The Pros and Cons of Positive Thinking
- You have the goal of becoming happy, so you read self-help books and follow their advice. The advice usually consists of affirmations like, "I am happy", "I will heal from my injury fast.", "Surgery will go smoothly."
What is positive thinking?
Positive thinking is a thought process that focuses on the good side of things rather than focusing on negative things.
This can be either an actual positive emotion or just a mental state where you remember to always look at the bright side of life and never letting negativity get to you too much.
It's basically not dwelling on your problems if possible because they're there but instead think about the good things in life.
How positive thinking works
A positive thinker is a person who takes an optimistic approach toward life. They are in general, people who look on the bright side of things and will take responsibility for their own lives, actions, and feelings rather than blame others or external events.
A positive thinker will not be deterred by challenging events in their life. Instead, they will consider what is learned from them and how to best apply this learning going forward.
Positive thinking does not mean that a positive thinker will never be sad or angry. However, they are likely to channel these feelings in healthy ways and may well use them as motivators for change.
A positive thinker will generally display a greater sense of self-worth and do their best to achieve what they want in life.
Another aspect of positive thinking is accepting that there is always room for improvement and taking steps to achieve this.
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Does positive thinking really work?
It does, and it does wonders. But it can also work against us.
Positive thinking alone does not guarantee success. Without completely understanding what it means and how it works, it can give us a false sense of reality.
Executive coach Melody Wilding, describes the biggest problem with the positive thinking approach:
"The problem with positive thinking as an approach is that it operates at the surface level of conscious thoughts. It does nothing to contend with the subconscious mind where negative self-talk and limiting beliefs really live."
When positive thinking doesn't work
In some ways, it is possible to think too positively about something.
For example, if you think that someone will always love you no matter what, you might do things that are not good for the relationship to keep the positive thoughts going.
Positive thinking will sometimes make you ignore things that are true.
For example, if someone tore their Achilles tendon 1 week before their wedding. Making positive affirmations that you will heal in under a week is unrealistic. It's going to take several weeks for your injury to heal. That's just the nature of how the human body works.
You can't just say to yourself, "I'm going to be happy!" and expect happiness.
First of all, positive thinking is only beneficial if you have the capacity for it; there is a great deal of harm in lying to yourself because positivity gives you a sense of comfort without putting the work and earning it.
Some real-world examples
The biggest reason why positive thinking works is that it causes people to act in ways that cause thoughts to become true.
For example, if you think, "I am thin enough," and then go exercise, this will make yourself thin.
If a person thinks, "It's easy for me to lose weight" and then exercises, they will indeed find it easier than someone who does not think that way. They may even feel more energetic or excited about exercising because of their optimistic attitude.
Positive thinking can cause people to act in ways that cause positive things to happen. For example, if someone thinks "I will find a great partner" and then goes out to meet new people, they are likely to indeed find just that.
If you think "It's easy for me to make friends" and go talk with strangers, you'll probably be successful at making friends.
Positive thinking can cause people to act in ways that make them more likely to succeed. For example, if you think, "I am a good cook," then this might lead you to be better at cooking and enjoy it more.
Positive thinking can cause people to act in ways that make them more satisfied. For example, if you think, "I am fit and healthy," then this may lead you to feel good about yourself.
If you think "my partner is kind and loving," then this might lead you to be happier with your relationship.
Positivity for peaceful living
The good news is that there are ways to keep a positive mindset without falling for delusion.
The first priority in changing your mind should be being honest with yourself about what's going on, but you can also have some faith in the future as well, by keeping realistic expectations of how things will turn out. Your brain needs both positivity and negativity in order to function properly; it takes a lot of energy to think negatively all the time, so don't focus too much on the negative thoughts.
If you're having a bad day, just try to notice how you feel. Get into the habit of identifying and acknowledging your emotions instead of simply burying them in positivity. Just by noticing that something is making you unhappy can already make it easier to move past.
Happiness is a state of mind, something you can work on. You need to have the right attitude and take action. It's not just about positive thinking.
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