I’m so delighted to be joined by Kate from All the Trinkets today on Living.Pretty.Happy! All the Trinkets is a fantastic creative lifestyle & personal growth blog (and Kate just happens to be one of my favourite bloggers). As part of Optimism month, Kate has kindly written this thought-provoking article on fostering a healthy positive mindset, for me to share. Over to you Kate…
Growing up, I was a cynic kid. Like the kind who has her arms perpetually crossed and an eyebrow forever raised. Whenever someone told me to “think positive,” I would scoff and roll my eyes and blow a raspberry to that person. Thinking positively, my twelve-year-old self believed, was like denying reality. To be positive meant that you’ve reframed your mind to think only of pink fluffy clouds and rainbow unicorns.
If you ask me now, I have zero idea where the heck I got that belief. What I do know is this: Twelve-year-old Kate is wrong… and right.
Allow me to break that down.
What’s Wrong with Today’s Positive Thinking
Optimism has become a virtue that’s deeply encouraged in any environment. Work, school, your house… everywhere. “Think positive” is a common mantra that you, your family and friends, and your boss share. Everyone’s super into it!
But, like anything else that’s great and hyped and greatly hyped, there’s a catch. It’s something I learned early on as I strived to have a more positive mindset.
Maybe it’s because of all the shows and films I’ve watched that portrayed positive thinking in this certain way. But as a kid, I didn’t like the idea of thinking positively as this tool to deny the negativity.
Even as I presently practice having a more positive mindset, I still don’t like it, honestly.
I mean, imagine if you’re standing in the middle of your burning kitchen. Would you just smile and think, “I’m sure the firefighters are on their way”?
(I do hope you answered no.)
For one summer, I did volunteer work under a boss who liked to spread positivity with his team. This, itself, was fine. Positive thinking totally helped with the group morale. But when we were in a pinch and it felt like heavy obstacles fell upon our shoulders one after another, he still maintained that “It’s okay!” “Things will work out fine,” he reassured us while not exactly working on the problems at hand.
Thinking positively by itself won’t make your problems go away.
But, Kate, you might argue. Thinking positive thoughts will lead to having positive outcomes!
Uh… Sorry to burst your positive bubble but… Not really.
Positive Fantasies and Its Effect on Performance and Reaching Goals
There have been numerous studies that found having positive fantasies don’t exactly increase the chance of those fantasies to come to life. One particular study on college students piqued my interest. Some of the students were asked to imagine the week ahead would be great while the others were asked to imagine anything that came to mind. They found that those who positively fantasized felt less energetic and accomplished less than those who weren’t.
I’ve yet to dig deep into this whole topic and what these findings can say about Law of Attraction (something that I’m also interested in learning.) But what I did get is this:
Forcing yourself to positively reframe your mind has its consequences.
If we can’t rely on positive thinking, what do we do when negative thinking ensues?
Two words: Think realistically.
And when I say “realistically,” I don’t mean you have to put on your Industrial Age scientist monocle and start talking like an academic paper. This does not mean you look at your life fully objectively.
Thinking realistically means you need to stop exaggerating your perspective.
Imagine if the ground on which you stand disappears and you fall deep into darkness. That’s kind of what happens when you receive bad news or you’re having an awful day. You descend into this deep and dark rabbit hole of negative thinking. It starts off as “Oh, I made a mistake” and gradually becomes “My life is a disaster! Nothing’s working out! I’m an utter failure.”
When you’re at that point, you don’t really want to instantly, back-breakingly propel upwards. You don’t want to think, “Everything’s okay! Things will work out fine!” Because, heck, Sherlock, things are not fine.
You just want to stop falling. And, look, that’s the thing. Most of the time? When we’re in a crappy situation, all we want is to get out of that crappy place. Any other place will be freaking fantastic.
The First Step to Fostering a Healthy Positive Mindset: GET REAL
See, “everything’s a disaster” and “everything’s all rainbows and unicorns” have one thing in common. They’re exaggerations. They are magnified, over-sensationalized versions of the truth. And so, they aren’t real.
That being said, we can’t deny the appeal of positivity. When you would have to choose, you’d pick positive reframing, wouldn’t you? Better to choose the “lesser of two evils,” right?
Well, I say: Nah thanks.
Because you don’t have to choose between these two exaggerations.
Just go for the real one.
Assess the situation for what it is. Think, “Okay, I effed up. This is bad. But it isn’t something I can’t resolve.”
The reason why I mentioned earlier to “not talk like an academic paper” is that academic papers are void of feelings. They are factual — sometimes to a fault. Rather than denying emotional overwhelm (be it a positive or a negative kind) or even denying emotions entirely, simply acknowledge the faults or obstacles or hardships that you have or may encounter.
When you screw things over, acknowledge that. But also remind yourself that it is not the end of the world. (Because it really isn’t.)
And when you do experience happy things, allow it to enter you and affect you. Bask yourself in what it feels. Just as it is.
Because true feelings and emotions — be they happy or downright awful — feel far better and just a little bit easier to handle than fakes.
If you would like to learn more about Kate (All the Trinkets) you can visit her at any of these places…
So what do you think? Do you agree with Kate? Is it all about keeping it real? I agree that it’s important to acknowledge and process our true feelings rather than straight away slap a happy emoji on everything – but I do choose to lean into optimism once the processing is completed – how about you? What do you believe is the best way to foster a healthy positive mindset? Whatever you’d like to say, please do get in touch via the comment box below – I’d love to hear from you (and I’m sure Kate would love to know your thoughts too).