How to Focus on the Positive When Your Mental Health Is a Mess

How do you focus on the positive when your mental health is worse than ever? Find tips and exercises here at HealthyPlace.

Can you focus on the positive when your mental health is a mess? If the answer is no, you’re not alone. Many people struggle during their worst periods of mental illness to even get out of bed, let alone adopt a sunny and positive attitude. Advice to “cheer up” or “look on the bright side” is often unwelcome for a good reason: if it was possible to think your way out of mental illness, wouldn’t everybody do it?

Mental health is never as simple as it looks from the outside, and there is no catch-all cure. But that doesn’t mean positivity can’t help when you’re in the midst of a mental health crisis. Here are some tips to help you focus on the positive when your mental health is worse than ever.

Focus on the Positive: “Are You Serious?”

Yes, it is possible to focus on the positive when your mental health is suffering, but first you have to take care of the basics. Are you eating enough? Are you sleeping, washing and taking care of yourself? Are you able to care for others, such as children and dependents? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you may need support immediately. In the event of a mental health crisis, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) 24 hours a day, or by texting to 741741 at the Crisis Text Line.
Mental illness affects us all in different ways. Some people appear to function well on the outside, but inside their world is crumbling. Others struggle to look after themselves and keep up with commitments and responsibilities when they are ill. It’s important to note that there is no right or wrong way to be mentally ill, and just because you appear to be coping doesn’t mean you don’t need support. Don’t be afraid to call upon your loved ones: the more people who know that you are struggling, the more people can help.

Before we look at ways to focus on the positive, know that your only task for today is to survive and take care of yourself the best you can. If accessing any kind of positive thought feels too far out of reach, then just relax, soak up the information and know that just by reading this, you have taken a small step toward improving your mental health.

How to Focus on the Positive During a Mental Health Crisis

To focus on the positives in life may feel like a pretty tall order right now, and that’s okay. Instead of thinking of the bigger picture, try to stay in the moment. Wherever you are – in bed, on the bus to work, at a social event – take a minute to shut out the negative voices in your head. This won’t be easy, as depression and anxiety feed off negativity, but all you need are a few small positive actions to help overwrite the chatter of your mind ("What Positive Thoughts Can Help Mental Health Recovery?").

In this moment, wherever you are, challenge yourself to take one of the following actions:

  • Find something to look forward to: Whether it’s the cup of coffee waiting for you at the office, the bath you’ll sink into when you get home from work, or a new book on your bedside that you’ve been waiting to start, take something small and try to focus on the positive feelings it will bring – even if only for a second. Imagine that first sip of steaming coffee from your favorite mug; think about sinking into a hot bath, filled with bubbles, for a moment of quiet; consider getting lost in the first chapter of your new book. Whatever that positive kernel of hope is, find it and give it your full attention for a moment. Return to it in your mind throughout the day whenever you feel yourself slipping.
  • Pay attention to the sensations around you: Give yourself permission to let go of the past and quit worrying about the future, just for two minutes. Instead, focus on your senses. What can you hear, smell, see, feel? Remember to focus on the positives, not the negatives. Even if it’s just the quiet hum of a radio or the feel of your sheets against your skin, pay attention to the sensations you experience and silently give thanks for them.
  • Take small, positive steps: Do something small now that will help you feel more positive later. This is a way of caring for your future self and telling yourself that you are worth it. For example, if you want to start exercising but you don’t feel motivated, text a friend to see if he or she wants to attend an exercise class with you next week. If you want to start journaling but don’t have the energy, order a new journal online so that you’re ready to start when you feel better.

See Also: How to Think Positive: Positive Thinking Exercises and Tips, Positive Reminders Help When Mental Health Is Challenging

Positivity on a Bad Mental Health Day Is Possible

Although it’s hard to focus on anything positive when your mental health is a mess, those small seeds of positivity you’ve just planted will eventually flourish – even if it doesn’t feel like it now.

article references

APA Reference
Smith, E. (2021, December 31). How to Focus on the Positive When Your Mental Health Is a Mess, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 18 from

Last Updated: March 25, 2022

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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