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Why Positive Thinking Didn’t Work for Me

“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” ~Dalai Lama

For a long time nothing stressed me out as much as positivity.

I was a perfectionist growing up, always trying to bang my flawed round-shaped self into a perfect square hole that couldn’t possibly contain me.

In my early twenties, I decided to focus on personal development—a positive thing, I assumed.

I figured if I worked on improving a little every day, I’d feel a lot more positive about myself than I did when I focused on my flaws.

What I didn’t take into consideration was that I might become a perfectionist about accepting my imperfection.

That I might catch negative thinking and feel guilty about it instead of letting it go and moving into a more positive space.

That I might muster every piece of my will to avoid negative feelings and end up over-thinking them instead of simply feeling them and letting them pass.

I never considered that wanting to be positive isn’t the same as being positive.

For most of my life, I’ve fought with what is. I didn’t like the way people responded to me, so I tried to manipulate them. I didn’t like the world around me, so I tried to control it. I didn’t like the world within me, so I tried to escape it.

Even when I tried to be positive, I had an agenda. If only I was positive enough, I thought, I could create a better tomorrow—then I’d really be happy.

I tried on different positive hats in my pursuit of happiness.

I’ve told myself that everything really is in my mind—that if someone appears to be mean or inconsiderate, it’s largely a consequence of how I’m interpreting things. But then I started wondering if that’s the case, what’s wrong with my mind? Why do I so frequently assume the worst first and then have to catch it and change it?

I made lists of all the things my life would involve if it was more positive: I’d volunteer; I’d be open-hearted, always eager to greet a stranger with a smile; I wouldn’t fear lacking, and would freely give to anyone who needed it. Then I felt overwhelmed by the list of things I needed to do. Who has the time and energy to be that positive?

I’ve focused on things I appreciate in life by keeping a gratitude journal. Oddly enough, I stressed about that, as well. I felt guilty if I missed a day and continually measured whether or not I was doing enough to express gratitude in my daily life.

Positive thinking didn’t give me any peace because I was still the one doing the thinking—and I hadn’t really changed. I was still fighting, judging everyone and everything, including myself, and wondering when life would finally get easier.

No matter how positive I tried to be, it never worked because I wasn’t working for it.

Working for it, for me, involves just fifteen minutes a day.

I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t experienced it myself, but a brief morning meditation has a profound effect on me. When I start the day by sitting in silence for even a short while, my mind transforms.

Without some type of contemplative practice, my busy mind gets overwhelming. Without taking time to clear my head, positive thinking is only moderately effective because there are just too many thoughts for the positive ones to have an impact.

Positive thinking, in itself, isn’t enough for me to experience the world in a present, joyful way. The most positive thinking, I’ve decided, is less thinking.

I’d like to say I no longer over-analyze, get lost in my thoughts, or get hard on myself, but that’s not entirely true.

Even with tools that help me feel calm and centered, I still feel this way at times.

There are days when I fight with myself and the world. There are days when I judge myself so much you’d be surprised I run this site. It’s usually when I’ve stopped doing the things I know I need to do for me. When work gets overwhelming and people seem demanding, sometimes I don’t make those things a priority.

I am still imperfect, I still make bad decisions on occasion, and I still struggle with letting go. It’s called being human.

Growth is rarely a straight line. It’s more like an EKG monitor. It’s tempting to look at it with a sense of anxiety. To measure the peaks and valleys, wondering if the peaks are high and frequent enough.

But I’m learning that being positive means releasing the need to judge—to stop assessing what’s right and good enough, and whether I’ve been right or good enough, and approach each new moment with a sense of space.

It’s my job to create that space—to clear out all the thoughts that drown out the positive ones.

The biggest barrier between me and peace is my instinct to analyze why I didn’t, don’t, or might not have it. Stillness silences that instinct.

When I take time for stillness, it doesn’t matter how I interpret things, because suddenly I stop telling stories about events as they happen to me.

When I take time for stillness, it doesn’t matter how many positive things I could do if I tried; I’m too busy putting good into the world to dwell on those lists.

When I sink into stillness, it doesn’t matter how many things I write in my gratitude journal; I’m too busy appreciating the world in front of me to worry about jotting it down.

Today, I feel peaceful. In this moment, I am not trying to be positive. I created space for myself to just be.

*That’s me in the photo practicing yoga in the park, my favorite way to find mental stillness.

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook seriesTiny Buddha's Guide to Loving Yourself, and Tiny Buddha: Simple Wisdom for Life's Hard Questions. She's also co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow on Twitter & Facebook.

Announcement: Wish you could change your past? Learn to let go and create a life you love with the Tiny Buddha course!
  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    :D

    I’m trying to think of something atypical to say but I can’t, so I’ll take a leaf out of your book and just say: wow.

    A huge thanks for saying these things! I feel constantly daunted by positive thinking (being a cynic and all) and those who peddle it. It’s a relief to see that not only does someone else feel it doesn’t work for them as it’s apparently supposed to, but they’re also willing to stand up and say that it doesn’t work. In a coherent and validated voice too.

