10 Ways to Find Your Silver Lining in Any Circumstance

January 12, 2022 by Coach Training EDU

by S.E. Reid

Since the start of the COVID pandemic, researchers have been interested in how widespread events impact the collective mental health of a nation. Through countless surveys, experts discovered something intriguing: overall, as expected, most people found the pandemic and its effects a negative event in their lives with difficult consequences. Unexpectedly, however, many also mentioned unlikely positive things to arise from it. 

Quarantine was difficult, but in several cases it united families and deepened bonds. Changes in work were disorienting, but often led to better work-life balance as light was shed on issues. Neighbors came together more. Communities served one another. A crisis led many to find bright spots in the darkness.  

It’s a classic case of the old adage: “every cloud has a silver lining”. And it’s something we all can cultivate. Not just in a serious crisis, like finding the silver lining in COVID, but in our everyday lives, too.  

What is a Silver Lining?

The concept is older than you might think. John Milton, the poet who wrote Paradise Lost, first mentioned dark clouds with silver linings all the way back in 1634. He was referencing the light the moon shines on a dark cloud in the night. But we have the optimistic Victorians to thank for popularizing the idea and turning it into the phrase we know today: every cloud has a silver lining

In the modern era, just like hundreds of years ago, the phrase is meant as an encouragement. That life is difficult, but no matter how dark things get, there is always a bright spot to be found on the edge of every storm. Before concepts like “growth mindset” were born, “every cloud has a silver lining” was a way of seeing the positives in life while acknowledging the negatives. 

Silver linings aren’t meant to erase the pain of a difficult event or season. They are meant to steer us in the direction of healing through positive thinking. The more we can face our toughest times with hope, the healthier we’ll be.  

Positivity and Mental Health

Positivity and mental health have a complicated relationship. It’s no secret that the more you focus on positive things, the more likely you are not to focus on negative things. Experts encourage those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health difficulties to find ways to cultivate joy in their lives through positive thinking and proactive behaviors. While pursuing this attitude, it’s important to make sure you are also maintaining a reasonable outlook on positivity. There is a time for grief and a time for disappointment — be careful not to allow your quest for a silver lining to overshadow healthy processing of life’s darker moments. 

Finding a silver lining is an excellent antidote to pessimism and can help reduce depression. For there to be a silver lining, there has to be a dark cloud, and recognizing the darkness with the light can help your positive attitude be rooted in the reality of the situation, bolstering your resilience to face whatever comes your way.  

10 Tips for Finding (or Creating!) Silver Linings

At its core, finding your silver lining is a shift in perspective. Anything that breaks you out of the ruts your brain typically runs in will help you find or craft the positive side to any cloud. While there’s no exhaustive list for finding your silver lining–or creating one, if you have to!--here are ten tips to help you get started and hopefully inspire your day to day, no matter what life throws at you:

  1. Cultivate Good Health. It’s hard to stay positive when your body and brain are tired and running on the wrong fuel. Getting quality sleep, staying hydrated, and eating the foods that nourish you will go a long way toward helping you improve your overall attitude.  
  2. Practice Gratitude. Being thankful has a snowball effect in your life; the more you practice being grateful, the more things you’ll find to be grateful for. 
  3. Serve or Volunteer. Pessimism has a bad habit of making us self-centered. When we see the world as hostile, we want to protect ourselves. Serving or volunteering for a cause you care about can help you open your heart to the beautiful sides of life, even in dark places. 
  4. Forgive Others. Forgiveness is one of the healthiest things you can practice. When we hold onto conflict and bitterness, it keeps us trapped in unhealthy thought patterns and convinces us that life is all bad. But the more you seek to forgive, the more you’ll find the positives in the worst conflicts.  
  5. Notice the Small Things. We tend in the modern world to run through life so fast, and that breakneck speed makes us miss a lot of amazing details that could bring us joy. Taking time to slow down and take in the world around you–using all your senses–can shift the way you see your daily life.   
  6. Keep a Record. When life gets tough, we tend to lose our memories of the good things and focus on negative things. Keeping a record of your silver lining moments–a journal, a book of doodles, an album of photos–can be a great way to remember. Whenever you need a reminder, look at your record for a bit of cheering up. 
  7. Tell Yourself the Right Stories. When was the last time you paid attention to your inner monologue? Sometimes, the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are pretty negative. If you’re constantly bringing yourself down, it’s time to start telling better stories. Notice the good things about yourself and make those the narratives you lean on.  
  8. Seek out Time With Others. No matter how introverted you are, time spent with others can be a valuable resource for cultivating positivity. In conversation with trusted friends and family, we can loosen up and find grounding and perspective amid our difficulties. Your loved ones will see silver linings that you can’t see.  
  9. Avoid Comparison. If you feel down because it seems like everyone else in your life is happy–especially on social media--it may be time to step away from your screen. Recognize that everyone has dark clouds in their lives, no matter how perfect they look from the outside. 
  10. Get Creative! Art and craft have a way of drawing our focus, giving us something to look forward to, and letting us play. Whether you like to doodle or paint, write stories, sing in the shower, dance in the kitchen, bake cookies, or build furniture, giving yourself time to create will teach you the power of learning from mistakes. And that is one of the best ways to cultivate silver linings in every cloud.   

Look for the Light

It’s not wrong to be sad when difficult things happen. Life is full of challenging situations and real heartache. But after reflecting on your grief or disappointment, you don’t have to stay there. It can be tough work to find silver linings in every cloud, but they do exist. And by shifting your perspective, you can practice positivity in just about every circumstance. 

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