Happiness and positive thinking

The self-help literature contains a vast quantity of resources advocating different variations on the theme of positive affirmation and visualization. The theory is simple: repeat a positive message enough and your mind will eventually believe it strongly enough to start bringing your positive visualizations into reality. I am happy, I am confident, I am successful etc…

I’m sure that many readers have tried this approach before without much success. Indeed, as much as I would like to believe in the power of positive thinking, there are a number of very real challenges. Forced positive thinking can often draw unwanted attention to the opposite negative effect, it can inhibit subconscious flow, it can be mentally exhausting and, when it does occasionally work, it can make people oblivious to important negative signals which can have serious long term consequences.

But the primary reason why the guidelines for happiness given in the preceding posts do not place much emphasis on positive thinking is that such continued conscious intervention goes against the central philosophy advocated here. The entire action plan advocated on this blog revolves around the concept of living within environments where doing the right thing becomes automatic and natural. Continued conscious forcing through pure willpower is avoided as much as possible.

The guidelines for happiness given on this blog; vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression, represent an environment within which happiness happens automatically and naturally. If you really are as fit and healthy as you can be, surrounded by people who care about you and fully engaged in meaningful work that you find very interesting and stimulating, you certainly won’t need any conscious effort to be happy.

bad-news-catThat being said, however, it is important to maintain a positive disposition; that is to avoid excessive negative thinking and to remember all the good things in life. Lots and lots of bad things happen in the world we live in today (the vast majority over which you have no control) and placing excessive emphasis on such negatives is a very effective drain on happiness. On the flipside, life is full of lots and lots of positives that we habitually fail to notice and be grateful for.

There really is no need to consistently expose yourself to all the sensationalist bad news that always seems to dominate the headlines. Nor is it necessary to completely obsess about the potentially enormous negative impacts of things like climate change and the global economic crisis. The role of negative information is to correctly shape your decisions, not to make you miserable.

You are also encouraged to fill your environment with reminders of all the things that are good in your life and to get into the habit of giving thanks. Don’t be shy to decorate your home and office with smiling family photos, openly display any trophies/certificates representing your achievements or even to keep a written list of everything you have to be grateful for. The short bursts of spontaneous gratefulness triggered by such items can do wonders to maintain balance in an overly negative world.

So, in the end it is once again about balance. Excessive positive thinking can definitely do more harm than good, but so can excessive negative thinking. Striving for the golden middle ground while patiently building that happy environment of vibrant health, nourishing personal relationships and free creative expression therefore appears to be the most effective route to lasting happiness.

Filed under: Mental control – Happiness

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