreciate your ”silver threads” outlook. What a lovely article to brighten the day (gloomy here is New England)! I agree with you about writing things down. I encourage my own client’s as well as practicing what I preach.💖

  6. Silver Threads. Yep, I agree that when one is really suffering, it feels super crappy when someone says, “Look for the silver lining” however; it really does help to build a staircase out of each small step and those steps may feel like a cherry on top of poop but they really do help. Definitely a wonderful practice.

    WELCOME Sarah!