Merriam-Webster defines silver linings as “a consoling or hopeful prospect.” Other definitions include “a sign of hope in an unfortunate or gloomy situation,” and “a metaphor for optimism, which means a negative occurrence may have a positive aspect to it.” One way or another, it means some good can usually be found despite some bad – if you are looking for it. I think what a lot of people, including myself, forget sometimes is how much attitude and perspective play into the amount of silver linings one can find.

Just to challenge your brains, I’m going to throw out another concept: confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to process information by looking for, or interpreting, information that is consistent with one’s beliefs. If you’re only looking for the bad, that’s all you’ll find. But the beautiful part? If you look for the good, you can find that, too.

I’m sure the COVID-19 pandemic is at the front of your mind. I know it seems like that is all that’s talked about these days ... these “uncertain times” and this “crazy year.” I – like most of the world – was quickly surrounded with financial, political and emotional turmoil. I got tired of it all and fell into the habit of negative thoughts and feelings. There’s no way to sugarcoat it – I got angry, I got sad, and I got frustrated. I was devastated my final months of senior year were taken away along with graduation. I was heartbroken I didn’t get to say goodbye to people who had impacted my life so significantly. Mostly, though, I was confused. How bad is all of this? Is my family safe? Am I safe? When and how are things going to go back to normal? I’m sure you all had very similar questions, and probably still do.

It wasn’t until my final virtual “class” of my college career that I started to turn my thinking around. My professor asked us to state our favorite silver lining that has come from all of this. I knew what silver lining meant, but I hadn’t taken the time to look for any. But in the few seconds I took to think about just one, I thought of a dozen (thank you, confirmation bias).

The first thing that came to mind was my family. I got an extra month where my whole family was home and together again that I never would have gotten otherwise. Not that we got along perfectly, but that’s a story for a different time.

We all have our own silver linings, and sometimes they’re a bit more difficult to find. Here are a few ways that have helped me look for the good through the bad:

1. Ask yourself, “This didn’t happen, but what did?”

This was my thought process with my family. I thought to myself, “I missed the last month of my college career, but I got an awesome month with my family because of that”.

2. Talk to a friend – perspective is important.

I don’t want this to be understood as comparing your situation to someone else’s to see who has it better. That is not the goal. The goal is to brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another! Ask a friend or family member for one of their silver linings, just like my professor asked me. They might make you think of something you wouldn’t have otherwise.

3. Think about what you still have.

Take a moment, and just think. Don’t focus on what you don’t have, but what you do have or have had in the past. For example, I didn’t get a graduation, but I still had almost four years at a great school, where I received a great education and met some of my friends for life.

These are crazy times ... and they’ll probably persist ... and it definitely won’t be the last time something crazy happens in this world. But it’s giving us a chance to shift our mindset and change our attitude so that when the bad does come, we are better equipped to find the good.

Vanessa Gould serves as an Illinois Farm Bureau Youth and Collegiate Program Coordinator. She comes from a third-generation family farm specializing in corn, soybeans and wheat as well as a breed-to-wean hog operation. She graduated from University of Illinois with a major in Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication. She previously served as a Kane County Farm Bureau Ag in the Classroom intern.