The Dark Side of Positive Thinking

When you face-plant or feel anxious about the future, you sometimes hear people say, “be positive.”  I don’t find this piece of advice to be very useful. 

Here’s why:

  1. It typically doesn’t address the underlying feelings
  2. It is actually pretty challenging for most people to genuinely feel positive when they are under severe stress or anxiety
  3. If you’re not able to “be positive” when things don’t go your way, it may be another avenue for self-criticism and judgement

There is a BETTER way.  There is a more AUTHENTIC way.  

The technique I’m talking about is mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a practice based in observing the mind, body, and emotions and how they move.  

You can practice mindfulness in any moment.  Generally, the more you practice, the more automatic it will become.

To practice mindfulness when you are feeling anxious or stressed read instructions (or watch the video):

Start by noticing the breath.  Notice how you are breathing.  Notice where you are breathing into.  Notice the length of the breath and the depth of the breath.

Next begin to notice the body.  Starting with the head, go through each body part checking in and noticing.

Then notice how you feel emotionally.  Let it be okay how you feel.  Anger, sadness, happiness, joy, frustration.  Let it be okay.

You may begin to feel more relaxed and at ease.  Next consider what actions (if any) should be taken.  This might mean seeking counseling, talking to a friend who you felt hurt by, taking political action, or doing nothing.

The reason I like this technique is because it starts with the present and it honors our emotions.  Emotions are meant to be felt.  However, you do not want to get “lost” in emotions and ruminate on emotions.  It’s more like, hear the message of the emotion.  

To practice and develop this technique, you can work with this introduction to mindfulness meditation.  This will generally help you build awareness.  Every time you practice mindfulness, you are building skills to help you cope with the stresses of life.

And, if you need a little extra help, I offer Empowerment Coaching to help you develop these skills.