Optimists in our lives often tout the power of positive thinking, but how reasonable is it for us all to view the glass as half-full?
Around January, after all of us have read our new self-help books, people are feeling full of great advice and even better pop-psychology. This article from Psychology Today explains how positive thinking is more complex than just forcing oneself to make lemonade from life’s lemons.
Positive must be better than negative, right?
There is definitely something to be said about the connection to negative thinking and a negative outlook, in fact negative self thoughts can indeed lead to frustration, anger, anxiety and depression. The answer to negative thinking is positive thinking, right? It seems logical, but what often lets us down is making our positive statements and thoughts a little too positive- so much so that they are unreasonable.
When positive thinking backfires…
There is such a thing as too much positive, and our problems occur when we are trying to be optimistic but end up being unrealistic. No one can deliver a speech totally perfect, and we should never expect ourselves to be perfect, but this is the trap that many people fall into when trying to view the world in a more positive light. When our beliefs and experiences don’t match up, this leads to frustration and disappointment.
It is helpful to ask oneself these questions when we find ourselves slipping into an unreasonable mindset:
- Is there any evidence to support this belief?
- Is there any evidence to reject it?
- Is there a more accurate and reasonable way to look at this situation? Perspective is a beautiful thing.
A further thinking exercise we might find helpful-
- What is the most likely outcome of me thinking this way?
- How does thinking this way change my emotions, or affect my behavior?
- What would happen if I changed this belief?
- Instead of blindly focusing on the perfection of positive thinking, it is much more helpful for all of us to focus on making our inner thoughts realistic, accurate, and more useful for us.
Jesse Elliott, DPT, Licensed Doctor of Physical Therapy with Siskiyou PT
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