Staying positive lately? You don’t need to.
In this post:
• How positive thinking backfires on some.
• The alternative to staying positive 24/7.
• Three-step thought experiment you can try.
Some people believe staying positive 24/7 is healthy, but they’re wrong.
Since Normal Vincent Peal’s Power of Positive Thinking, we’ve been inundated with well-intended propaganda about staying positive, positive mindsets and, more recently, the law of attraction. All this pompous positivity isn’t necessarily good for you in the end. Positivity obsession is out of balance with real life.
Let it go.
Positivity Backfires on Some According to Research
If you’ve been forcing yourself in vain to stay positive, you should check out some very interesting research which will spare you the impossible expectation of relentless positivity. Thinking positively backfires on people who have a harder time thinking positively naturally.
For example, people with low self-esteem feel worse when they think positively. And get this – they feel better about themselves when allowed to think negatively. The point is, you can’t contrive bliss (it’s an insult to intelligence, anyway).
If you’re already happy with yourself, intentionally staying positive can help (a little). However, if you’re naturally more pessimistic, forcing positive thoughts can make you feel worse.
The Alternative to Positive Thinking
This healthier and easier-to-implement alternative is a more mature mindset (in my opinion).
Let’s just call it balanced thinking. It’s not purely positive or negative. It’s both and more. Ideas like balanced thinking date to ancient Rome. The Stoics believed in a grounded approach to life that included both positive and negative thoughts.
Oliver Burkeman, a columnist for the Guardian, wrote an amazing book related to this more Stoic (in the ancient Roman sense, not the modern/popular) approach to living. The Antidote is a must-read for anyone who wants to be free of the expectation to stay positive 24/7.
Burkeman tells strangely liberating stories of famous positive thinkers who lived and/or failed miserably behind the scenes. Not to poke fun at them, but to make the point that must be made about staying positive. It’s impossible to be positive all the time, damn it! And staying positive doesn’t stop negativity from happening.
I digress. So here you are, the alternative to staying positive all the time. You can be so much more than that…
3-Step Alternative to Positive Thinking
Play around with this little thought experiment and see where it goes:
1. Start by stating something positive about yourself, then say the word and…
2. Follow with a negative thought, then say the word and…
3. Following with a thought that acknowledges both the positive and the negative side of life, then say the word and…
Keep cycling through steps 1-3 until you’re tired:)
I’m a very determined person.
I’ve failed too many times in life…ugh!
That’s life. Win some. Lose some.
I’ve succeeded, too, and learned a lot from my failures.
I’ll probably just keep failing.
Life sure is a mixed bag.
I’ll keep learning and progressing, bit by bit.
Then I’ll die. All over!
Everybody has their time on earth, short or long.
As long as I’m alive, I have opportunities!
…and so on. Got it?
You don’t need to hold an exclusively positive attitude. It’s better to be capable of every attitude.