Trying to be positive is not always easy.
For people who are clinically depressed, for example, it seems damn near impossible. Depression is a disease—quite literally. It creeps into your brain and infects it with negative thoughts, stealing away your motivation. It’s not as simple as telling a person with depression to “just think positive,” as if it will make their depression go away.
Depression doesn’t just leave because you tell it to.
And beyond that, even if you aren’t clinically depressed, negative thoughts can become a pattern—a rut you fall into—and the only way out is a steep, laborious climb. Every time something happens, you assume the worst—over, and over, and over, until it becomes automatic. Of course the worst is going to happen. That’s what it does. That’s what you assume, every time.
But that being said, just because positive thoughts are difficult to think, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try. In fact, quite the opposite: we need to try.
Many of us have heard of the experiment involving two plants: Both were kept in the same environment, watered the same, treated the same, except one plant was spoken to with negative words and the other plant was spoken to with positive words. The praised plant grew tall, strong, and beautiful, while the insulted plant grew stunted and ugly.
There is no doubt that words have immense power—the words people speak to us and the words we use toward ourselves. Words have the power to shape our self-image and the way that others view us. If we say we are stupid and ugly, it doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. If we believe it’s true, we act in accordance with that belief.
Doesn’t it make sense to say that our thoughts hold the same power? That our thoughts shape the world as we know it?
The world is neither good nor bad; it exists with aspects of both. Each individual person becomes characterized by the way that we see it. If we see war, death, division, famine, and hatred, then of course the world is a negative place. How could it be anything but? If we see love, joy, peace, innocence, and hope—the world is a positive place. It all depends on what we choose to focus on.
As much as it can be dangerous to accept naiveté and ignore the negative aspects of life, it is also very dangerous to dwell solely on the negative. If we dwell solely on the negative, we become like that second plant—twisted and ugly, not necessarily externally, but internally. We make ourselves depressed. We strip ourselves of our motivation and our will to fight. We deny ourselves the things we need to live our lives in a full and fulfilling way.
As much as thinking positively is not always easy, it is something we need to do. It is not dependent on our situation or that time will eventually give to us. We will not stumble upon it when all the planets align and our life becomes perfect, because that never happens. Your life will never be perfect, but all of our troubles, whether great or small, will seem easier to deal with when we teach ourselves to think positively, because that is what we need to do.
Positive thinking is something we need to train ourselves to do, even if we do it gradually. Even if it takes us years to get into the habit. Start by recognizing when your thoughts are unnecessarily negative and telling yourself something positive instead, even if you don’t believe it at first. Because eventually, if you do it enough, you might start to believe it.
Eventually, the positive thoughts might even become automatic. Maybe not immediately, maybe not for a long while or without some difficulty, but that doesn’t matter.
All that matters is that we try.
Author: Ciara Hall
Image: Mike Medaglia
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Supervising Editor 2: Catherine Monkman