There seems to be an obsession these days with the concept of a positive mindset. Everyone wants to be happy, and everyone wants to be positive. Positivity is the answer to everything, right? Positivity alone will save the world.
Not exactly. Striving to be happy or positive 24/7 isn’t a realistic goal. You can’t be positive all the time, and it’s unrealistic to hold that as an expectation for yourself and others.
Everyone has their struggles, and even if you are a generally positive person, you can still experience moments of negativity. In fact, the fear of having a negative mindset can cause more negativity and make us think we’re failing at life because we’re not as positive as others are.
I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to obsess about having a positive mindset. Positivity is not the be-all-end-all, and there are other goals to strive toward. Today, I’m sharing what you should focus on instead to improve your mindset in a healthy way.
The Problem With The Positivity Focus
The trouble with focusing solely on having a positive mindset is this: when you’re faced with a situation that makes you feel less than positive, you feel bad about YOURSELF for not being able to stay positive. It’s an endless cycle that leads to further negativity.
The cycle ends up looking like this: Have a negative thought → feel bad about yourself for having the negative thought → more negative thoughts
We can try and force ourselves to think in positives, but sometimes that can make us feel worse than if we just accepted our situation.
I’m sure you’ve dealt with something that felt like the end of the world only to have someone say:
- “Look on the bright side.”
- “Other people don’t have it as good as you.”
- “bE gRatEfUl foR wHaT yOu Have!!1” <— that’s an exaggeration, but sometimes it feels like people are talking like this.
If you can’t find it in you to be positive in that moment, does that mean you’ve failed? Is the goal to eradicate all negativity?
My friend Sarah wrote a great post about why she no longer focuses on being positive. She explains that, “It’s really hard to run while holding your breath and it’s really hard to move through grief, adapt to change, and work through frustration if you try to sugarcoat it with striving to choose happiness over giving yourself permission to feel various emotions, thoughts, and feelings.”
There is power in letting yourself feel without trying to immediately find the light at the end of the tunnel. We are allowed to feel emotions other than happiness. There’s a reason the human spectrum of emotion is so vast.
I’m not saying there’s no point in practicing gratitude and affirmations. I don’t want to downplay the importance of reframing negative experiences into something productive and healthy.
But trying to force a positive out of a negative doesn’t always get to the root of the issue. Gratitude and affirmations shouldn’t have to feel forced. The ultimate goal is to be at one with your emotions, both the negative and positive.
What To Focus On Instead
Humor me for a second and forget everything you’ve heard about a positive mindset.
Instead, what if we strive for a ‘healthy’ mindset?
Of course, there are so many different meanings to the word healthy, especially when it comes to physical health. But to me, there are two things we can strive for to build a healthy mindset:
Awareness and growth encourage you to uplift your mindset without pushing away the heavy stuff. They help you understand what’s going on within you and identify ways that you can keep moving forward.
When you experience a thought you consider to be “negative”, it’s important not to beat yourself up for thinking that way. This can lead to resentment and feeling like you’re failing yourself.
Instead, bring awareness to what you’re thinking. Learn to be aware without judging yourself for what you’re thinking.
Pay close attention to the way you think about yourself and others. Accept the thoughts you have and continue moving on with your day without letting them derail you.
Whatever’s causing you to feel negative in your life, remember to give yourself grace. It’s not permanent. It’s only a feeling. You are not your thoughts, and your thoughts are not always the truth.
Awareness also helps us to realize when we are having good and positive thoughts. If you spend all of your time believing that you only think negative thoughts, you’ll miss the times when good thoughts do come your way. Meditation and journaling are great tools for improving your awareness.
The idea of a growth mindset comes from Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset. Dweck talks about how some people have a fixed mindset and others have a growth mindset.
Those with a fixed mindset believe that you’re born the way you are and things can’t really change. They also believe that situations are fixed and there are no better options. Those with a growth mindset believe that things can always be learned. They believe that anything can be achieved if you put in the time and effort.
When you have a growth mindset, you ask yourself how you can move on from negative experiences. Rather than trying to force it into a positive experience, you ask, “How can I grow from this?” or “What is this teaching me right now?”
We’re all human, and we all experience dark, deep, and intense thoughts. Don’t be afraid to dig into them and see what you can learn from them.
Do you agree with this post?
I hope this post has challenged you to think outside of the box and recognize that you don’t always need to strive for positivity. Think of a healthy mindset as the ultimate goal because it encourages positivity through growth and awareness. Try to bring awareness to your thoughts, and allow yourself to grow from them rather than pushing them aside.