Tips For Cultivating A Healthy Attitude Toward Change

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated April 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

It can be difficult to feel happy with major changes in life plans, especially if the changes are unwanted. Big adjustments that don’t match what you expected can leave you with feelings of disappointment, frustration, stress, or panic. Acclimating to a new reality often requires time, but there are also some techniques you can try along the way to put the change into perspective. See below for tips on how to have a more balanced, healthy attitude toward the changes in plans that will inevitably arise in life.

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Find happiness in change

Why do I get upset when plans change?

Fear of change is not uncommon. It can make you feel anxious, out of control, or unprepared for what’s next. You may also be worried that plans will change again, leaving your brain to cycle through all the potential scenarios, unable to rest until the plans are finally over. Additionally, feelings of disappointment could stem from feelings of anticipation for what we thought the plans would be. Feeling out of control in our lives could also be a factor in strong reactions to change.

Becoming upset when plans change could also be the result of another mental health condition, such as generalized anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is described as persistent worrying and anxiety over day-to-day activities, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, muscle tension, or trouble sleeping. A therapist can help someone with generalized anxiety disorder identify troubling thoughts and develop healthy thought patterns to replace them, which could lead to a decrease in both anxiety and any physical symptoms that develop.

Even if the plans don’t feel like they should be a big deal, it often doesn’t make the change any easier to handle. It doesn’t matter if it’s a life-altering event or a switch in dinner plans for the night; your feelings are valid. But being aware of and able to accept the idea of change in any instance may help you manage your reaction when that change comes.

Five tips for handling change in a healthy way

Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “The only constant is change”. Although we may make plans and set goals, there’s always the chance that things will end up differently than we’d hoped. That’s why cultivating a healthy attitude toward change can be so important because it can help us prepare for the times when life will inevitably take a turn we didn’t expect. Here are five techniques you can try to shift your perspective on change.

1. Recognize that change is inevitable

Without change, growth would be impossible. While the desire for certain things to remain the same is understandable, change is a fundamental aspect of human life. Accepting this fact rather than fighting it can help you find a sense of peace about the changes happening in your life. 

Research supports this idea as well. In a study of managers at a large company whose industry underwent abrupt and significant changes, one researcher found that those who were able to thrive in the face of these changes were those who exhibited a trait called “personality hardiness”. It manifested as viewing changes as part of the human experience rather than targeting hardships specifically. They used the changes as an opportunity to explore new things or solve new problems, and they invested their energy in these areas rather than in figuring out why the changes had to happen or wishing they could return to “the good old days”. Embracing change and its possibilities, then, can be an effective strategy.

2. Grieve the outcome you planned

Grief is defined simply as “the anguish experienced after significant loss”. While it typically applies to the death of a loved one, it can also be experienced after other types of significant losses. For example, it’s normal to feel grief after losing a job you had for years, moving away from somewhere you’ve always lived, ending a friendship, receiving a serious health diagnosis, or experiencing the end of a relationship or divorce. 

The grieving process looks different for everyone, and there are many different emotions that may be associated with it. Denial, anger, sadness, and others may all make an appearance, and allowing yourself to feel these feelings in the moment is typically the healthiest way to get through this time.

Judging yourself for what you feel about the change usually doesn’t help; in fact, research has found that “a judgemental attitude towards one's thoughts and feelings is the strongest predictor of both depression and anxiety”. 
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3. Check for distorted thinking

Being mindful of the way you’re framing or viewing a life change can also be helpful. In the practice of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the most popular therapy methodologies practiced today, recognizing flawed thought patterns that cause distressing feelings is central. While this technique is most effective when learned and practiced with a trained therapist, there are elements of it that you can implement at any time in your everyday life. You might start by checking to see if any of the common cognitive distortions are affecting the way you’re viewing this change. For instance, you might look out for:

  • Black and white thinking: If you find yourself thinking things like, “Everything is ruined”, you might step back and notice some small benefits that could result from this change or some things that fortunately stayed the same, rather than labeling the situation with only one of two extremes.
  • Labeling: If you find yourself thinking things like, “These things always happen to me because I’m an unlucky person”, you might try and refrain from putting yourself in a box with such a label. Instead, you could recognize that life is complex and that negative labels will only be limiting.
  • Overgeneralization: If you find yourself thinking things like, “I’ll never find a new job/partner/etc.”, you might consider how unrealistic it is to expect every future experience to turn out exactly how this one did. Instead, you could treat this as one, individual event in your life and try to look to the future with hope.

4. Lean on loved ones

Just as we support our loved ones when they’re going through hard times, we can benefit from leaning on them when we’re having trouble coping with an unexpected life change. Friends and family can provide a listening ear, distractions, or simply a comforting presence to sit with us as we process difficult news. Research has found that having high-quality social support can enhance resilience to stress and even defend against the development of trauma-related mental health conditions. If you’re experiencing difficulties adjusting to a big change, you might seek out the healing power of the community and world around you.

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Find happiness in change

5. Speak with a therapist

Sometimes, the changes life presents us with can take us by surprise. If you’re having difficulty handling all the things that change in your life, speaking with a qualified therapist is another healthy coping strategy you might try. They can offer you a safe, nonjudgmental space where you can express and process your feelings about the situation, and they can help you adopt a more balanced perspective and positive coping mechanisms to help you move forward and adjust.

Some people find the prospect of meeting with a therapist in person to be intimidating. If you’d feel more comfortable meeting with someone from the comfort of your own home, you might consider online therapy instead of traditional, in-person visits. Research suggests that the two methods can offer comparable benefits in most cases, so you can typically choose the one that feels best for you. If you’re interested in pursuing online support, you can try a virtual therapy platform like BetterHelp. It allows you to get matched with a licensed therapist who you can meet with every week via phone, video call, and/or in-app messaging to address the challenges you may be facing.


Virtually everyone will experience unexpected changes in their life at some point, but how we handle them can make all the difference. The tips represent a few healthy ways to view and cope with unplanned changes. If you’re looking for additional support, speaking with a therapist may be helpful.

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