Combatting Rumination Series: Finding Silver Linings

rumination writing Aug 23, 2023

When things go wrong in life, we can very easily get caught up in thinking about how disappointed we feel, blaming ourselves or others, and focusing entirely on what we have lost and what the situation has cost us. We may think about negative events or experiences so frequently that we begin to believe that our lives are filled with mishaps and disappointments. Focusing on negative experiences too much can negatively affect our well-being and lead to depressive thinking.

Rather than dwelling on things gone wrong and focusing on the negative, we can look at the bright side of the situation. For instance, imagine that you made a mistake at work and received critical feedback from your boss. Instead of spending the rest of the day going over what you did wrong and why, you could look at the bright side of the situation by seeing the mistake and feedback as opportunities for growth and learning. This change in mindset, from negative to positive, is known as “finding the silver lining.” In this exercise, we are going to practice doing the opposite, because looking at the bright side of a situation builds optimism and resilience.


  1. Gather a pen and a piece of paper.
  2. Find a quiet place to write uninterrupted.
  3. Set a timer for the amount of time you wish to write. 20 minutes is suggested.
  4. Center yourself. Take 3 deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth, before you begin writing.
  5. Make a list of 5 things that make you feel like your life is enjoyable or meaningful. These things can be as general or as specific as you wish.
  6. Now, think about a time recently when something did not go your way or when you felt frustrated, upset, or annoyed. Briefly write about this experience.
  7. Next, write down the negative things that came out of this difficult experience. These might be actual consequences or unpleasant emotions or both.
  8. Finally, list at least 3 positive things that came out of this difficult experience. You might consider:

- What did I learn from the situation?

- Did I develop any strengths as a result of this situation?

- How did this experience add meaning to my life?

  1. When your timer ends, notice what you have written and how you feel after putting your thoughts to paper.


Adapted from: Positive Psychology