How to Stay Positive when You Know Your Life Sucks 

How to Stay Positive When You Know Your Life Sucks

Co-authored by 

Trudi Griffin, LPC

Explore this ArticleIdentifying a Possible CauseDecreasing Negativity and Increasing PositivitySeeking Help in Therapy or MedicineQuestions & AnswersRelated ArticlesReferences

A number of situations can arise throughout a lifetime that may cause a person to feel that their life sucks. This may include the loss of loved ones, the loss of a job, long-term unemployment, chronic illness, break-ups and divorces, and more. In all of these situations, it is normal to feel low. Yet it is also important to realize that it is possible to rebound from these situations in time through positive thinking, that is by thinking about problems in a more optimistic and productive way.[1] In addition, there are a number of strategies you can consider to help return to happiness and to regain a positive view of life.



Identifying a Possible Cause

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    Look for possible reasons why you think your life sucks. There are a variety of reasons why you may feel like your life sucks. If you experience a lot of daily stress, you may feel anxious or depressed. You may even have physical symptoms such as headaches or insomnia.[2] Common sources of stress include:[3]

    • Major life changes. If you’re going through a period of upheaval, such as getting out of a relationship (or getting into one), changing your job, moving to a new place, etc., you’re probably experiencing stress. New situations and life changes aren’t very easy to adjust to, but you will make it if you keep the faith and have a positive, hopeful attitude.
    • Family. If your family life is in disarray, you may feel upset, sad, or anxious. Perhaps you have a dysfunctional familysuicidal parents or have to take care of an elderly or sick family member.
    • Work/School. Work or school obligations are a huge source of stress for most people. If you feel unappreciated at work or school, or stuck at a dead-end job, you may feel like your life sucks.
    • Social life. If you’re feeling isolated or disconnected, you may feel like your life sucks. Or, if you feel anxious about meeting new people or hanging out in social situations, you may experience stress if you have to do these things.
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    Keep a journal. One way to figure out a possible cause for your feelings is to identify when you feel them. Keeping a journal will also allow you to identify what elements of your situation you have control over, which will help you stay positive.[4] In general, you should remember that you cannot control anything other than your own actions and responses.

    • For example, you might notice that you feel most upset and sad when you’re at work. You may feel unacknowledged and unappreciated. You may feel overworked. This situation sucks.
    • Ask yourself what elements you have control over. You can’t control whether others appreciate or acknowledge your contributions. However, you might be able to be more assertive about owning your accomplishments. You can control whether you say “yes” to every project that crosses your desk. You can also control whether you look for a different job in a place that might be a better fit for you. Find ways to empower yourself, and you may find that you feel like your life sucks less.
    • Try to come up with a list of things that you can do to help you own your situation. For example, if you feel overworked, you might consider talking to your boss about your workload or negotiating a pay raise. If you don’t feel appreciated, you might consider looking for a job in a place with a better corporate environment. Make a list of specific, concrete actions that you can take.
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    Ask yourself the following questions to help analyze yourself. Are you suffering from a major illness? Do you abuse drugs and/or alcohol? Have there been any major events in your life recently? Have you recently experienced the death of a loved one? Do you have any personal conflicts? Do you have a history of abuse or trauma? Are you on any prescription medications?[5]

    • If you answer yes to any of these questions, it could provide insights into why you think your life sucks.


    Consider possible biological causes. Many people are unable to figure out why they think that their life sucks.[6] Research has shown that genetics play a role in depression. If someone in your family suffers from depression, there is a chance you may as well.[7] Some medical conditions, such as underactive thyroid or chronic pain, can also cause depression.[8]

    • Women are twice as likely to become depressed than men.
    • Changes in hormone levels can also cause depression.[9]
    • Changes in the brain may cause depression. Studies of people with depression have revealed that the brain undergoes a physical change.[10]



Decreasing Negativity and Increasing Positivity

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    Recognize when you are thinking negatively. It is important to realize your negative thinking so that you can begin to change negativity into positivity. Negative thinkers tend to always anticipate the worst in a situation. In addition, they are quick to blame themselves for anything bad that has happened. Moreover, negative thinkers tend to magnify the negative aspects of any given situation. They also tend to polarize a situation, only seeing things as good or bad.[11]
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    Change negative thinking into positive thinking. Try to check in on your thoughts regularly during the day. Identify what you normally think about in a negative way and put a positive spin on your thoughts. It also helps to surround yourself with positive people, as negative people can increase stress and increase your own negativity. Here are some examples of changing negative thoughts into positive thoughts:[12]

    • This is scary, I’ve never done it before. = I have a great chance to do something different.
    • I’ll never get better at this. = Let me try this one more time.
    • This is too big of a change. = Let’s try something new and exciting.
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    Try not to define yourself by your environment. It can feel like where you are in life defines who you are. If you’re in an environment that sucks, it can be hard to remain positive. Focus on your innate qualities, rather than the situation around you. Remember: the situation is always temporary.

