If positive thinking were that easy, we would all have adopted it and the levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness would be lower than they are.
But the benefits of positive thinking are real, but not in the simplistic way one might think.
Early psychology looked at issues of mental health as a disease, focusing on what was wrong. Later models began to look at why some people managed to stay hopeful in the face of difficulty, why some people are better at bouncing back from defeat than others. What are those inner resources and how can we find them?
Positive psychology looks at resilience, courage, hope and spirituality. But the link between positive thinking and positive outcomes is not just a matter of denying the negative and pretending our challenges don’t exist.
The most simplistic views of positive thinking lead us to believe that our problems are self-inflicted and if only we could ‘think more positively’, everything would be fine. This leads us to feeling guilty that we haven’t ‘tried hard enough’. The pressure to think positively can also lead us to believe that we aren’t, in our depressed, anxious state, the people that our loved ones want us to be. The subconscious message is “we would love you more if you were different”. That message can cause people to stop talking about their problems and turn inwards.
In cognitive behavioural therapy, we are encouraged to look at our thoughts, identify which unhelpful patterns they belong to, and then find opposite thoughts and finally the balanced thought in the centre of the two polarities.
Positive thinking is there effective when it can show us how untrue our negative thinking is, opening our minds to new possibilities.
So how can we harness the power of the positive?
Mindfulness helps you become aware that you have the power to respond, or not, to your thoughts. There’s less of a knee jerk reaction – this makes me sad, that makes me angry – and more of an opportunity to be present with thoughts and decide how to respond to them.
Gratitude is useful for recognising what is already going right in your world. A daily round up of the best things in our lives is good for mental health. And it can be something very small. The smell of the first grass cuttings in summer, the taste of a good soup, time spent with a pet.
Keeping a diary of our negative thoughts helps create a place where we can see he positive side of life. You can also write out the opposite thought and find a balanced one in between the two.
Visualising creates a positive emotional state, enabling us to go to a peaceful happy place in our soul and absorb and remember those thoughts and feelings.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy uses these techniques to create a positive image of the future – instead of this particular state, how would it be if life were better for you? How would you feel? Can you imagine that sensation? And from this we can draw out how we could make a start on bringing that about, breaking down the task into small achievable units. Hypnosis helps the individual to implant the suggestion of positivity into their subconscious through deep relaxation and post hypnotic suggestion.
For more information on Solution Focused Hypnotherapy, contact your local registered hypnotherapist at http://www.hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk
Call for a no obligation chat or email me.