When you look at this picture are you able to see the light of the sun from behind the clouds? Of course you are. When you look up towards the sun, the clouds actually make it easier to gaze up at the sunlight. If you were to look directly at the sun you’d hurt your eyes. Think about this image when you find yourself bogged down by the dark clouds of life that are surrounding you. I work with a lot of people with anxiety and depression. They often describe their experience as being constantly followed by a little dark cloud that won’t go away. Everyone has clouds that follow them around. They take the form of self-doubt, criticism, disappointment, hurt, sadness, anxiety, fear, etc. Some people have a sky with more clouds in it than others, but there is always light shining behind it. I talk a lot about the yin and the yang to life, or the idea that everything has its opposite. Many people are constantly on the search for happiness. When they notice the presence of their clouds, they feel defeated or obstructed on their quest for happiness. They might think to themselves “if only I could get this one cloud to go away, then I’ll be happy.” But happiness doesn’t work that way. You cannot feel the good, without also feeling the bad. Just as the clouds in the sky improve our ability to see the sun, sadness can beautify our experience of happiness. Sadness can be a wonderful motivator to change things in our life that we aren’t happy with. Sadness allows us to empathize with others and deepen our relationships. It can remind us of what is most important in life. The goal in finding happiness is not the removal of sadness, anxiety, fear, self-doubt, etc. Instead, embrace the clouds in your sky and learn to look for the light behind them. I developed an exercise to help people find their own happiness juxtaposed with their dark clouds.
The theory behind this exercise is that when you want positive feelings to outweigh negative feelings, you need to give 5 times the amount of attention to the positive aspects of your life than to the negative. Our brain is hardwired to give more weight to negativity, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t use your own willpower to overcome that. On the right is an image of a sun with a cloud. Place whatever thought is bringing you down into the cloud. Notice there are 5 rays of sunshine. On each ray of sunshine place something positive about yourself, your life, or a quote that empowers you. After you have filled out each ray of sunshine think about your new overall feeling towards yourself and put that in the middle of the cloud. This exercise is a visual reminder that the negatives in your life are like the clouds in the sky. Some days are cloudier than others, but there is always light to be found behind them.