Despite being relatively young, positive thinking has seen an enormous rise in popularity during the last two decades.
Uncountable online resources and guides, millions of articles, and podcasts talk about ‘pros and cons of positive thinking.’ No shortage of self-help gurus claim that it is the best means ever created for transforming one’s life.
You have probably heard a gazillion times, “It is going to be fine, just think positive.”
While the advice itself is well-intentioned, it has recently lost its meaning because of being used in any possible context and in any possible way you could think of.
No wonder many people are becoming skeptical and even negative about the whole notion of positive thinking. In fact, they are right to some extent.
The Father of All–the World Wide Web–offers us unlimited opportunities. Today, anyone can become a positive thinking expert stating the innumerable benefits of one positive thought a day. The trendiness of the topic has also brought about a lot of misunderstanding as to what positive thinking really is and what it is not.
Let’s take a closer look at the biggest myths about positive thinking and what you can do about them.
Myth #1: Positive Thinking Is a Cure-All That Changes Your Life Forever
First of all, positive thinking is NOT a universal remedy.
Second of all, it is NOT going to change your life forever.
Those who really practice positive thinking would unanimously agree that it is not a magic bullet that transforms lives right away. What it actually does is lend a helping hand and give a supportive boost. IT helps a person rise above a negative situation, reframe it, look at it from another perspective and find solutions with bigger and more useful energy.
Remember that positive thinking will not get you your dream job, help you meet your prince/princess or even get you out of your depression. It is up to you to do all of it.
Myth #2: When There Is Positive Thinking, There Is No More Negativity
People who opt for positive thinking usually hold a strong misconception that there is no negativity once we adopt positive thinking. While it sounds like a perfect scenario, it would, unfortunately, be completely unnatural.
Just like positive thoughts and emotions, negative feelings have their place in our life. It is natural and healthy to have a wide range of emotions. Suppressing or ignoring the negative ones can be quite toxic for our health.
Surprisingly or not, positive thinking accepts negative emotions with a this-too-shall-pass attitude. According to Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology expert at the University of North Carolina, positive thinking lets the person consider other sides of the situation without allowing the negative emotions to get complete hold of them.
Myth #3: Positive Thinking Is All About Positive Affirmations
Many people think that positive thinking is all about using positive affirmations that will turn them into walking success machines… And life will be perfect.
If you have tried using positive affirmations, you most probably know that it is a tough habit to maintain. Moreover, chances are very high that by only practicing positive affirmations you will possibly go back to your old negative thoughts very quickly. It is no surprise people often ask why positive thinking does not work for them and immediately get disappointed.
For positive thinking to work and produce results, it is not enough to say a couple of positive affirmations a day, daydream for a few minutes and wait for the change to happen.
So How to Effectively Practice Positive Thinking?
#1. Get Rid Of Self-Pity by Owning Your Strengths
To get rid of the idea that positive thinking will do the job for you, forget the slippery slope of self-pity. Doing that is fundamental to reevaluate your own strengths and remind yourself of what you are capable of.
There are several strengths finders online, but I prefer HIGH5TEST. It helps you discover your top 5 strengths by giving you hints on how to effectively use them. Research shows that when you know and use your strengths, you become more self-confident.
Once you have given your self-confidence a little boost, start spending 15 minutes every day on a brief morning meditation. Without taking some time to clear your head, positive thinking will have a minimal impact because we have too many thoughts in our head for the positive ones to pop out and make a difference.
#2. Embrace Your Negative Thoughts and Be Realistic
Sounds counterproductive, no?
But acknowledging and releasing negative thoughts and statements helps to free up some emotional resources to fully practice positive thinking.
While negative thinking is part of our natural functioning and should not be hindered in any way, according to Joel Minden, a clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety and depression, a better bet is to replace negative thoughts with ideas that are more accurate and useful.
It does not mean blindly neglecting and killing negative thoughts. It simply means assessing the accuracy of those thoughts by asking yourself, “What’s the evidence to support this thought?” Consider their usefulness by asking, “What’s the likely effect of thinking this way?”
Using this simple exercise can have a huge impact on the intensity of unpleasant emotions. It can free enough energy for you to be able to devote to positive thinking and get tangible results fully.
#3. Act Positively — Thinking Is Not Enough
Positive thinking is about a positive attitude towards things and events happening around us. Putting positive thinking into practice implies more than just practicing positive affirmations all day long.
The reason why many people fail is that they believe that putting a positive spin on negative thoughts and wanting to make a change is the most significant part of positive thinking. In truth, it is only the first, small step.
To fully succeed in practicing positive thinking, it should be coupled with positive action:
- Setting realistic goals and deadlines to achieve those goals
- Using not only positive affirmations but also positive visualization
- Surrounding oneself with positive people, events, and places
- Focusing on progress and not perfection
- Asking for feedback from people you trust and adjusting your positive thinking
Personal and spiritual growth deals with emotions, thoughts, and feelings–all mostly intangible things. People often think that there are no rules here and just thinking or reading about a particular phenomenon is going to transform their lives.
Well, it is not true. To succeed, positive thinking needs action on both mental and physical levels. Most importantly, it needs perseverance and constant practice. Change is not going to happen overnight just as you won’t nail a new language in one day.
Remember that positive thinking is not a destination. It is a continuous process that makes us more powerful and self-confident.