Is the eternal drive for positivity and positive thinking increasing anxiety?

Is the eternal drive for positivity and positive thinking increasing anxiety?

You have heard the old adage ‘What we resist persists’.  Have you ever tried to force negative thoughts away and noticed that they come back louder and a little more demanding as a result?  Have you noticed that the more you fixate on finding happiness the more incompetent you feel at the task?

Self-help books, mantras, affirmations and visualisation go some way towards supporting our happiness, but is happiness as a goal even a valid one?  Perhaps as a goal, happiness is just too elusive.

Some researchers, notably Prof. Daniel Wenger at the Mental Control Laboratory of Harvard, would argue that trying to be happy creates misery.  Research also suggests that our constant efforts to eliminate negativity, insecurity and uncertainty are increasing our depression, anxiety and suffering.

Maybe sometimes trying to fix the unfixable and make everything right is part of what is wrong with us.  Optimistic people are terrific and we want to be with them, no one enjoys a gloomy person for too long and positive people make us feel more alive, it’s true.

But in the modern world, good stuff happens to us and so does bad, do we have to grit our teeth and smile through the bad stuff? Happy and unhappy events occur all the time, do we grin inanely through suffering and immediately go straight to the silver lining stuff? Of course not.

The role of meditation or mindfulness in dealing with life on life’s terms, in my experience, cannot be underestimated.  You may view meditation as an insipid and sophisticated form of affirmation and positive thinking but I urge you to look again.

Underpinning a good meditation and mindfulness practice or session is the whole idea that we are suffering, it accepts this fact and gives us a way out.  Our suffering is very often about an attachment to a person place or thing (sanskrit – raga) or an avoidance of the unwanted or the unpleasant (sanskrit – dvesha), be they thoughts, experiences or people.  When we learn to sit and find comfort with ‘what is’ – good, bad, pleasant and unpleasant in our minds, bodies and lives and practice breathing through it all we do become neutral, eventually.  In this neutral place lies perhaps not happiness, but comfort or at least a level of contentment (sanskrit – santosha), with our lives.  And maybe that’s enough.

An ongoing meditation practice helps us to end that eternal drive to endlessly fix our lives or be more positive and instead to lovingly accept ‘what is’.  Over time, we learn discernment (sanskrit – viveka) and start to observe clarity and to take the right actions we need to, if any.

 

Yogapal – because we care.

 

Grainne Toher

Founder – Yogapal, Still Mind meditation app

Writer – Breathe and Bloom

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