7 Tips for Bouncing Back From Disappointment

How to “get over it” faster

Posted Feb 26, 2014

You can’t think yourself into feeling better. The shift has to be made emotionally. Hopefully, you will be able to shift to feeling gratitude or happiness after a setback. Most likely, you’ll start with acceptance. From here, you might consider if your expectations were realistic and if there are any lessons to remember. But first you have to shake off your sadness, regret, frustration, and disillusionment. Here’s how.

  1. Force a smile, even a laugh, to trigger the emotional shifting process. Forced smiles and laughter release the neurochemicals that will make you feel better faster.
  2. Move your body. Complex movement (not repetitive actions like running) can lift you out of an emotional rut. Engage in a sport, practice a martial art or yoga, or take a spirited exercise class to shake the bad feelings off your back.
  3. Identify the values that were compromised. Recall a time when your life was flowing and you felt light, alive, and fulfilled. Name five things you had or were doing that helped you feel this way. These five things represent what is most important to you and what you need to feel happy. What could you do now that demonstrates you are doing your best to have these values become a strong part of your daily life? Set some values-based goals you can start working on today.
  4. Make time to reflect on what you are grateful for in the moment. First, list three small things that happened today that you are grateful for, such as finding a short line at the post office, brewing a perfect cup of coffee, seeing your pet’s dreamy eyes, or having a smooth ride into work. Once you open your heart with gratitude, look to see what you are grateful for in the situation where things didn’t turn out as you had hoped. For example, even though you lost a contract, you now have time to finish something important to you. Even though you got a speeding ticket on the way to work, you realize the slower drive in leaves you feeling less stressed. Even though your child failed math, notice what other talents and passions he or she has. Focus on the gifts not the losses.
  5. Reward yourself for riding the waves. Make a list of everything that brings you joy that you could put your hands on or do in a fairly short time. Do you love fresh flowers? Do you have a friend you can call who makes you smile? Do you have a favorite book or YouTube video? Make the list and then write each item on a single strip of paper. Put the papers in a jar. When you have a setback, pull a strip from your Jar of Joy and do what it says no matter how bad you feel. Go buy a flower. Call your friend. Watch that video. You'll bounce back in no time.
  6. Lift your spirits in the places that cause the most stress. Keep cartoons, family or vacation photos, and small toys near your desk or in the car for stressful moments. Have some way to listen to your favorite music even at work. Photos, toys, and music that make you smile are essentials in your first aid kit.
  7. Practice seeing the funny side of life. Each evening for a week, watch a funny movie, read only comics in the paper, seek out funny people, and try to find the humor in the mundane. This will increase your creativity. You might change your mind for life.

The shift can take time. You might have to grieve the loss of friends, jobs, health, or dreams. If your sadness is keeping you from normal functioning, seek the guidance of a therapist.

Practice these tips to increase your resilience. You can find more ways to bounce back in my book, Outsmart Your Brain.