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.