Being positive is good, right? Well, yes, it is--to a point. There are times when it can put you at a disadvantage as well, researchers say.
Let's look at the pros of positive thinking first, because I think positive thinking is pretty cool.
- It costs nothing and it can help make you feel better.
- Although there are conflicting research results out there, positive thinking may lead to health benefits such as lower blood pressure and heart disease, as well as better coping skills and increased feelings of well-being.
- It may motivate us to press our own boundaries, explore the world outside our safety zone, and take reasonable risks.
I know that my blood pressure is much lower when I'm not stressed and freaking out. I have to agree with the motivation part too. When I'm feeling positive, I seem to have loads of confidence. I want to explore the world and try new things outside my comfort zone.
Now, here are some cons to mull over:
- Optimism can be detrimental under certain circumstances, when it keeps us from seeing what's really going on; keeps us from dealing with reality. (For example: You're living in Kansas during tornado season and you hear the sirens going off, but instead of taking shelter, you say, "Aw, they won't come this way." Hello!? The sirens are going off. Hit the deck!)
- There are no significant benefits garnered from thinking positively. Some research suggests that rather than positive thinking making us healthier, being healthier may instead cause us to think more positively.
- It's not for everyone. Some of us are just not positive people and would rather Pollyannas just take their positiveness and leave us alone. Okay, fine.
- Regarding health, if we think we can heal ourselves simply by thinking positively and then we don't get better, it can cause us to get down on ourselves, big time.
- Worrying can actually be a good thing as it helps us prepare for the worst. The positive thinkers, on the other hand, may be devastated, unable to handle a terrible situation.
- Being too positive can make us lazy and irresponsible. We may ignore real dangers.
Okay, I get that too. There's no doubt that when I am healthy, I am more positive. And, yes, if I'm feeling too confident I may make stupid mistakes and end up getting hurt. That makes sense. But the worrying? Hmmm? I've been a worrier all my life and I have never looked at it as an advantage. As for ignoring real dangers, I hope that wouldn't happen. Is anyone really that positive? Yikes!
And what about those positive affirmations we hear about that are supposed to make us feel better and motivate us? Well, some people respond to them better than others. We're all unique and respond in our own way to tips and tricks and techniques that are supposed to improve our lives. Those with high self esteem tend to respond better to positive affirmations than those with low self esteem. The people in a better place seem to get better, while those in not such a good place tend to feel worse. That stinks, especially for the ones that really could use a break. I personally have never had luck with affirmations, by the way.
The important thing is to be realistic. Hope for the best while keeping your eyes open to the realities of life. Try different techniques to see which ones make you feel good, whether it's exercising, getting together with friends, meditating, watching funny videos on the Internet, volunteering, or any number of other things. Handle each bump in the road the best you can, either by yourself, as I know people who would rather do that, or by getting help from others.
So, what do you think? Is positive thinking a good thing or not? Has it helped you or not? Let's talk about this.
Positive Psychology: The Benefits of Living Positively, by Joanna Fishman, Psych Central
Can Positive Thinking Be Negative?, by Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz, Scientific American