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  • Fe Robinson

Positive thinking not working?

Identifying just one possible step forwards can be helpful

It is a common problem for clients to say they are finding their thoughts negative and debilitating and really need relief from them. Oftentimes people who are struggling with low mood are encouraged to think positively. Let’s be honest, if it was that simple they would have done it a long time ago, and there would certainly not be the levels of depression we are unfortunately seeing currently.

Positive thinking has both benefits and limitations. It has its place, but it is not a panacea. Sometimes having positive fantasies actually reduces motivation and means people make less progress towards their goals than those with less positive thinking patterns.

So what is going on with positive thinking? Why does it not just make things better? The trouble is, positive thoughts, like negative thoughts, are just thoughts. They come, they may or may not stay in your mind a while, and eventually they go. Positive thoughts feel nice, they often give a sense of comfort and relief. Strangely, these very feelings can leave a person less motivated to get out and do something about what's troubling them, they can leave a complacency.

The most powerful way of getting relief from negative thoughts is to get to the root of what is troubling you and addressing it. This may mean examining your beliefs about yourself and how they impact your self-care. It may mean looking at relationships and how you can interact healthily. It may mean facing up to uncomfortable truths about your history, yourself or others.

Mood improves and anxiety reduces when you do something differently. Often it is simple things, like taking care of yourself, eating well, exercising, art or being in nature that make a difference. Helping yourself believe you deserve this and consistently putting it into place is a great way to alleviate symptoms for good.

When the warm rosy glow of positive thoughts leaves you complacent, or lacking motivation, ask yourself what instead what is possible? What one small change might raise your motivation and help you get up and go?


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