    • For example, if you’re worried about being unemployed, remember that your job status doesn’t define you as a person. Consider this an opportunity to pursue a new direction, or search for meaningful work in another area, such as volunteering or focusing on your family.
    • If you’re feeling like your life sucks because you’re being bullied, remember that bullies take their own insecurities out on others. Their actions only reflect on them, not on you. Inform the proper authorities, such as your parents, a counselor, or principal, and stay strong.
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    Get out and be social again. Oftentimes people who feel that their life sucks will remove themselves from social contact. Ironically, this can be a further cause of depression. Take small steps to get yourself back into social circles again.[13]

    • Try meeting a friend or family member for a brief coffee at first.
    • Make more phone calls to friends and loved ones.
    • Don’t expect to enjoy it at first, or to be the star of a party. The key is baby steps back into social life.
    • Be friendly with strangers you meet throughout the day. Don’t shy away from small talk. Talking with strangers can boost your happiness.
    • Join a club or taking a class to meet new people.
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    Try to think clearly. If you believe your life sucks, chances are that you are not thinking clearly and not responding to situations in a reasonable manner. Instead of letting your thoughts get out of control, return to clear thinking by asking yourself the following questions.[14]

    • How can I test if this idea is valid or not?
    • Was this always true?
    • Are there any exceptions?
    • What is the missing part of the picture here?
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    Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet. Exercising three times a week has been shown to relieve mild to moderate depression. It will help you feel better about yourself, help you sleep better and can even improve mood. Eating a healthy diet is another way to help with depression. Limit your alcohol intake to one drink per day and eat a wide variety of healthy foods. You should also avoid drugs, smoking, and other habits that are detrimental to your health.

    • Aerobic exercises are particularly effective. Try working out for 30 minutes on a treadmill, or going for a 30-minute walk.[15]
    • Yoga may provide relief as well.
    • Try eating fish, drinking plenty of fluids, whole grains, and fruit.
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    Try meditation and repeat a meaningful mantra. Repetitive messages, whether positive or negative, can have a big effect on the psyche. Replace all the noise with positivity by filling your mind with meaningful thoughts. Pick a mantra that helps you get through the day. Repeat it when you feel overwhelmed, and each time you do, think about what it really means.[16] Here are some examples.

    • Be the change you wish to see. (Mahatma Gandhi)
    • Action is the antidote to despair. (Joan Baez)
    • None but ourselves can free our minds. (Bob Marley)
    • It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness. (Eleanor Roosevelt)
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    Figure out what life means to you. People who feel that life has a purpose tend to be happier than those who think it’s meaningless. Have you ever taken time to think about the meaning of life? No one can truly know the answer to this universal question. However, you can decide what life means to you. Finding the meaning in your life will help you keep getting out of bed every day, even when things are at their worst.

    • Some people find meaning by participating in religion or nurturing their spiritual side.
    • Learning more about philosophy might also help you figure out more about your personal worldview.
    • On a more intimate scale, the most meaningful parts of your life might be your relationships, your work, your art, or something entirely different.
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    Slow down to savor the good parts of life. There are bound to be a few things in your life that bring you comfort or peace. Whether it’s drinking that first cup of coffee in the morning, walking to work in the sunshine or taking your ten-minute smoke break, savor the moment. Give yourself permission to slow down and enjoy the good things in life. You’ll develop a healthy reserve of positive thoughts you can draw upon when things get bad.[17]

    Be helpful to others.[18] Even doing something as seemingly insignificant as carrying someone’s groceries will give you a boost of positivity. Exerting more effort through volunteering will give you even better results. Figure out what you have to give, and share it generously as often as possible.

