“Think positive.” How many times have you heard those words? They’re always well-meant but don’t they sometimes make you want to scream? If you suffer from anxiety then you know all too well that simply ‘thinking positive’ isn’t the answer. In fact I bet you then use those words to beat yourself up a bit – asking yourself why you can’t seem to ‘think positive’ or why trying to think positive isn’t making you feel better. It might help you for a few minutes, a few hours maybe, but all too often you then go right back to where you were before. And I also believe there’s a danger of trying to force positive thoughts in place of more challenging feelings, which only buries them, without allowing you to feel them and work through them.
The answer is in two very different words. Think. Feel. They’re worlds apart. I could also add in Know. You can ‘think’ something, you can ‘know’ something in your head (knowledge is power right? Well, no, not unless you know what to do with it!). But neither of those are any good unless you also truly ‘feel’ it. In your core. Otherwise you’re just living in your head, not your body.
I’ve ‘known’ for months that to help calm my over-active nervous system down (which, by the way, controls virtually every aspect of your body, which is why with an illness like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you can get so many apparently unconnected symptoms, including anxiety), I need to be positive (which can be hard when life seems to be giving you plenty to feel negative about!). But there is a huge difference between thinking positive thoughts and actually believing them and feeling them. Thinking positive often means thinking something that doesn’t actually feel true. For example I could think to myself ‘I’m going to get better.” But if I don’t really believe it, what use is it? Ok it’s better than thinking the opposite, but when you feel it and believe it then that you’ll really feel a shift inside of you.
So how can you make that shift from thinking to feeling and believing? It’s amazingly simple yet incredibly hard sometimes.
Find the positive. The real positive. What can you find in your situation that is really, truly positive? There will always be something no matter how bad things seem. As an example, I think I’ve mentioned before, that the first thing one of my amazing coaches, Raeya from CFS Health, asked me to do was write a list of all the things I CAN do. It was a short list. At the time I was housebound and in bed for much of that time. I came up with 10 things, like ‘brush my teeth’, and ‘have a bath’. She also asked me to write down everything I was doing on a daily basis to improve my health and wellbeing. Writing these lists focused me on what positive things I was doing. I was finding the positives in my situation. And because they were true, I wasn’t trying to convince myself, which is what ‘positive thinking’ often feels like. I’m now a few months on and decided to write another ‘what I CAN do’ list. In 10 minutes I’d written 50 things. The increase from my initial 10 things was partly because I’m gradually becoming able to do more, but in the most part they were things I’ve always been able to do, I’d just taken them for granted. So on my list were things like I can breathe, smile, laugh, cry, listen, love, learn, be inspired, inspire, eat, think, plan dream… Suddenly I’m thinking ‘Wow look at all the things I can do!’ I’m not trying to think positive thoughts, I’m feeling positive!
Another quick example. I’ve worried at times over the past months what effect my situation is having on my two children. Well, the other day I was lying outside and my seven year old daughter asked me to play with her. When I asked what she wanted to play (expecting to have to say no as it would be something I wouldn’t have the energy to do) she said, “Let’s play relaxing. And I’ll make you a fan.” Isn’t that awesome? I could feel bad that at the moment I can’t (please note ‘at the moment I can’t’ not just ‘I can’t’ – there’s a big difference!) play with my kids as much as I’d like to, take them out places, take them to school etc. Or I could find the positive – which is that seeing me going through a challenging time is helping them build life-skills such as empathy, kindness, resilience, independence, determination and an appreciation of life and the people in it. It also made me realise I could come up with other fun things to do with her that don’t require much energy, like painting our nails, making face packs out of mashed avocado. (My son’s harder – he mainly wants to play football so still working on that one!)
Finding the positive in things means you believe what you’re thinking and you truly feel that positivity in your heart, your core. And the more you do it, the more you’ll naturally start seeing the positives in more things. And once you’re looking at the world that way, the negative thinking will naturally diminish too.
So what have you been thinking negatively about? Can you look for a positive? There’ll be one somewhere… and if you need help to get you started, just comment below and I’ll see if I can help!
“When life gives you a hundred reasons to break down and cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile and laugh.” Power of Positivity.