A few years ago there was a whole hype about Positivity.
You almost certainly heard or read about it: positive thinking, which in a nutshell is banning all of your negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones.
Sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it?
But is it really?
I was astonished to see that research (*) shows that we have around 70.000 thoughts a day.
Did you know that? I was really surprised when I looked up the number…
Now, whatever percentage of that number represents our negative thoughts (and I have read that it’s about 80%), can you imagine the effort and energy it takes us to be constantly trying to reframe our thoughts and retrain our mind to turn the negative ones in to positive ones?
I’m exhausted just thinking about it!
On top of being tiring, it means a lot of our energy is put in to this, and it won’t always feel right, ‘cause let’s face it:
sometimes our thoughts are negative and reflect exactly how we are feeling.
That’s it. Full stop.
So trying to reframe our thoughts and turn them in to positive ones is not really going to work if we are not in alignment with it.
In fact, it doesn’t really matter whether you have positive or negative thoughts, what actually matters is
how much power you give them.
Take any thought you have.
Let’s say it is a negative one.
Which you listen to.
When you follow that thought, you give it your attention and energy.
And the natural thing is for it to bring MORE negative thoughts.
Pop, pop, pop.
Like little puffs that attach themselves to each other until they become one huge massive black cloud.
When you give a thought your attention, you give it power.
You attach importance to it, so it swells up and gets a bit too big for its boots.
And it gains momentum.
Like a snowball rolling down a black-flagged ski slope.
The negative thought rolls in to another negative thought, which rolls in to another one and so on until you can actually have an avalanche of them – and we all know no good will come out of those.
So what are you supposed to do?
Just let the negative thought appear and… don’t latch on to it – let it disappear.
“Poof” like a bubble that pops in and out but which you don’t attach your attention to – you just let it pass by.
Instead, let you attention go to whatever else you were doing when that negative thought popped up (reading, working, getting dressed, brushing your teeth, driving the car…) – whatever it was you were doing, bring your focus back to that.
This might sound quite straightforward and it is, but if you aren’t used to doing it, it will take some practice and conscious effort on your part to do it.
Please don’t beat yourself up every time you slip and find yourself following that thought.
Remember, you have another 69.000 times that same day to take another shot at it.
And the same goes for positive thoughts: don’t feed them too much either.
They are only thoughts.
They don’t define you, even though your mind likes to trick you in to thinking they are part of who you are.
Thoughts are mostly either worrying about the future (which hasn’t happened) or mulling over the past (which we can’t change), and rarely about what is going on in the here and now – which is the most important.
So let your attention go to what is going on right then in the present moment.
Because this is what being mindful is all about.
And being present in the here and now is massively important for using your energy well and being aligned.
So to wrap this up:
- it’s not really about thoughts being positive or negative
- it’s about the power you give those thoughts
- and by power I mean attention (giving your attention = focusing your energy on them)
- so start by taking notice of how much you are allowing your thoughts to lead the way
- and notice where they are leading you and what feelings and emotions they are bringing
- then do your best to when you have a thought (be it positive or negative one) just let it appear, then disappear without letting it grasp or divert your attention
- allow your thoughts to come and go naturally, without ‘taking over’
- and bring your focus back to what you were doing when that thought popped up
Voilà! A recipe to make the most of your energy and take the power back, to choose which thoughts you want to focus on!
This does not mean that you should not have any thoughts at all.
It’s about being mindful about how much power you are giving them, and giving the power to the thoughts you really want to explore.
Speaking of which… I would love to hear your thoughts about this 🙂
* source: loni.usc.edu – Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, University of Southern California