What? After all, you’ve heard me say numerous times that a focus on the positive makes for a happier, more productive life.
I still stand by this. But I’d like to once again fight the mistaken belief that in order to be successful or achieve anything, you have to be relentlessly positive. Apart from the fact that it’s impossible, it’s also not healthy or conducive to happiness.
Your mission is to learn where and how to use positive thinking.
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Task 1: Learn when not to use positive thinking
Here are two examples of situations where trying to force positivity does more harm than good.
- Calamities. Someone you love has died. An earthquake has destroyed your home. When life throws shit at you, don’t “keep smiling”. Suppressing emotions is damaging for your psychological health, so allow your feelings. All of them. Get help if needed.
- Mental illness. You can’t use positive thinking to overcome depression. Depression is not just a bad mood you need to “get over”, and neither are other mental illnesses or remnants of trauma. Give yourself the time and space to heal, and again, get the help you need.
Task 2: Develop a positive attitude
The realm of positive thinking is in your everyday life, and around everyday challenges. It takes time to develop an attitude that’ll have you habitually look on the bright side, but it’s not something you’re either born with or not – you can learn this. Here are three ways to get started.
- Gratitude: Every day, take a few minutes to feel gratitude.
- Mind the gap: Use the famous gap between what happens and your reaction (I’ve found it! It was Viktor Frankl), to consciously choose a positive approach.
- 3. The big picture: A situation might seem overwhelming now, but think how you’ll see it a year from now.
Habits take time to form. Stay committed, and your life and happiness will transform.