What to Do When Life Doesn’t Go Your Way

When it seems like life is getting too stressful, it can help to focus on your breath.

Let’s face it. Sometimes life sucks, I mean really sucks.

There are varying levels of suckiness. Anything from waiting in the line at the DMV for three hours only to find you don’t have the right documentation with you, to sitting in traffic, to stubbing your toe, to more serious and unfortunate problems like losing a job or the death of a loved one.

At these moments of sadness, despair, and confusion, we always want to do something, to take action. To change what happened or change what could be. But we often can’t change what happened and are often too distraught to think clearly about how to change the future. So the first thing we need to do is regain our balance.

A few years ago, I started using a simple habit of my own, combining a simple meditative breathing exercise and a bit of positive psychology to help me regain, if even of for a moment, a sense of clarity. Here are the steps I take:

Breathe in the Bliss

  • The first thing we need to do is find our breath. Our breath is our essence, it’s our constant and without it we are nothing.
  • Find it, listen to it, and watch it flow through your body. Don’t rush it, don’t slow it down: Just observe it.
  • With every breath in, think of one thing you are grateful for.

It can be anything. I am thankful for my warm lunch on a cold day. I am thankful that I grew up with a roof over my head. I am thankful that I have the ability to taste. I am thankful for Nutella and summer days at the beach. I am thankful that my sister is alive. I am thankful that the humans evolved to have two eyes so I could see perspective in the world around me.

Exhale Your Appreciation

With every exhale, give a simple smile of appreciation.

What you are appreciative for can be tangible or intangible, relevant or irrelevant, something you have control over or something you don’t. It can be anything. Sometimes with every breath, I aim to make the things I’m grateful for even more outrageous: I am happy for the tiny specks of matter which gave birth to the cells that eventually led to the evolution of a species that paved the way for me to be here today to see the universe and all its beauty.

In all my times of doing this exercise, I have never run out of things to be thankful for, and that notion is what always brings balance and clarity back to my life. It’s never the exercise itself but the realization that for every breath I take for the rest of my life, there is something I can be thankful for. It puts my entire life in perspective and helps me understand that whatever unfair or tough situation I have found myself in, I still have so much to keeping living for.

But what works for me may not work for everyone—so what do you do when life punches you in the face? How do you get back into your flow?

holstee_logo_2Originally posted on Holstee’s Mindful Matter, the best place to read stories and tips on how to live life fully.

Dave Radparvar is a Co-founder and Creative Director at Holstee. He loves making things with his hands and staring at stars in the sky.