The Power of Positive Thinking: How to Use Positivity to Take Back Your Power
I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all heard about how being positive works miracle. But do you really understand what it means to be positive?
Often, we are told to be positive after suffering inconveniences, traumas, and losses, as if we can just flip a switch in our brain to go from being sad to happy. When people say things like this, it makes us resent them and the idea of positivity.
The biggest reason is that a lot of the time, people associate positivity with happiness. I would argue otherwise. While it can lead to happiness, positivity is not a pair of rose-colored glasses that make your life seem all bright and shiny, glossing over the things you don’t want to see.
Positivity is a lifestyle. And like any lifestyle, you have to build it from the ground up.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
The Definition of Positivity
All of our personality traits, beliefs, positive attitude, and values are learned. Positivity is no exception. It’s not something that a few people are born with but a practice that becomes a lifestyle.
Most spiritual practices, as well as CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), are founded on the idea that your thoughts shape your reality. Therefore, when you experience positive thoughts, you experience a positive reality.
However, this can be incredibly difficult, especially for those experiencing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. I remember being desperate for help back in high school and coming across these practices online. I thought they were lame. Useless. How could putting a smile on my face and pretending that everything was okay solve everything?
Of course, my perception of positivity was all wrong. This kind of behavior refers to “false positivity” or “fake positivity” where pretending that you’re okay only masks what you’re feeling inside. Rather than addressing your emotions, you’re pushing them further away which only worsens the problem in the long run.
That being said, false positivity can sometimes be helpful to condition your mind into believing statements that you feel are untrue. In fact, that’s what affirmations are all about. However, you can’t apply false positivity to your life like it’s a band-aid. Feelings run deeper than superficial wounds. Click here for a fantastic article that explains this really well.
True positivity means understanding that life comes with good and bad situations and that it can’t all be one magical fairytale. However, it also means re-framing the bad that is present in your life into something you can learn from. Or finding even the tiniest bit of light in that tunnel of darkness. It does not mean smiling through your pain but taking the time to understand what it is you’re feeling and how you can solve it/come back from it.
Ultimately, it means not letting your experiences hold you back from truly living the rest of your life.
So, how exactly can we practice positivity and actually make it stick?
Taking Back Your Power
Thoughts may feel fleeting but they have incredible power. The power of the mind has been proven again and again. I mean look at the placebo effect! People in drug studies that have taken regular sugar pills still experience very real, physical changes just because they believe that they have been given the drug.
We are all so used to underestimating ourselves and our minds that our power has been taken from us. You must understand that you are not your mind but your mind is yours. It’s just a tool, like your body. In the same way you use a pen to write stories, you can use your mind to write your life.
This is not an overnight process. I’m tired of hearing people say that you can do it quick and easy, that you’ll have results in no time. No, you won’t. And if you’re impatient, I’m sorry. Nothing worthwhile comes overnight. It takes time, practice, and dedication and if anyone tells you otherwise, I wouldn’t trust them.
If you really want to build yourself a positive lifestyle, then here are some habits you’re going to want to start.
7 Ways to Build a Positive Lifestyle
Is this a cliche habit? Yes. Is it important and useful? Absolutely. Gratitude can go such a long way in reframing your mindset because it refocuses your attention on the good things in life. Lucky for you, I have an entire article written about it! Read it through to find tips and practical techniques outlined on how you can practice gratitude.
Another cliche habit but a powerful one. When you focus your mind on the present, you’ll find that there is a lot less to stress/worry about. And will you look at that, it looks like I’ve also written an article about this! Read through to find out how you can practice mindfulness in your day-to-day life.
I think books are an excellent way that help the reader achieve to new methods, ideologies, and practices. I’m not the biggest self-help book fan but I will recommend Good Vibes, Good Life by Vex King, a phenomenal bestseller, to every person I ever meet for the rest of my life. This is the book that started my mental attitude, emotional health and spiritual journey. If you’re looking for a place to start with reading, this would be a great choice!
For the people saying “writing is not for me,” STOP. There are more ways to journal than through traditional diary-keeping practice. Start a blog! Or a vlog! Or maybe your own secret (or public, you do you) podcast to unspool the thoughts all tangled up in that head of yours!
You can use journal prompts as a way of starting because I know a lot of you will start something like this and then your mind goes blank (that’s what happens to me). There’s too many things to address so you don’t know what to write about. Prompts are a great way to keep you focused on one thing at a time.
Click here to access a FREE DOWNLOAD of 6 journal prompts to practice positivity.
Meditation can serve as a useful tool to distance yourself from your mind and body. When you do that, your reality will be less clouded by your perception, and seeing the good will become much easier than before. I have a whole article detailing meditation and how you can get into it here (you really thought I was done linking my articles, huh 🙂 )
Find a Hobby
Our hobbies are usually based around the things that we are passionate about, that give us joy. Hobbies can light a fire in our souls, a passion that gives you purpose and joy and makes you want to see how far you can go. Try new things, find your hobbies, and you’ll start to find more positivity in your life. The world is waiting for you.
Ah, positive affirmations. I went from thinking that they’re useless to being their number one fan. An affirmation is a statement that you repeat every day to reshape your thoughts and your reality. For example, repeating “I love every inch of myself,” every day (even if you don’t believe it at first) can go a long way towards unworking feelings of self-hatred.
WARNING – The Dangers of False Positivity and Spiritual Bypassing
Like any tool, positivity can be used for both good and bad. Sometimes, people engage in the bad kind of false positivity as well as spiritual bypassing to avoid confronting their emotions or the reality of their situations. It’s like living in denial.
These people will quote “detachment” and “positive vibes” as their reasoning for avoiding looking at the negative thoughts and aspects of life. Positivity and spirituality are not meant to be used to throw a blanket over your problems. They are meant to awaken you so that you can work on yourself.
The worst manifestation of false positivity and spiritual bypassing occurs through racism. In fact, I’m sure that we can see a lot of it now, as more and more people wake up to the horrors that the Black community has been facing for centuries. Rather than educating themselves and actively participating in the movement for human rights, these people will distance themselves from the subject, claiming that it would only “lower their vibrations.” They may also be the people that send “light and love to all in these trying times” but don’t actually do anything else.
If this sounds like you, I ask that you reflect on why you’re really distancing yourself from this movement, as well as any others that concern human rights. I can tell you for sure that it’s not because of a positive/spiritual lifestyle. If you were truly about positivity, you would use your positive mindset to spur yourself into action.
This is not to say that thoughts and vibrations don’t have power. Of course they do! But action is what allows your positivity to reach the rest of the world with a greater force. Especially now, when change within our system is so urgently needed (not just in America, but the whole world).
Please allow positive psychology to unlock your empathy, not erase it. You need it, and so does the world.