The Three Mistakes People Make in Trying to Think Positively
In my work as a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist I will often talk to my customers about the importance of positive thinking. We know by thinking positively we start utilising different areas of the brain to those we use when we are thinking negatively. Those same areas that are able to cope with things much better with modern life, rather than those areas that respond with panic, anxiety, depression or a myriad of other uncomfortable symptoms and illness. As with any habit or skill the more we practise the better at it we get and the easier it becomes to access the coping areas of the brain. But are you getting it right?
I will occasionally see people in my clinic who are already very good at thinking positively and this always gives us a bit of a head start in getting them to where they want to be. I also see a few who profess to be great at positive thinking before it becomes clear that they have either lost the habit or they were never really getting it right in the first place. I also see plenty who just own up to being rubbish at it.
So here as some of the mistakes I have noticed people make in trying to think positively:
Looking for the Silver Lining:
This of course is an integral part of positive thinking and I am not saying that we should not engage in it. Taking a bad situation (or the big back cloud) and trying to find the positives (the silver lining) is always important in helping us to cope. However, all the time we are looking for the silver lining we are still staring at the big black cloud! We know that when the brain perceives trouble it tends to focus on that trouble whilst zoning out anything else that might be interesting. A few thousand years ago if you’re walking through the jungle and you hear a twig snap all your attention would go to establishing what it was that broke the twig. The fact that the sun is setting away to the west in the most beautiful array of wonderful colours will be completely lost on you. Now this of course is great when we spent much of our lives running away from lions and tigers, but having panic tunnel vision about the cancerous lump is not going to allow us to relax enough to overcome our fear of the MRI scanner to help get it surgically removed. On the other hand spending time enjoying that wonderful sunset, relaxing body and soul in the process may well allow you to relax sufficiently to get your treatment completed.
Of greater importance than finding the silver lining is to be looking for the blue sky (that sunset). Finding those things that are going well or the little moments of joy. By doing so we activate those areas of the brain that have the wherewithal to: remember we have an umbrella somewhere, to go find it and to put it up in time. Of course the black cloud may still rain on us but at least we’re not going to get as wet!
Looking for the Big Things:
People often think that it is only the big things that count. The new car, their baby taking their first steps or saying their first word, they’ve won another contract at work or they’re going on holiday next week. Of course these things are nice but they don’t happen very often. If we spend our time focusing on trying to find these big things we may go a very long time before finding the next one. Perhaps more useful is taking pleasure from the small good things such as the smile on a stranger’s face, a leaf falling from a tree, the fact that they found a car parking space close to the clinic or the taste of the first cup of coffee in the morning. These smaller things happen more frequently, but can so often be taken for granted. I always know a client is on the right lines when they precursor a good thing with “its a silly small thing but…”. Life becomes far easier to cope with when we notice a few little things happening throughout the day rather than longing for the next big thing.
Being too General
Comments such as “everything at work is good”, is a nice thing to be able to say but actually it’s not going to have the same impact on the workings of the brain as being able to say “I had a really lovely conversation with the new bloke at work about xyz” or “I am really pleased with the email I sent to my boss”. The aim in thinking positively is to generate positive neurotransmitters in the brain which have a very real impact on the way we feel. Being able to draw on the details of specific moments has a far greater impact than general statements that might be hiding a delusion.
In any mosaic there will be colours we like and those we don’t. Rather than just assuming that there are plenty of the fragments of colours we like it is better to go and find them. The more you look for something inevitably the more you will find of it and the more you find of the specifics the more you realise that there is plenty of things to feel good about at work, or at home or where-ever. Self delusion then becomes impossible.
So why not go on ahead and practice your positive thinking. What’s been good with you in the last week or so?
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