Does Reading About Positive Thinking Make Us Depressed?
Can Life Really Be This Fantastic All The Time?
In recent years we have been told that all we need to do is to just think positively and our lives will transform. Positive thinking is widely sold as a very simple philosophy- stop thinking negative thoughts, and you will attract wonderful people, untold riches and love beyond your wildest dreams. Unhappiness and misery will be a thing of the past, and we will all live happily ever after.
Whilst this may indeed already be the case for some, and they are merrily waltzing off into the sunset, for others, not much has changed. Despite spending huge amounts of money on books, courses, DVD’s, lectures, and classes, many still find that life is tough, and has just as many bad days as good ones.
Thinking positively has been marketed as the answer to all our problems. It does not, however, allow for the fact that often in the face of adversity, we find our inner strength and grow exponentially due to the experience. Everyone will, at some stage, encounter hardship in their life- the death of a loved one, the loss of a prized possession or job, or a life-threatening illness. These events are sent to teach us valuable life-lessons, and as we process them and grow from the experience, we are shown a different perspective on our challenges.
Years later we can look back and see that the perceived or real tragedy propelled us into a completely different way of life. For some, this was a spiritual wake up call, others, a completely different direction in their careers, marriages, diet, travel plans....For many, these experiences are something to be grateful for as, with hindsight, great changes were able to take place as a result of the challenge. We can blossom and change in the face of adversity.
More People Are Taking Anti-Depressants Than Ever Before
Whilst on the one hand the self-help industry has proved itself to be a very profitable market, with an explosion of products and courses, on the other hand, we are taking anti-depressants in ever increasing quantities. Are more and more people reading and studying these materials and yet finding that they cannot change their unhappiness, that it doesn’t quite work for them? Is this in turn contributing to the depression- not being able to achieve what we are told is a simple way to improve our lives?
The aim of the self- help industry is to try to teach us to be happy with ourselves. However, we live in a society that constantly reminds us how we should look, what we should drive, where we should go on holiday, what is acceptable and what is not, and so on. The answer to our happiness is not to be found in the perfect relationship, car, job, holiday, house or dream. We are told that these things will make us happy, but as soon as we achieve that goal, we bore easily, and proceed to the next must have item, and then the next, and this never stops. Bigger house, faster car, younger partner, more money in the bank.....
Quietly Questioning Life
An ever growing number of teachers are quietly telling us that the answer to happiness lies within. It is found when we can truly embrace all the different aspects of ourselves and accept them completely - this is where we find peace. This is a journey where we look closely at our reactions to the world, at our acceptance of ourselves and others, and take responsibility for our actions, thoughts and words.
Personal development is not for the faint hearted. It takes courage to own your shadow side, to find out where you are responsible for your behaviour today, regardless of what happened in the past, and to stop judgement and criticism of self and others. It takes strength to realise that playing the victim, being a bully, controlling, belittling, gossiping, and finding fault with others are all behaviours that do not serve us. Often these behaviours are adaptations from childhood that helped us to survive, but as an adult, they only serve to bring us more pain.
This deeply personal journey can take a lifetime. It sometimes presents hurdles that seem insurmountable, and usually requires that we have a support network along the way to support us. It can be a difficult path to tread. The rewards can be incredible- complete acceptance of yourself and others.
Positive thinking does work for some people. It is evident that it has transformed many people and the dream of their success is what sells so many products and courses. However, for those who are left even more depressed at their seeming failure to achieve the promise of happiness, another course of action is needed. For some, professional help and chemicals are what are required, just to function on a daily basis. For others, a complete change of life circumstances and addressing addictions, compulsive behaviours, and obsessions is the course to take. For people who have genuine issues with life and health, thinking positively may not be what is going to make them better. Sometimes it is about accepting the challenge and working out the best way to get through it.
It is evident that most people would prefer to be positive thinkers. It has been proven to improve health, and it is always more fun to spend time with someone who is positive than someone who is a pessimist. For those who have learnt to be scared, anxious, or fearful because of what life has shown them, there is much work to be done to discover that there is a different way to look at life, and that feeling safe is also an inside job. One of the biggest hurdles for these people is that often pessimism has been inherited from authority or parental figures and thus is a learned behaviour. When a behaviour is deeply ingrained in this way, it can be easy to spot in others, but less easy to identify in ourselves.
Positive thinking is one way of achieving happiness in this lifetime. A different approach, is to be authentic in all moments. When something sad happens, allow yourself to be sad. When there is something to be joyful about, rejoice. Denying that life has challenging times is, in itself, unhealthy, especially when we know that we often come alive in the face of adversity and discover things about ourselves that we would not otherwise have known. Life is not usually either happy or sad. It is a wonderful combination of all the different ranges of emotions that we have to express ourselves.
There is always hope. Tomorrow is always a different day. No matter how difficult today is, the sun will rise on a different day tomorrow and the hope is that something will happen that will change your perspective to a happier one. In the meantime, read books that motivate or inspire you, and spend time with people who do the same. Happiness, like all the emotions is something that comes along from time to time. Embrace it whilst it is with you and work on the things in life that cause you pain when it is not. This way you are taking responsibility for your mental health and improving your life at the same time.
Written by Caroline Nettle.
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