Choosing to Remain Positive in an Environment that You Can't Control

A few practical things that you can choose in the midst of negative or grim circumstances.

I have to shoot you straight; what I am about to share is not top secret.  It's been around for ages. However, this information became especially important to me during COVID-19.  

We all remember the out-of-control feeling we had during those days of uncertainty. As you read this, it might be activating a little PTSD in you.  COVID threw a wrench in our environment, which caused you and I to be stripped of things we had more control over. 

I still remember the feelings that I felt: depressed, angry, sad, confused, controlled, and trapped. I had to learn to choose positive behavior in an environment that I could not control. I know those days have gotten much better, and for the most part, we have recovered most of our freedom back from COVID. It's not the first time your life was hindered by something out of your control, though, and it won't be the last.

So, what if I told you that you have more control in these situations than you think you do? I've heard it said before that our toughest opponent is the organ between our two ears….That's right—our brain. No matter what happens to us or around us, it's extremely important to our mental and emotional health to stay positive. Easier said than done, right? (We take captive of every thought and make them obedient to Christ. -  2 Cor 10:5). You and I have the power to check every thought at the door and choose to allow it to stay or be on its way.  

I would like to share with you 6 simple choices that will empower you to choose positive thoughts and behaviors regardless of your environment.

  1.  Spend time alone with God. I call this Time Alone With God (TAWG). This is your quiet time. This consists of reading the Bible, prayer, journaling, worship, or maybe reading a devotional. Just let God lead you during this time. This is something that I have to fight for. Whether it's morning or night, make it a part of your daily rituals. This will start your day off fresh and encouraged.
  2. Thank God verbally. Now, I know this sounds obvious, but it's sad how little we thank God. A friend of mine told me years ago, “Shane, learn to thank God verbally about everything and anything that comes to your mind. Say it out loud so that you can hear it for yourself. Thank Him for the trees, the birds, your job, car, wife, children, and anything else that comes to your mind, big and small.” He went on to say, “It's impossible to remain negative while you're in the thankful spirit. They both can't live in your head simultaneously.”   
  3. Journal. I'm aware that many people don't journal on a regular basis. (or ever) but there's power in putting your thoughts on paper. When I journal, it's addressed to God in a prayer, entailing my best thoughts and biggest worries. The best part is journaling allows you to release your thoughts and feelings, and no one knows except you and God. 
  4. Laugh. Laughter releases endorphins and dopamine within our brains. These are natural chemicals that are a part of our brain and make themselves known when we laugh. These chemicals were designed to give us a jolt of happiness and excitement. All of us have noticed when Dopamine has been released in us. It's that feeling of excitement when we arrive at our destination for a well-deserved vacation or when our favorite dessert is placed in front of us. Endorphins also increase our body’s pain tolerance. Laughter helps you and me become more resilient.
  5. Sunshine. Sunshine is important because it provides natural vitamin D for the body. Exposure to sunlight releases a hormone in our brain called Serotonin. Serotonin is a mood booster and can help you feel calm and focused. If you're feeling down in the dumps or having a bad day at work or school, try stepping outside for a few minutes to refocus.
  6. Exercise. Before you roll your eyes and sigh, I'm not suggesting that you join a Bootcamp or CrossFit club. Endorphins are released when we move a little and burn a few calories. A brisk walk, short jog, or even doing a little yardwork is enough to move the needle. Similar to when we laugh, this chemical reduces our perception of pain, and in turn, it rewards us by making us feel better physically, emotionally, and mentally. This is where the phrase “runner's high” comes from.


These are just a few practical things that you can choose in the midst of negative or grim circumstances. It's not hard or complicated, but it does take a little dedication and focus on our part. I pray that you find this to be helpful and encouraging in whatever season you're walking in.  


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