    • Think you have nothing to offer? Find a homeless shelter in your area and volunteer for a few hours a week. You’ll see that every bit of time you can spare is absolutely needed.



Seeking Help in Therapy or Medicine

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    Research the techniques involved in cognitive therapy to see if it is for you. Much of the time you spend in cognitive therapy will involve tackling your real-life problems.[19] A therapist will help you to examine and adjust your unproductive negative thoughts and behavior, and try to reduce the effect these thoughts and behaviors have upon you. You will work as a team with your therapist, making joint decisions about what will be discussed and what ‘homework assignments’ you receive.

    • Cognitive therapy has been shown to be as effective as anti-depressants to improve mild to moderate depression.
    • Cognitive therapy is as effective as anti-depressants in preventing relapses.
    • The benefits of cognitive therapy often appear in weeks.
    • Chose a cognitive behavioral therapist and book an appointment if this option appeals to you. Begin with an online search of therapists in your area, try the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies website.
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    Research interpersonal therapy to see if it is for you. Interpersonal therapy is specifically for individuals with interpersonal issues. This is a short-term treatment option, typically lasting one hour per week for 12-16 weeks. Therapy sessions are specifically designed to help with interpersonal conflicts, changes in a person’s social role, grief, and problems with developing social relationships.[20]

    • The therapist will employ a number of techniques including empathetic listening, role-playing and communication analysis.
    • Find an interpersonal therapist if you feel this is a good option for you. You can do an online search for an interpersonal therapist in your area. Psychology Today has a large directory.[21]
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    Research family therapy is to see if this is for you. A family therapist will focus on helping family members resolve conflicts with one another. The therapist will customize your sessions according to your problems, and any family member who is willing to participate will be welcomed. The therapist will examine your family’s ability to solve problems, explore the roles that family members have, and will identify your family’s strength and weaknesses as a unit.[22]

    • Family therapy is particularly effective for individuals with marriage and family issues.
    • Find a family therapist and book an appointment if this option appeals to you. Again you can begin your search online. The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapists is a valuable resource.[23]
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    Research acceptance and commitment therapy. This type of therapy is based upon the idea that greater well-being and happiness can be achieved by overcoming negative thoughts, feelings and associations. The therapist will work with you to change how you perceive negativity to help you see life in a more positive light.[24][25]

    • Find an acceptance and commitment therapist and book an appointment if this option appeals to you. Again you can begin your search online. The Association for Contextual Behavioral Science is a good place to start.[26]
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    Pay close attention when choosing a therapist. You will want to examine their training and qualifications. You will also want to pay attention to any potential fees and whether they accept any insurance you may have. You should also ask about how the therapist usually sees patients.

    • Find out if the therapist is certified in your state, and if they are certified in the specialty you are seeking.
    • Ask how much the therapist charges per session, if they charge according to your income and if there is a charge for the first visit (there may or may not be).
    • Ask how often you will see the therapist (once a week or more frequently), how long the sessions are, and if there are any limitations on confidentiality.
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    Seek help from your physician if none of the other methods have made you feel more positive. Feelings of depression can be very difficult to overcome, and many people seek out advice from their physicians regarding the solutions they can offer. If you have a primary care physician, he or she should be your first call. If not, find a primary care physician online and book an appointment to discuss your issues.
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    Know what to expect at the doctor’s appointment. People typically associate the doctor’s office with blood tests and sending samples to the lab, but this is not the case in diagnosing depression as lab work will not help to reveal depression. Instead, your doctor will do a physical evaluation and a personal interview to determine if are suffering from depression.[27] The doctor will be assessing the following.

    • Sadness or depressed mood.
    • Change in weight.
    • Fatigue.
    • Insomnia.
    • Thoughts of death or suicidal thoughts.
    • Lab work may be used by the doctor to rule out physical causes for depression.
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    Expect your doctor to prescribe medicine to help with your depression. It is likely that your doctor will recommend therapy to help with your depression. However, there are a number of medicines that can significantly help with depression as well. If your doctor prescribes any of these medicines, be such to follow his or her advice exactly. Anti-depressants should only be taken exactly how a doctor prescribes them.

