Positive thinking? You can keep it

I was listening to the radio the other day when I heard a woman discuss her approach to positive thinking. (She’s written a book on the subject and was full of beans and key messages).

She was enthusiastically sharing hints and tips on how to positively lead your best life, as if most of us weren’t trying to do that already.

She seemed incredibly preoccupied with being positive and being seen to be positive. When, she said, her young child had been up all night she’d start the day not by mainlining coffee but by repeating happiness-inducing affirmations on making it a fabulously productive day.

Gosh, really? I imagine if I blithely gave that advice to friends with tiny children who were desperately trying to stay awake and upright I may not have any actual friends left.

Of course we don’t want to feel flat, or sad, or angry, or down, or empty, or shattered. We want to feel extraordinary. The thing is, we forget our emotions make us extraordinary.

Suppressing how we truly feel and replacing it with facile statements about switching off feelings through the power of positive statements means we deny the extraordinary part of who we are.

I woke up today with all the feelings. Weightily full of worry. About what? Nothing much. Just worry. I chided myself and thought of Mrs Positive From the Radio. I imagined she was radiating joy and Instagram-worthy affirmations of positivity despite having only 15 seconds sleep. Probably.

I tried to think positive. Get myself out there! I ended a disastrous morning run after 10 minutes and drank coffee instead.

It was then that I thought: What’s wrong with admitting to those times you feel a little flat? Why do we rush to distract ourselves with ‘good vibes only’ and inspirational blather? We can’t choose what we feel, so what’s wrong with being real?

So I let it be. During an afternoon walk I identified butterflies, ate wild blackberries, swatted away horseflies and suffered the social humiliation of falling up a kerb.

Let’s remember you are under no obligation to pull yourself together, think positive or get over it. There’s no need to create a ‘nurture yourself with gentle self-care’ narrative or jot down buoyant affirmations of where you’re acing life. Sometimes trying to power through fuelled by false cheer will see you run out of steam.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling what you feel. The ebb and flow of emotions will pass just as a storm rolls across the sky. And then comes normality.

Letting things sit for a while means we can handle it. We’re human. We fall down and get back up, no big deal. That’s why we are extraordinary.

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I'm a writer, journalist and communications officer based in the South West of England. I write about wellbeing, the outdoors and life in a rural playground.

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