How To Stay Happy During Tough Times

We all go through tough times at some stage in our life.

Maybe it’s because of an illness or disability.

Or maybe it’s because of a job loss, unemployment, marriage difficulties, or the death of a loved one.

Maybe your tough times are the direct result of having to endure mistreatment, bullying or abuse.

Whatever the reason, none of us are exempt from this!

We all have to face at some time difficult circumstances and challenges, and endure the pain and discouragement that they can often times bring.

But is there a way to know both pain, sadness and even despair and still experience happiness?

 Experiences in my personal and professional life have taught me that there is!

I would like to share a little of what I have learnt regarding how to do this, in the hope that you too can learn to sprinkle happiness into your life despite your challenges and tough times.


1.     Begin by doing all you can to meet your ‘primal needs’.                                                         

I picked up the term 'primal needs' from Mark Tyrrell at Uncommon Practitioners in his blog “The Primal Human Needs - A New Framework for Happiness". As Mark explains, meeting your primal needs can make the difference between floundering in life or flourishing.  I’m not going to go any further into this, as Mark covers most of what I would say any way in his blog.

To learn more about your primal needs and some tips for how to make sure you are incorporating  them into your life,

Check out  


2.     Process your negative feelings but don’t get bogged down in them.

It’s really important for emotional health to learn how to accept and process your feelings without judging them and preferably not impulsively acting upon them (unless it’s a matter of safety).

The problem is that most of us haven’t been taught how to do this.

Instead, we shame ourselves for thinking and feeling the way we do, and bury our emotions.

Unfortunately, the means we use to keep them hidden or stuffed deep down ends up adding to our problems.

To begin the process of learning how to sit with your emotions, check out Hilary Jacob Hendel’s article on the Change Triangle at

In learning to accept your emotions, it also helps to reflect on why you are feeling the way you do. There is usually a very good reason and knowing what it is can help with the acceptance process.

For example, whilst I was making dinner, I felt a bit down. I observed how I was feeling and how it manifested in my body; I had a lump in my throat. I recognised that I had been thinking about my daughter who has moved interstate. I accepted and acknowledged this emotion by saying to myself, “It’s understandable that I am sad.” All of which took place over a minute or two.

I then make a conscious decision to look for things in my current situation and day that I love and that bring me happiness.

When you turn your attention towards something you love, try and acknowledge this out loud to someone or, if alone, out loud to yourself. This makes it more concrete and allows more time for the experience to register, creating stronger pathways in the brain for noticing the good. Thus, making you feel stronger and happier.

There will be times that this process isn’t so easy. Maybe your serotonin needs a boost or your feelings are so deep and intense they need a more in depth mode of expression, so don’t beat yourself up if you can’t always achieve this process. Although, with practice is does get easier.

Sometimes, though, when you are dealing with a draining , frustrating or disappointing situation, you may need to do a bit of self nurturing by asking yourself, "What would a good friend tell me to do right now? ", and go and do it!

3.     Don’t ignore your problems, but don't make things worse for yourself with negative introspection, rumination, and/or an unhelpful thinking style.

Negative introspection and ruminating (stewing on things and going over and over them in your head), particularly on problems that you can’t seem to fix, will negatively impact upon both your physical and mental well-being.

It overloads your body with stress hormones, increasing anxiety, interfering with much needed sleep, and can lead to depression.

Instead, deal with your problems and concerns by scheduling in a specific time in your day or week on a regular basis to come up with constructive solutions. Leave focusing on the things that are bothering you until the scheduled time that you have set aside. In the mean time, whenever possible, jot down whatever comes up that you need to sort out to address during your 'solution focused' appointment with yourself. Not all the problems you have can be fixed, or at least not immediately, so focus mainly on the ones you can do something about. Write down what you are going to do to address the problem, schedule in a time to do whatever is necessary and for follow up, review how you are going at your next scheduled problem solving time.

Also, check out whether you have an unhelpful thinking style at

5.     Be Extra Kind to Yourself

Treat yourself as you would a much loved friend or family member who is going through a similar situation.

If that person was facing the same situation as you and came to you for help and advice, what would you say to them?

Write down somewhere what you would say and keep it somewhere safe.

Pull it out and read it when you are giving yourself a hard time.

6.     Also, regularly go for mindfulness walks.

Not walks that focus on all your problems but walks where you observe things that are happening around and in you without judgement or bias.

Incorporate into your walk some deep breathing techniques: Breathe in to the count of 3, hold to the count of 5, breath out to the count of 7, breath in, breath out. Notice what's around you, where you are, what you can see, hear, smell. Don't focus on anyone thing in particular. Let your mind float from one thing to another. When you find you having slipped back into thinking about other things, as you inevitably will, go back to the breathing (3 in, 5 hold, 7 out, breath in, breath out), and start again. When you have finished, repeat the breathing exercise but this time focus on everything you are experiencing physically within. In turn, when you have finished with that, do the breathing exercise again and notice whatever thoughts float through your mind. Do the breathing exercise again, and notice all the feelings you are experiencing. Then take a moment to accept all that you have just experienced, all that is you in this moment in time.

This exercise is very grounding and can help you get in touch with yourself in the here and now.

7.     Take a mental break with a Three Day Happiness Adventure

Doing so will help rewire your brain to notice all the great things in your life, subsequently increasing feelings of happiness. It will also help identify the little things that make you happy.

As long as they are relatively safe, physically healthy and legal, sprinkle more of these simple pleasures you have discovered into your life.

Doing so will increase feelings of happiness and give you the strength to cope with your current challenges.

You will find how to do the Three Day Happiness Adventure at:


My hope is that by incorporating some or all of these tips into your life you will create a foundation of resilience and happiness that will help you more effectively get through your difficult time.