When Everything Seems to be Going Wrong

It can be hard to focus on the good things, especially when it feels like the world is falling apart around you, and because of you. People are more likely to focus and dwell on the negative versus the positive – this is known as having negativity bias, and it’s nowhere near uncommon. Having good things happen to us feels great! But there’s a comfort to them that our brains can become complacent with, and when negative things end up occurring instead, they tend to have significantly stronger impressions on us, because we don’t expect, nor do we not want them to happen.

So when a string of negative events occurs, versus a positive one, they’re likely to have a greater effect on how we’re feeling too. No matter how minor or major, everything just seems terrible. The buildup of things like getting a bad grade, receiving a text that sounds cold from someone you care about, spilling your coffee, and banging your knee against a table can make it feel like everything is hopeless and that you don’t deserve anything good. This is particularly true for those with depression and anxiety, where you’re likely that much more vulnerable of feeling the intense feelings of negative events, which can lead to things like catastrophic thinking and the snowball effect.

It’s easier said than done, but when it does feel like there are only bad things that are happening and that you’re destined to only experience the negative, it’s important to take a step back, whether it be metaphorically or physically. Whether you’re in public and need to close your eyes and/or take a deep breath, or you’re in your room and can quite literally drop all your things, stand up, and take a few steps back, temporarily removing yourself from the negative, even for just a moment, can remind you that there’s more in your life than the terrible things that are going on.

If you can, physically remove yourself from anything that’s contributing to any negative event, such as pushing the coffee cup away from you, locking your phone and putting it away, closing your computer. From there, list as many things that have happened recently that brought you joy, no matter how few or how minor. You can write this if you can or want to, or you can just focus on this mentally. While our brains don’t dwell in the positive things compared to the negative, focus on these good things and ask yourself why they made you so happy. Think of times before when something similar has happened. Think about how it’s likely that these things can happen again, and when they might happen next.

You can also think about something that you’re looking forward to that’s coming up. It could be something significant, like the semester finishing, or even something small that makes you happy, like going to a movie that you’ve been waiting to see. Knowing that something good is coming up is a reminder that not all things are terrible all the time.

There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. The sun is always there, but you may be only awake in the nighttime, where it’s not visible and you can only see the dark sky. Even if things seem awful now, the truth of the matter is, not all the things are, and even though our brains put more weight on the negative, making ourselves believe that the positive is worth our focus can make a difference, no matter how small.

Have you ever had a bad day? Week? What gets you through times when it feels like everything is falling apart? Share your advice below!

Moderator ★

Hi! The moderator is a research team member with a background in behavioral health. We're here to help answer your questions and stimulate some great conversation! We don't provide therapy and are not available 24-7 so please if you are in crisis, go to our crisis page: https://sova.pitt.edu/i-need-help-now We look forward to talking to you!

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