First posted to: https://surehopecounseling.com/balanced-positivity/
If you have been following our blog at SureHope over this past year, you have probably been showered with guidance and advice on positive thinking and some of the virtues of positivity: Gratitude, Hopefulness, Curiosity, Happiness, and Joy. We hope that you have found the blogs helpful and informative in making positive changes in your life! As we near the end of the year, I thought it would be important to address a common trap we all fall into with positivity. The trap when we struggle to be positive, grateful, or hopeful and we begin to believe that we are broken or something is wrong with us. Falling into this trap can be overwhelming, but there are ways to break out.
A common exercise given to people to help increase positive thinking is gratitude journaling. For example, write down 5 things that you are grateful for everyday in the morning. The idea of this practice is to engage your focus and attention on a positive thinking framework throughout the day, thus eliciting more positive emotions. This exercise by itself is a great tool that I would recommend everyone to try and practice to develop positive thinking with some caveats. A study done on gratitude journaling revealed that sometimes doing them too often had a neutral and/or even a negative effect. The participants assigned to do this exercise more frequently throughout the week began to either struggle to identify blessings each time and/or the exercise lost its meaning and became a chore. Understandably, the struggle to identify blessings began to trigger negative responses like sadness, shame, and hopelessness.
This positive exercise inadvertently turned into a never ending chase for more and more things to be thankful for. Eventually if we cannot think of anything to be thankful for, we could believe that this struggle is a confirmation that we are not fortunate in life. While it is perfectly normal to identify only a few blessings occasionally, people fell into a perfectionistic cycle that they had to identify more and more if they wanted to experience positivity.
Less Is More
We need to find balance. There are many practices we have highlighted in our posts this year and if you have found yourself struggling with one, take a break. Take a step back, recognize if you have been forcing yourself to do these different exercises, and release yourself from the perfectionistic cycle you are trapped in. Try a new practice/exercise or adjust the amount of times you practice. Go from trying to list 5 things you are thankful for each day to once a week. Being able to identify even 1 blessing for the week and allowing it to reframe your perceptions and thoughts in a positive way is living out positivity just as much as identifying 5 different blessings each day.
Struggling with positive thinking is nothing to be ashamed of. Having difficulty in adjusting your mindset to positive thinking is not a concrete indicator that there is something wrong with you or that something is broken. Remember that positivity does not have to be a goal to be achieved, it is a value to be lived out. Focusing on one virtue is just as positive as focusing on several. If you find yourself wrestling with positive thinking, take a moment to find the right balance for you and it might just be that less is more.
Daniel Pak – Learn more about working with Daniel here!