August 12, 2011

Why positive thinking may be bad. ~ Veronique Barnes

Photo: Malin Bakay

Sure, having a positive outlook and seeing the good side of things sounds nice—but are we doing so in full awareness, or are we hiding from life?

We are often told to keep our hopes up and to think positively in order to achieve our goals. Although I agree with having faith in what life and the future holds, I also think that desperate positive thinking can make us fall hard. When we blindly choose to think positively, expecting people to react a certain way, putting all our faith into this new job, grasping on to the idea that this man will make us happy, we are in fact running away from reality, away from any true happiness.

Goals in life are great, but aspirations are better. With goals comes expectations of how things should be, a line so fine that we are often disappointed. However, with aspirations comes this understanding that the world is in movement, that things change constantly and that it is okay. Goals are too tangible for a future that does not yet exist, whereas aspiring to be a better person, to learn, to give and to love are all elements of the present.

Blind positive thinking is aimed at a future state of being rather than just being. This is a problem because we are feeling emotions in the present moment for events, actions and things that have not yet occurred—we are living our life before it unfolds. And then, when it finally does, we are left with regrets, disappointed about how things went—we now fall into the past, living only in memories.

Let’s explore how conscious positive thinking is different. For example, being anxious and excited to see certain people is great, but if it takes a hold of all our energy and if we attach emotions to it, we will most likely be deceived. So either we let go of expectations altogether, or we have hopes but are aware of their absolute non-existence in the present.

The only life worth living is the one that is happening now. When we understand that being truly happy is simply a matter of perspective, even if we just get glance of it at a time, we become conscious of life as it unfolds, appreciating every last details of each moment. Positive thinking then becomes part of who we are, and is no longer defined as an opposite to negative thoughts, it simply just is. And so allow yourself to be anxious for the future, but don’t make it your single focus.

Become aware of the emerging feelings and sensations throughout your body, rather than thought processes. Be confident in the person you are while aspiring to continuously be true to yourself. Get your enthusiasm back for all of life’s wonders, knowing that you are one of them. Fill your lungs with fresh air and smile, just for the heck of it!


Véronique Barnes is a yoga practitioner and international development worker living in Ottawa, Canada. She writes articles on yoga, spirituality, meditation, and all of life’s little things that make us happy. You can read more on her blog .

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