Have you ever told someone, or been told, to think positive as a solution to a problem? Or maybe identify as a pessimist or on optimist?
It can be a difficult subject. I have personally always been a ‘glass half full’ kind of person, so I can see the light in the positive thinking attitude.
But I have also been to a dark place, so I also know what it is like when you are down and despressed, and people around you are telling you to be more positive. It can be hard, and even frustrating.
However, positive thinking did end up helping me on the dark days, but only when I understood it properly and how it could help.
I can personally see both positive and negative sides to this kind of help.
I used to always be the positive one (without even trying to be), I was just naturally drawn to helping people, constantly smiling and turning things into positives. You quite quickly realise that not everyone wants to hear the positivity, or not everyone is as positive, or not every situation can be solved with a good ol positive attitude.
There are some situations that just suck, and require so much more than an inspirational quote to get through.
Society today has become rid with inspirational quotes, positive affirmations, vision boards and self-help books. Some people swear by them, say they have changed their lives.
But have they really?
Is positive thinking a bad thing?
I believe the danger with positive thinking is that it is misunderstood, and can end up with people only putting a bandage on a problem, rather than looking below surface level for the root cause. This means that your problems may feel fixed, but this feeling is only temporary.
The reason they are misunderstood, is because these positive thinking solutions are the piece of a puzzle and the entire picture/strategy is not understood in enough depth.
What is positive thinking?
I don’t think positive thinking is the correct term for this, but it is the term wide used in society. My understanding of positive thinking is choosing not to suffer, choosing the language I use to myself and to others carefully, choosing to reframe my thoughts, my thinking and actions and choose them again. The way I see it, we only have one life that is happening right now and I can either choose to suffer and see the negative in everything, or take control.
I completely understand that, when you are suffering and in a dark place, it can be the most frustrating thing when someone tells you to just think positive. And I am sure it (mostly) comes from a place of care and love.
Some situations like this, in order to keep moving forward and not get sucked into a downward spiral, it is actually a great idea to look on the positive side. It’s an opportunity to learn from your experience, find another new opportunity (which could turn out even better, who knows). It can also help with overcoming obstacles like fear of failure or getting yourself out for a walk. But in order to do this, they have to be looked at on a much deeper level.
Negative thoughts or feelings are not as bad as we think they might be. They may not feel good at the time, but it’s a normal human emotion. It’s how we learn, grow, ask questions, build strength and courage.
Personally, negative emotions have allowed me to become stronger and more self-aware, I am much kinder to myself and have grown so much in the last few years. I grew strong enough to cut out toxicity from my life and learn how to handle myself.
Next time you are feeling negative emotions, rather than saying to yourself “just think positive, it’s fine”, explore the negative emotions. Why are you feeling this way? What are you triggers? Are you in control of the situation? How can you change/control your reaction? How can you show yourself more love in this area?
Advantages of positive thinking
I personally think, from my own experience, there are some advantages to positive thinking:
- Provide perspective
- Help you cope with stressful situations
- Provide you with motivation
- Help boost productivity
- Help reduce self-hate and negative self-talk
- Raise self-awareness
- Help boost confidence
- Help us understand ourselves and our feelings
- Help us understand it is okay to take a break/prioritise ourselves
- Helps us know we are not alone in this world
- Motivate us to chase our dreams
I think it all comes back to 2 key points I raised above: perspective and self-awareness.
Negatives of positive thinking
From my own experience and research, the disadvantages of living off positive thoughts are:
- It doesn’t hold up/it’s not enough when something goes seriously wrong
- When it doesn’t hold up, we blame ourselves and think we have failed
- When we feel like failures, we feel we have nowhere to turn
- Seems like a quick fix (we all want immediate relief/gratification)
- It’s doesn’t deep dive into the root cause of the problem, only sticks a bandage on it (therefore we do not understand what we are going through or why)
- We think that ‘negative emotions’ are a bad thing, when they’re not, we can actually learn a lot from them
- Bottling things up can sometimes lead to bigger outbursts/break downs further down the line
- Makes it easier to avoid therapy (provides a good excuse not to go because we “don’t need it”)
- Makes us feel we can do it alone, when actually a support system is a really great thing to have
- There’s’ not enough research/studies on the effects for mental health
- People are capitalising on people with problems
- The people preaching this probably aren’t ‘okay’ themselves – you only see the highlights and therefore, set unrealistic expectations based on highlights on someone life
- Everyone is different, it might work for some but not for others. We all go through different things, have lived different lives. This means again we set ourselves unrealistic expectations
- Some of us are just not naturally optimistic, and that’s okay
- We don’t appreciate all the good
- We become less approachable/find others less approachable if we feel they are going to encroach positive and inspiration quotes on us
Happiness is a combination of biological and environmental factors. Happiness is a result of chemical and hormonal reactions, something we cannot control. But we can control who we surround ourselves with, what we tell ourselves and the daily actions that we take that will influence the levels of happiness.
Use positive thinking as a way to help with small, daily situations and hiccups. Just be careful you are not avoiding reality or some of the bigger problems. Seek a professional to assist with root cause/underlying issues/long term help.
What do you think about positive thinking?