    • Some medicines prescribed for depression include Paxil, Lexapro, Zoloft, and Prozac. Different medications work differently for different people, but thee medicines will usually take full effect in approximately one month.[28]


Community Q&A

  • Question
    What if most of the things listed in Method 2 just make me feel worse?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Ignore Method 2 if none of those things work for you. Sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to eat right, exercise, meditate, etc. If you’ve been through a lot, maybe a traumatic experience or a very stressful time, it is okay to acknowledge how you feel instead of trying to force yourself to feel better. Try not to wallow too much, however. Set yourself realistic positive goals, for example: get up, shower, and dress, even when you feel at your worst. Tell yourself well done for getting this far, and give yourself a break.
  • Question
    How can I stay positive when the person I was going to marry left me two weeks before the wedding?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Call as many vendors as you can and explain the situation to them – you might be able to get a portion of your money back. As for your ex, when someone shows you who they really are, believe them. Use this time to focus on all the goals you have for yourself as an individual. Realize that there are many versions for your future life and that perhaps there is a version you have not thought of yet that is even better than being married to this person. If you paid for a honeymoon, take a friend or family member and use the time to relax.
  • Question
    How can I keep my spirits up while trying to lose weight?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    It depends on why you are trying to lose weight. If you are losing weight because you feel pressured by the media or your friends to do so, it’s hard to stay happy. If you’re losing weight because you want to improve yourself, then focus on all of the benefits you’ll reap from losing weight, like better health and a nicer figure.
  • Question
    How do I stop my life from being terrible?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Ask yourself where you’d like to be in 10 years. Focus on working toward that place and don’t let yourself become self-destructive. Life isn’t always great; sometimes you just need to keep moving forward. It will get better.
  • Question
    I am in a relationship. My girlfriend doesn’t allow me to talk to other girls, but she talks to other guys. We have been arguing all week. What do I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    That’s a sign of a toxic relationship. You should be mature enough to talk to other girls without flirting with them, and she should be mature enough to realize she cannot stop you from talking to 50% of the world’s population.
  • Question
    How can I be sure I won’t be found after I kill myself?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Killing yourself is not the answer to your problems and it will ruin the lives of those who love you. Suicide is never the answer. Reach out for help. Even if it’s to a stranger. Even if it’s to me. I know what it feels like to have no hope. Please talk to someone before you throw your life away. If you don’t know who to talk to, call the Suicide Prevention Line: 1-800-273-8255.
  • Question
    My wife cheated on me and told me she would kill herself if I leave. What should I do?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    If you really want to leave, you shouldn’t let her stop you. It is not uncommon for possessive, abusive, or just melodramatic partners to threaten to kill themselves if the other person leaves them, and they rarely actually go through with that. Nor would you in any way be responsible if they did. It’s wrong to try to trap someone in a relationship with threats like that. If you’re concerned about her, you can try talking about it with her family. But do whatever you feel the need to do. If she is remorseful and you still love her and want to give her another chance, you can do that too.
  • Question
    How can I ignore a few people with whom I’m getting upset?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Remember that life is a snap shot at different times and things will eventually get better. Stand off to the side when they are around or turn your back to them in group conversation. Don’t let them antagonize you further.
  • Question
    How can I stay positive when I have ruined my dream career to the point of no return?
    Community Answer
    There is always hope. If necessary, start your career journey from square one; if you have some foundation upon which to build, then start there. If you have contacts/friends in your chosen profession, talk to them for help and advice. Remember that you can be passionate about more than one thing, so if you’re feeling obligated to do this because of a childhood wish or family pressure, don’t be afraid to venture into the unknown. If you want your job, you’ll have to work hard for it, but you’ll get there in the end.
  • Question
    How can I stay positive when my child is in the custody of children’s services?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Your child is alive and that’s what matters. Take this time to fix the problems that led to your child being taken away, and remember why you are changing things.


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Unanswered Questions
  • How can I stay positive when I think my own friends are backstabbing me?
  • What do you do when you are a social outcast, your dad has brain, colon, and skin cancer at the same time and you are drifting away from the last friends you have?


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  • Resist the urge to act out moods on those around you. Instead, write, confide in a friend, draw, take a walk, etc.
  • Don’t get lost in self-pity. If you cannot change your situation, you can always turn inward and decide how to respond to it.
  • Don’t make the mistake of standing still rather than reaching for a solution.
  • If you need immediate help and feel you might be at risk for suicide, call 1-800-273-8255.[29]
  • When you have a problem think back to what the root of it is, and if possible try and fix it.

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