The Pros and Cons of Positive Thinking

So you’ve probably opened this because you think positive thinking is always good. Yes? Well I’m a big fan of looking on the bright side, I’m a natural optimistic and my glass is nearly always at least half full. But I want to share with you times when positive thinking is not always the answer and another approach could be beneficial.

What do I mean by Positive Thinking? 

If you follow social media or any of the self-help gurus out there there is a lot of encouragement to focus on gratitude, to focus on what you have, to say affirmations like “I am wonderful, I am loving, I am rich…” and so on, the idea being “fake it until you make it”.

Or you get people who say “yes I can see that you have problems, but look at Africa – they have such bigger problems that you.” Or they may say “well you have only have back pain, that poor person has cancer”. The comparison is meant to make you feel better, but does it?

So a good starting point is to try saying some of these statements out loud. I’m a great believer in listening to your body as well as to your mind. After all the more sources of information you have, the better you can make a good decision.

So if you’re having a good week and you say to yourself “I’m fantastic” the chances are your body is going to agree with you. So great. You reinforced what you already knew. But what if you are having a terrible week, maybe your back is playing up, your best friend has just been diagnosed with cancer and you’re concerned you are about to be made redundant. Now try saing “I’m fantastic”. Now for some people that will be the kick they need to refocus, but for many they will hear voices along the lines of “who are you trying to kid? What do you mean fantastic? Well that’s a load of rubbish.” Or you may feel your posture sag, you may notice your energy drop, you may feel despondent in response to fantastic. Whatever your response – it’s not working.

So how can you use Positive Thinking in a Productive/Resourceful Way

Let’s assume your starting point is that you are having a bad day. You are feeling unresourceful, you have low energy and you don’t know how you are going to change this. It may have been going on for a while. And the last thing you need is for someone to tell you to “look on the bright side…..”

So what needs to change?

Put a different way, what is different in you to the person who is having a good day, has loads of energy and has lots of ideas about how to make life even better.

The difference from my perspective is how resourceful they are. They have more energy, more ideas, are more able to change their state to be even better. Whilst you are stuck in a low, unresourceful state.

So how do you increase your resourcefulness?

The secret I’ve discovered over years of working on myself and working with others is you need to find a place in your bodymind where you are already resourceful. You need to find part of you that has the answers. The problem is when you feel low or under resourced is that you are probably focusing on what doesn’t work, rather than looking for what does work. And if you are looking for what does work – you’re looking outside of yourself for the solution. Because much as we like to think that we can think ourselves out of this, many of us can’t. So you need to involve your body in the process.

The exercise I love comes from Somato-Respiratory Integration and is an amazing way of starting to find internal resources so that you can improve your experience of your body and hence your life. Trust me. This exercise is very simple, but simple doesn’t mean ineffective.

So sit in a comfortable chair with your back supported and your spine straight, or lie on your bed/a yoga mat without a pillow under your head so that your spine is straight.

Place your hands on your upper chest palm over palm. Imagine breathing into your hands so that your upper chest moves with the breath. Do this gently, don’t try to force it. Notice if you can keep the breath and movement only in that area. Notice if focusing on that area is easy, makes you feel good, is somewhere you can hold your focus or if actually it’s difficult to stay focused here.

You are going to repeat this on two further positions. The second position is in the middle of your chest where your ribs come together. Pretty much over the solar plexus. The third area is to focus into your navel or belly button.

In each area you are looking for the area that feels the best, makes you feel the best and the area that works for you. You want to be able to focus on that area and have all or most of the breath and movement focused in that area. So if for example when you focus on breathing into the upper chest you find that your belly is moving, then the upper chest probably doesn’t work the best for you.

You’ll probably need to repeat the 3 areas a few times until you find the area that is your best area. This is an area in your body where you have resources. It may be where you have pain, it may also be a totally different area. All three of these spots have been chosen because they feed hugely into your nervous system and can help to change your physiology. So pick there area that you think or feel works the best for you and focus on breathing into that area for 2-3 minutes. Notice how this affects your whole body.

What will you learn from this exercise?

Some people learn that focusing on the body is really difficult and are surprised by how little they can feel. That’s good. If you learn that being aware of your body and your resourcefulness you are one step closer to changing that. If this is you, then I would recommend you spend 5-10 minutes per day focusing into the three areas and observing. You may be surprised how you start to discern differences, and even if you don’t your subconsious will. Simply the exercise of slowing down, focusing on your body will start to change the blood flow in your brain from one of defence to a more resourceful state. And over time (because this can take practice) you will improve.

Some people are amazed because they feel differences between the three positions. For example, they may discover that if they put their hands on their navel and focus that they start to feel more relaxed, they feel more energized, they feel better, but if they put their focus on their chest they feel tight, stressed and anxious. What you feel and where will be individual to you. If you are feeling differences you need to celebrate that you have this ability to discern. And now you are going to make a conscious choice to focus on the area that works. Because focusing on what works will increase your resourcefulness and your energy.

How to Make Un-Resourceful Areas More Resourceful. 

Once you know what works and what doesn’t work you can do this. Firstly breathe 5 or 6 times into the area that feels resourceful and amplify that feeling in your body. Then move your hands to the area that was most challenged and take 2-3 breaths here. Then return to the area that works. Repeat this until your least resourceful area starts to copy the resourceful area. This usually only takes a few minutes.

I personally would repeat this twice a day, until you start to feel more resourceful and then you can decide how often you want to do it.

For more information on this approach, check out our Discover Workshop or 12 Stages of Healing Events. If you’re not local, look for a practitioner of Network Spinal Analysis or Somato-Respiratory Integration (this exercise is the first part of Stage 1 Somato-Respiratory Integration).

So how to make Positive Thining Work for you? 

Quite simple really in my opinion. You need to make sure that it’s not just your mind driving this. If you can connect your body and mind, and truly embody a positive outlook, you will have such a different experience from the person who constantly says “Life is great” when actually life is rubbish…but they are using the declaration as a distraction and not stopping an observing that their body thinks life is rubbish and aint listening to the mind…..