I’m sure we’ve all heard of optimism, positivity, or have been told to stop thinking negatively. It’s kind of all over the place right now. I guess you could say we’re in the midst of a positivity movement. I know any time I log into Instagram, there’s always at least one quote about being positive or keeping a positive mindset. I personally think it’s great! Positivity has many benefits for both mental and physical health; however, it is important to remember that we should not ignore our emotions. There are ways to stay positive while still acknowledging our more negative emotions such as sadness and anger.
As I said, positive thinking causes a range of health benefits both psychologically and physiologically. One of the more obvious effects is less stress. When you think positively, it is easier to cope with stress and work through it in a healthy way. According to Mayoclinic.org, some of the other effects of positive thinking is:
- Decreased depression rates
- Greater sense of well being
- Increased life span
- Increased immune system
- Better cardiovascular health
- Better coping skills with stress and hardships
I think it’s safe to say that positive thinking is healthy in all aspects. That is, until it becomes unhealthy. Before you start asking, “wait… what are you talking about? You just said it was healthy!” just hear me out!
I have heard from quite a few people that when they are making a conscious effort to be positive, they feel as though having negative emotions set them back. I understand this feeling all too well as I used to feel the same. After hearing I wasn’t the only one that felt this way, I did a little personal reflection via meditation, of course. What I discovered was this:
Positive thinking doesn’t mean you always need to be happy. It means you need to allow yourself to ride through the necessary emotions without allowing them to take you down.
Emotions come in waves. Sometimes they come on slow and sometimes they come crashing down on you but they always have an end. Allowing yourself to feel those emotions and ride them out to completion allows you to process your thoughts and feelings in a healthy way. Whether it’s anger, sadness, jealousy, or any other emotion that may not be seen as “positive”, we still need to feel those emotions. Feeling them does not mean you are a negative person. It means you’re human.
Lets look at the other side of it. Say you’re trying to stay positive and keep good thoughts but something happens that makes you sad. If you try to ignore that emotion and stay happy because happiness is equated with positivity, that emotion is not going to just go away. You’ll just be putting a band-aid on it. That emotion would be kept inside and fester like a wound because you never properly addressed it.
Think of it this way. Your sadness is an onion that needs to be used before it goes bad but you don’t want to use that onion for dinner tonight so you put it in a cupboard and tell yourself you’re going to use it later. For the next few days, each time you open the cupboard you see that onion and it’s deteriorated a little bit more but it’s still usable and you tell yourself you’ll use it eventually. What’s going to happen to that onion? It’s going to become so rotten that eventually you will NEED to deal with it. You’ll have no choice but to clean up the cupboard and get rid of the onion. That is what happens to your stifled emotions. They fester and make us sick and eventually we will need to deal with them but it would have been so much easier and less messy to have just dealt with it when it was fresh.
The important thing is to have a positive, healthy mind so that when you do process your emotions, you are able to ride them through until they have run their course then you pick yourself up and move on. As Mayo Clinical stated, positive thinking allows you to cope better with stress and hardships. This includes emotions. The power of positive thoughts will allow you to work through all your emotions in a healthy and positive way so you can keep reaping the health benefits of positivity!