How Much Positive Thinking Is Enough?

7 minute read

60%  of the time! That’s all! You can stop reading now. Go ahead with your life and try to think positively 60% of the time.

positive thinking happy-flowers

Now, seriously. So far I have run into way too many people who claim that the most important path toward happiness and fulfillment is casting out negative thoughts as if they were a flock of crows in your garden.

There are many methods of making you a more positive thinker and you can try them all, it probably won’t hurt, as long as you know where to stop insisting to be positive all the time.

Thinking incessantly about negative events (aka rumination) is not favorable for you. You become biased to notice only the horrible parts of life, obviously, this is not healthy. Nevertheless, it is evolutionary sound and realistic to be more concerned with the possible harm that your actions could bring you. This is why it is not surprising that in a complex world full of choices where anything is possible… well… anything could possibly fail.

How to overcome such a mode of thinking?

We can find some valuable lessons in the scientific domain of positive psychology – an interdisciplinary field that draws on insights and research from psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, and other related fields. It has implications for a wide range of areas, including education, healthcare, work, and relationships. It acknowledges that pain and sorrow are inevitable aspects of the human experience. However, it also emphasizes the importance of resilience, growth, and meaning-making in the face of adversity.

Here are some key insights from positive psychology about pain and sorrow:

  1. Pain and sorrow can be catalysts for growth and positive change. While experiencing difficult emotions is never easy, positive psychology suggests that these experiences can be opportunities for personal growth and transformation. For example, the experience of losing a loved one might lead to a greater appreciation for life and deeper connections with others.
  2. Positive emotions can help buffer against the effects of pain and sorrow. Research has shown that experiencing positive emotions like joy, gratitude, and awe can help people cope with difficult situations and maintain psychological well-being. Positive psychology emphasizes the importance of cultivating positive emotions even in the face of adversity.
  3. Finding meaning and purpose can help alleviate suffering. Positive psychology suggests that finding meaning in difficult experiences can help people cope with pain and sorrow. For example, someone who has experienced a serious illness might find purpose in advocating for others facing similar challenges.
  4. Supportive relationships are crucial for resilience. Positive psychology emphasizes the importance of social support for building resilience in the face of adversity. Strong, supportive relationships can help people navigate difficult emotions and experiences, and can provide a sense of connection and belonging.

Positive psychology is a serious academic study led by professors like Carow Dweck, Martin Seligman, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and many others. Unlike it, “toxic positivity” is the belief that one should always maintain a positive mindset and avoid expressing or acknowledging any negative emotions or experiences. It can be harmful because it invalidates and dismisses genuine feelings of sadness, grief, anger, and other negative emotions that are a natural part of the human experience. It can also lead to pressure to hide or suppress negative emotions, which can lead to emotional suppression, denial, and avoidance. Examples of toxic positivity might include saying things like “just think positive,” “look on the bright side,” or “everything happens for a reason,” when someone is expressing their pain or struggles. While these phrases may be well-intentioned, they can feel dismissive and invalidating to someone who is going through a difficult time. In addition to dismissing genuine negative emotions, toxic positivity can also lead to feelings of shame or guilt when someone is unable to maintain a positive outlook. It can create an unrealistic expectation that one should always be happy and optimistic, even in the face of challenging circumstances.

What toxic positivity fails to understand is that trying to maniacally ignore all negative thoughts is just as unproductive as getting overwhelmed with negative thoughts only. The universe is enormous, you are an insignificant part of it and most people are likely to ignore you or cause you at least a little pain most probably unwillingly, sadly, and sometimes intentionally as well.

Take the risks into consideration and hope for the best result, if you can’t achieve it re-evaluate, give up, and start again, face failure and learn your lesson, google “growth mindset”, and make a smart next step. Don’t block the red flags and the negative possibilities and don’t let them scare you too much.

Usually, balance is the clue, and as soon as you realize it will be so much easier to go on with your life. And please don’t believe that someone has figured it all out, whoever claims to have perfect balance, is selling you something. You will never achieve the perfect job or the perfect family. What is perfect life anyway? All you can do is push yourself to do your best and obtain optimal results, and if you can’t, you can try to change something.

And last but not least… sometimes it is useful to save a little bit of backup positivity. It can help you register and cherish happy feelings a little more than sadness. And this is indeed good enough.

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