In recent years we’ve been led to believe that positive thinking is the solution to every problem and how it helps towards altering your reality and boosting self-esteem.
However, constantly forcing yourself to be positive is not the best way to deal with one’s reality, and can actually end up doing more harm than good.
When it comes to your self-esteem, you are mostly reliant on your own thoughts — be it negative or positive. For those who get hung up on a thought or get obsessed with it, trying to channelize thoughts into a positive direction never really works.
In his book, Help! How to Become Slightly Happier and Get a Bit More Done, Author Oliver Burkeman states, “The problem I see with positive thinking is that it can all too easily become a barrier to action, because it’s based on the premise that you need to get yourself into the right frame of mind — positive or motivated or raring to go, or whatever — before you can start acting. In fact, it can be tremendously liberating to realize you don’t need to feel like doing something in order to do it. You can just notice the negative feelings and act anyway.”
When it was released a couple of years ago, the famous book, The Secret caused a revolution of sorts and made us believe that our thoughts influence our reality. This was a dangerous predicament as it was disempowering for those who found it difficult dismissing their anxieties and worries.
While it isn’t wrong to feel positive when it comes naturally in times when you’re happy, there are also those times when negative thoughts crop up and take over your very core. When we’re in a joyful mood it is easy to feel positive, other times not so much. And we need a massive amount of willpower to force positive thoughts.
While it may seem like there’s no escaping this vicious cycle, Dr. Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, has a solution. Known as the ACT — Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, his method is based on compassionate self-talk, self-acceptance, and meaningful action aligned with one’s core values.
One simple strategy he prescribes is the mindful STOP technique. It takes barely 30 seconds and can be done at any time. And it will rewire your brain over time and you will end up throwing negative thoughts out the window in no time.
These are the 4 steps of the S.T.O.P. technique:
S — Slow down.
T — Take notice. Notice and be aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment and curiosity. Remember that it is just a thought, and does not represent who you are.
O — Open up. Let your thoughts in. Make room for them and let them exit through you.
P — Pursue your values. Reconnect with your core values and let those guide you through your later course of action.
It is far better to be mindful and let yourself naturally defuse your negative thoughts instead of forcing them away. Once you focus and religiously follow STOP, you’ll be relieved to know that you are not your thoughts and you cannot be governed by them.
You will slowly learn self-compassion and gradually liberate yourself from feeling negative from time to time. It is a liberating feeling to not be ruled by one’s negative thoughts and you once you take ownership of them and not let them fester you will live a far more fulfilling and happy life. And you wouldn’t have to force positive thoughts anymore.