5 Steps to Getting Through Those “Dark Days”

By Dawn Walton

Guest writer for Wake Up World

We all have dark days.

On a dark day, we tend to believe that our current state is going to be the way we are forever, and that belief can make life even more difficult. It can seem as though your whole world is closing in on you.

As a practicing therapist, I have come up with some simple steps that will help get you through those dark days — and they’re all about bringing your focus back to the present moment.

Step 1: Focus on now

You can’t time travel. You can’t go back and do things again. Nor can you know what is going to happen next. The first thing to do on those dark days is to be as present in the moment as you can. Instead of looking ahead or behind, imagine looking at your toes. Pick out something in your environment and examine all the details. Maybe there is wallpaper with patterns on it, or a picture. It doesn’t matter what it is, just look at it closely.

Step 2: Flip the thoughts around

Thoughts lead to thoughts. When you have a negative thought, you tend to become fully immersed in that negative reality. Get creative. Imagine there are two ways of telling the story of the day (like a Groundhog Day): one is a negative version of the story where everything goes wrong, and the other is a positive version of the day where you look at everything in the best light. Use your imagination to write both stories. You don’t have to believe the positive one, but once you’ve written it, you can no longer fully believe the negative story. It’s just about knowing there is more than one way of seeing things.

Step 3: Plan for small achievements

Big goals set us up for failure. Big goals are hard to hit, and we feel bad when we miss them. On the dark days, avoid the big goals and set yourself small achievable goals. Will you get out of bed? Will you have a shower? Will you make yourself a hot drink? Ask yourself: “At the end of the day, when I look back, what would I like to say I’ve achieved?” Aim low and aim small.

Step 4: Write the positives down

When you talk or write stuff down, you change the way it’s stored in your brain. It’s called reconsolidation theory. At the end of the day write down the achievements that you noticed from step 3. Only write down the good things. After all, why would you want to lock in the bad thoughts? If you need to, use the exercise from step 2 to make sure you are writing the positive story instead of the negative one.

Step 5: Change the scenery

The world inside your head can be very bleak on the dark days. This creates a warped perception of reality. The final step is to nudge that reality by getting outside. If you live in a built-up area, a simple walk around the block is enough. Focus on the details in your environment. Smile at one person when you are out. If you live in a remote location, getting out for a walk is a start, but you could do with something that shows you there is more to the world than the reality in your head. Head to a local shop and buy something small and cheap. Smile at the shop assistant or someone in the shop.

About the author:

Dawn Walton is an author, public speaker and therapist based in the UK. Her passion in life is to help people realise that being screwed up is normal, and that everything can change.

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