Does positive thinking really work?

There is indeed, a power in positive “rational” thinking that when utilized to its fullest potential can transform your life from anxiety, low self-esteem, and unhappiness into strength, confidence, and joy. I have seen time and again how faulty thinking patterns lead people to feel miserable and anxious when in reality, there is truly nothing for them to be upset about. In fact, they seem to have achieved so much and have so much evidence that they are resourceful and competent but they resolutely refuse to see this. They seem to be making a conscious or subconscious “choice” to filter out the good in their lives. I put the word choice in quotation marks because our thinking can become so automatic that we don’t even make a conscious choice about what to think and what to believe.

Positive thinking or “thought work” as I like to call it, is not a some-time thing, it is an all-time thing. If you do not work on it constantly, always catching yourself when you are thinking negatively or irrationally and then deliberately thinking or voicing something positive, then it is unlikely that it will have the desired effect. However, if you learn the techniques in this book and constantly apply them to your life, you will see some major changes in how you start to feel and the results you are getting. One of the hardest things to do is to be able to maintain a positive state of mind on a constant basis. Obviously no one is ever always up or always down, but what one tries to achieve is to stay above that imaginary line that would divide the two extremes. In other words, we all want to be a little bit optimistic rather than a little bit depressed or anxious; a little bit happy rather than a little bit sad.

As an example, there have been days in my life where I would be going about my business and for seemingly no reason at all I might start experiencing powerful feelings of negativity and doubt (I have since then been experiencing these seemingly uncontrollable negative moods less and less as I have practiced the strategies that I will mention in this book). What did I doubt? Everything! I would feel as if everything in the world was wrong. These intensely powerful feelings and emotions would often cloud my reasoning and inevitably lead to more negative thoughts, which would then perpetuate the whole cycle of negative emotions leading to further negative thoughts, disempowering beliefs and behaviors. Is this ringing a bell for you?

When I first began to study the concept of positive thinking, I worked purely with affirmations or “thought replacement.” What I was able to do with increasing effectiveness was to change these negative feelings into positive ones through the use of encouraging and positive affirmations. There are many other great books written about the power of affirmations and I am sure you have come across a few good ones yourself. The way I went about using these affirmations was to immediately start to either voice positive statements or to get myself to think positively. An important fact that I would like to make here is that I often did not believe the positive statements that I made. The reason for this is because I was feeling so bad at that moment that I couldn’t see any way that the positive things I was saying were actually true. There is a specific method I will talk about in a later blog that will take you through the steps of changing your thoughts in a similar fashion, even though you won’t feel at first what you have written down as an alternative is true or valid.

What I began to notice, however, was that whether I believed the statements that I made or not was usually irrelevant to the outcome, which was that after a period of time my mood started to lift and I started seeing things in a more positive (rational) light. It is really amazing when you learn to be the master of your thoughts and therefore your emotions how your whole outlook on life can change. After a period of time, when you think back to the time when you didn’t feel in control, you can hardly believe you are the same person. You will think: “Was that me? Did I really think like that? Did I really believe that?” I am excited because you may have chosen to follow this path too by choosing to read this blog.

One of the problems that I found in my struggle to keep a positive frame of mind is that once I had achieved that state that is above the imaginary line between being unhappy and happy, I often let it slip away. How did I let it slip away? I mistakenly believed that I would continue to feel positive even if I did not continue to use the techniques. What eventually happens is that without that conscious effort to keep your mind in shape, the negative thoughts start working their way back in. Negative thoughts are sly, they have a way of building themselves up in your mind slowly like a fungus, until they have built themselves up into a formidable force that often seems hard if not impossible to eliminate. So what is the solution for those who are struggling with the process of maintaining a positive mental attitude? Keep at it!

If you plant a seed in the ground and water it every day, it starts to grow towards the surface. If you don’t know and trust that this seed is growing, you will doubt whether anything at all is happening underneath the surface. You may start to say: “I don’t believe in this! I water this piece of ground every day but I never see any results for all my hard work!” Part of life is trusting that if you put in the effort, the outcome is already happening with your very intention and then your action. Eventually, one day, that little plant breaks through the soil with its green, new stem. And from there, you watch it grow stronger and more vital every day (as long as you keep looking after it and watering it!).

Like I said, negative thoughts are sly, they are often perpetuated by your subconscious in that they can become so automatic that you might never notice that you are actually thinking negatively. The first big step that anyone must make if they truly want to stop the negativity, become more positive and change their lives is to recognise those negative automatic thoughts as they appear. You must start to catch your thoughts. This is a big step towards the eventual elimination of those negative thoughts because it is only once we recognise where the problems lie that we can take action to correct them.

Written by 

David Fox is an author, speaker and registered psychologist with a masters degree in psychology. He believes that overcoming issues like anxiety and depression are best tackled on multiple fronts such as exercise, supplements, working with your thoughts and beliefs, watching your diet and talking to someone who can provide empathy and support while you figure things out. His goal is teach people individually and within organisations in how to help themselves thrive. In addition, David supports patients who would like to eventually reduce or potentially stop taking anti-depressant medication if they are finding major negative side effects from remaining on the medications and looking for alternative routes to a better quality of life. This is not for everyone, and yes some people may need to remain on some amount of medication – especially those with bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia. However, for those whose issues began as anxiety and/or depression, there may certainly be another way to healing other than medication. David is the author of the book Change your Life! Hope and Healing for Anxiety and Depression.

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