You scroll mindlessly on your phone, double tapping little hearts all over the memes that proclaim pithy statements like “Wake me up when 2020 is over”, “2020, we done yet?” and “PSA: because birthdays in 2020 don’t count, I’ll be celebrating my 33rd birthday in 2021”.
I mean, if only! But, there’s no fast forward button, no futuristic time travel*, no magic bottles of vaccine being flown to our front doors by little parachutes like we’re the Capitol’s favourite tribute in the Hunger Games.
"We all theoretically know this right?"
2020 has thrown us curveball after curveball and there’s really no getting out of it.
"We have to find a way to get through it."
Now, not to sound like a self-promoting wanker, but I’ve had my share of sh*tty times. And I think I’ve become pretty well equipped at handling them. That’s not to say I don’t cry into my cereal some days (though, let’s be honest, I don’t - I prefer red wine, or ice cream, or, um, both), but I have amassed some tips that help me keep going, and yes, help me feel happy, even when things look pretty grim.
So, here’s my guide to getting through the rest of this year (or any other tough time):
Firstly, accept it. It’s a crap time.
Your crap time may be better than someone else’s crap time or it may be worse than someone else’s bad time. But, however you want to spin it, a tough time is a tough time. Accept it. There’s no need to temper it with an “at least ….”.
Say to yourself “Yep, this is sh*t”.
It’s amazing what our minds will do when we drop the BS facade that is “Everything’s OK”.
Secondly, change your focus.
How? Ask yourself different questions.
In the morning ask yourself "what would make today great?".And whether it’s going for a walk, having a zoom catch up with your girlfriends, treating yourself to some new skincare products or making chicken soup - think of what your 'something great' is in the morning, look forward to it in the day, and make sure you do it.
You’ll feel a zillion times better about your day if you’re focusing on a positive event, and since our lives are comprised of days, it makes sense to make each day a good one.
And yes smarty pants, I understand that this point slightly contradicts the preceding point, but I also think it is very possible to be going through something tough and still enjoy a day.
Thirdly, know that each hard time you face will only serve to fortify you.
It would be wonderful if we could learn about resilience and grit and gumption by sitting in a classroom taking notes. Alas, the only way we learn resilience is by going through hard times. The only way we get grittier is by testing ourselves. And the only way we get gumption-ier is by bucking up when times gets tough.
So, if you’re in the midst of a hard time, don’t expect to be able to be grateful for it and find the lesson in it straight away. Accept it (see number one!). And say to yourself “I have the inner resources to deal with any situation that comes my way”.
And even though it’s uncomfortable, and even though you’ll wish you weren’t in your particular situation - you will come out of it. And after reflection, and rumination, and thinking about the crazy time the world survived through, you’ll say to yourself “Huh, I was there. I lived through that. I survived that”.
And then, my friend, you’ll be able to find the lesson.
Fourthly, not to be that person, but a little perspective does help.
Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku’s book The Happiest Man on Earth is brilliant. So is Sam Bailey’s Head Over Heels (the book I read constantly in my recovery). Watch the movie Touching the Void and The Intouchables. And look, not to be that person again, but the books I’ve written are pretty good too! Happy is my latest book, and contains a lot of advice for building happiness even through the hardest times.
And fifthly, if you are going through a tough time right now, and you need support, please make sure you get some.
From a professional. You get your car fixed by a mechanic, your teeth cleaned by a dentist, your face beautified by a beautician. Your heart and head deserve nothing less than a professional to help you. There are some bloody amazing services out there, I always recommend starting with Lifeline and Beyond Blue.
I’m not going to end this by saying “We’re all in this together”, but a version of it.
"We are all in this."
"And while there’s no fast forwarding through it, you, my friend, are capable of more than you know."
And one day, in the future, you will look back at this time, and know that you are able to handle hard times.
Because you’ve done it before.
You’re doing it now.
Sending you my love,
PS - Know someone who might enjoy my take on getting through 2020? Be a doll and forward this letter to them! If they like what they read, they can join this letter gang of ours right here. We love new gang members!
PPS - You can get your mitts on a signed copy of my new book Happy right here. You'll also unlock some secret goodies, including the secret podcast I recorded about happiness with some mates. You're welcome my friend.
* My theory on time travel.
Light from the Sun takes eight minutes to reach the Earth. So light from a star that’s further away would take longer. The closest star to earth is Proxima Centauri which is around four light years away. What’s a light year? It’s the distance that light can travel in a year, which is 9,500,000,000,000 kilometres. So if we travel away from the earth to a point 9,500,000,000,000 kilometres and look back with some kind of telescopic device, what we’d be seeing would be stuff from one year ago. Time travel!)
(I have no idea how to travel forward in time though. Physicists? You out there?)
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