I hate the term positive thinking! I know that is a harsh way to start off a blog posting, but it’s true. More than hating the term I hate the concept, as I understand it.
One of the first classes I teach when I teach about resilience is called “Resilience and Hunting the Good Stuff.” I consider this class to be a resilience boosting class, specifically I consider the ability to hunt for the good stuff a way to boost your resilience immune system. In this class I talk about resilience, the negativity bias and what I believe is the importance of offsetting the negativity bias by helping ourselves give as much air time, in our minds, to the positive as we do to the negative. I believe I stress the importance of feeling the whole range of feelings, the good, the bad and the ugly. However, I do believe it is important to be aware of our tendency to see more negative than positive and to try to pull our attention to the good in our lives.
For me, positive thinking is almost like toxic positivity, or worse yet magical thinking. In my class I talk about toxic positivity. I don’t believe that we can just think positive thoughts and happiness and resilience will ensue. That’s magical thinking and according to psychologist Jean Piaget, magical thinking should end by age 10.
Let me be clear I deeply believe that we should notice all the good that is around us as well as feel the hurt, sadness, stress, and pain of everyday living. The point of hunting the good stuff is making ourselves just as aware of all the good around us as we are of all the other stuff.
Starting today what can you do differently. Well the first thing is to be aware when you are upset or feeling bad. You can’t heal what you don’t feel. And feeling bad doesn’t go away by ignoring it. Then you can practice gratitude, you can make a practice of counting your blessings a few times a week. You can also practice mindfulness, you can take five minutes to be aware of your breathing and to slow it down. At the end of the day you decide where you want to rest your attention, I propose that you rest it on the good stuff in your life as much as the bad stuff.