Blame silly books like The Secret. Or blame Oprah for promoting silly books like The Secret.
Whichever way you go, the result remains the same — spending your time thinking positively about the things you’d like to happen in your life is a waste of time.
Creating a realistic plan of action will serve you much better than silly wishing. And realistic optimism certainly can’t hurt, as long as you’re also taking the required steps toward getting where you want to be.
But are there times when positive thoughts alone can help you? Actually, yes.
Your brain is a negative creep
All thoughts are not created equally. For some evolutionary reason, we tend to focus much more on negative thoughts than positive ones.
In Dr. Rick Hanson’s Hardwiring Happiness, the neuropsychologist explains that our brains are wired toward the negative. For example, if we have ten experiences during the day, five neutral everyday experiences, four positive experiences, and one negative experience, we are probably going to think about that one negative experience before going to bed that night.
This tendency can have real consequences, thanks to the very neuroplasticity that can help us change our brains for the better. The key is to take time to savor the good experiences that strengthens those neural pathways in your brain.
Taking in the good
Not all negative thoughts are bad — in fact they can be quite useful for dealing appropriately with reality. On the other hand, suppressing negative thoughts can lead to even worse situations when the associated emotions resurface.
Negative material has negative consequences. It darkens your mood, increases anxiety and irritability, and gives you a background sense of inadequacy. The desires and inclinations in it take you to bad places.
The idea is that taking the time to “take in the good” (in Dr. Hanson’s terminology) generally changes your brain to focus more on the positive aspects of your life. In other words, you form more positive neural pathways.
For more entrenched and damaging negative thoughts, you can perform “neutralization” exercises to work through it. More on that here: