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Going Through a Difficult Time? How Positive Emotions Can Help You Cope

We all go through difficult moments in life. These may be ongoing, persistent challenges we face on a daily basis, or more unexpected set-backs that throw us off course.

During these times it can be easy to get sullen and discouraged, and neglect all the healthy positive experiences that can still give us joy and hope.

Though when we’re able to remember the blessings in our life and dwell on the positives instead of the negatives, it offers us a greater chance of coping with hardship.

Research reveals that both positive and negative emotions can occur simultaneously during stressful situations, and that positive emotions offer adaptive benefits to help us manage stress and bolster psychological resilience.

In particular, positive emotions can aid in both resistance to stress and recovery from stress.

Cultivating positive emotions helps us resist stress by broadening our perspective and reasoning. We are able to be more flexible in our thinking and to problem solve more effectively when confronted with problems.

Positive emotions also help us to build enduring social resources for support, and give us a chance to maintain more emotional balance by increasing psychological resilience.

Positive emotions help us recover from stress by offsetting many of the symptoms of negative emotions. The impact of negative emotions physiologically can take a toll on our body and mind.

When we cultivate positive emotions, or general calming emotional tones, it provides us a time-out from the arousal of stress and anger.

Having this breather from stress is crucial to stop from becoming overwhelmed, and allows for easier recovery when going through difficult times.

Here are a few general suggestions for how to cope in a positive way:

Develop a positive outlook on life. Recognize that the problem taking place right now won’t necessarily last forever, and that it won’t ruin your life.

Accept the difficulties that can’t be changed. This may also relate to cultivating forgiveness for others or yourself.

Seek support from friends and family. Be willing to communicate with others about what is taking place, and build bonds by connecting with others.

Do kind things for other people and become involved in community events.

Use positive appraisal for adverse experiences. How can you find some sort of meaning and value in what is happening? Find what can be learned from the experience and how it will help you grow as a person.

Use your strengths and engage in hobbies and activities you really enjoy.

  • enjoy nature
  • journal (write things down, doodle)
  • spend quality time with family, partner
  • watch movies, listen to music
  • play with a pet

Meditate and pray to develop greater patience and relaxation. Use deep breathing for relaxation and prayer for more positive self-talk.

Stay healthy through physical activity, healthy eating habits, and healthy sleeping habits. 

All of these ideas can help us build resiliency to stressful situations. They offer ways to boost our mood and overall well-being so we can be prepared emotionally and mentally when problems arise.

Photo credit: Pierre-Etienne Bergeron


Ong, A. D., Bergeman, C. S., Bisconti, T. L., & Wallace, K. A. (2006). Psychological Resiliency, Positive Emotions, and Successful Adaptation to Stress in Later Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 91 (4), 730-749.

Going Through a Difficult Time? How Positive Emotions Can Help You Cope

Joe Wilner

Joe Wilner is a life coach, licensed clinical psychotherapist (LCP), and drummer from the band Yes You Are. He is also creator of You Have a Calling, a blog and online community helping people discover and pursue their life’s work and mission. Through deep and personalized coaching, he helps ambitious, creative, and spiritually minded individuals make a greater impact, grow as leaders, and design a soulful life they are inspired by.

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APA Reference
Wilner, J. (2012). Going Through a Difficult Time? How Positive Emotions Can Help You Cope. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 29, 2020, from


Last updated: 1 Feb 2012
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