    I’m embarking on a bit of a venture today and I’ve been making myself sick with stress over it – will I be able to cope, think positive, you’ll be fine, you’ll find a way – when really I’ve been itching to just come out and say: I’m shooting from the hip here, and a little further than I can manage, but I’m gonna give it a bash anyway.

    I forget that I’m a better person when I focus (or rather not focusing at all) on just being. Me. Today I’ll remember this.

    (I’m also very tempted to join a local yoga group now…)

    Thanks Lori!

    Kudos

  • Clau

    Hello Lori,
    Thank you very much for this post!
    i can relate to what you share here … i just started what i called “meditating” and it has been a bliss…
    ;)

  • http://twitter.com/chutes2narrow88 Samantha N

    I really like this post – positive thinking seems to be a good thing but only if it flows naturally. I am still struggling with the “trying to be a better person” bit sometimes but I’m on the road to just accepting myself and in turn, accepting other people and life’s shortcomings. I think taking time for yourself may lead to positivity – at least in part – and one may not even notice.

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  • Benjamin

    I’m glad to hear somebody shares a similar view with me.

    Positive thinking has never really been my thing either. I simply don’t like the idea of constructing a false reality and blocking out my true emotion.

    I’ve always wanted to give some form of meditation a shot and this article may have just pushed me over the edge.

    Thanks

    Ben

  • http://occasionallyserene.wordpress.com/ Occasionallyserene

    I try to thik positively, and for the most part I do. When I don’t, I don’t. In due time, I come back to positive thoughts. For sure I have not always had that thought process, and when I am not thinking positive, this is definitely not my process. Yoga and meditation are great comfort and aid. I recently picked my meditation practice back up, and while slow going, it is what it is. Its all better when I remember to stay in the moment. Thanks for the reminder.

  • mymoon

    this was the most inspiring and wonderful article ever! thank you for sharing this.

  • Deborah

    How refreshing to read this. After I watched The Secret I stressed myself out so bad by trying to be positive. And I did the same thing with the gratitude journal. I think your suggestion of thinking less is perfect. However being an Aquarius I can’t seem to stop. I try to mediate but my mind won’t quiet itself. Just was introduced to your website. So happy to have found it!

  • http://twitter.com/KVNKNRD Kevin

    Lori you inspire me in so many ways

  • Sonja

    Thinking gets you every time. More being, less thinking.

  • Guest

    “For most of my life, I’ve fought with what is. I didn’t like the way people responded to me, so I tried to manipulate them. I didn’t like the world around me, so I tried to control it. I didn’t like the world within me, so I tried to escape it.”

    Oh, me too! I got myself so far off track doing this for the first 40 years of my life.

    “The most positive thinking, I’ve decided is less thinking.”

    This exactly.

  • Ellpwhy

    This is exactly what I’ve been looking for! Talk about perfect timing. I’ve been wanting to be positive that sometimes it strikes me, negativity creeps in from the stress of chasing the positivity. And this is so wrong. The stress is unnecessary, so is the thought of wanting to be positive. Positivity comes from the mind, seeing something good in every single thing even when things can be nasty or bad. It’s all about perception and interpretation. Thanks Lori!

  • Irldexter

    Your sentiments are echoed here in a short piece about mediation called ‘Why Zen’ http://s.nodecity.com/whyzen

    Thank you for sharing.

  • Robink

    it wasn’t until I realized how I impacted people, that I was able to change from a very negative, passive woman to a positive assertive woman.
    I found that positive thinking didn’t work for me because I didn’t understand who I was and how I impacted the people around me.
    So until you know how you impact others, your thinking may be negative.

    This quote speaks volumes to me I love it.”
    For most of my life, I’ve fought with what is. I didn’t like the way people responded to me, so I tried to manipulate them. I didn’t like the world around me, so I tried to control it. I didn’t like the world within me, so I tried to escape it.”

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s an excellent point to ponder. I sometimes forget the impact I have on other people, and it’s helpful to remember that my inner state affects everyone around me. Taking care of myself isn’t just for me; it’s for everyone and everything in my space.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you for the link! I will check it out. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I’m glad to know other people can relate. I suspected I wasn’t alone in these experiences, but you never know until you put it out there.

    There’s something inherently stressful in telling myself I need to be different than I am. There’s something liberating about letting myself be me, but taking steps to be me more peacefully.

    Thanks for commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Exactly. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for commenting! I’m glad this post resonated with you. I’ve gotten off track before and I suspect I will again. It’s comforting to know, though, I have tools to get back–I just need to be willing to use them.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Wow thanks Kevin. What an amazing thing to read. Put a big smile on my face. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I’m glad you found it useful!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I’m so glad you like it!

    Have you ever tried yoga? I have a hard time quieting my mind, as well, but yoga has helped me because it combines mind and body. When I’m concentrating on moving into the postures, it’s difficult to dwell on other thoughts.

  • http://twitter.com/longzero Long Nguyen

    I am not sure why, but, for some reason, while reading, I was thinking of the morning air. It’s the freshest air of the day. It’s comparable to a fresh coat of snow on which no one has stepped on yet. It’s completely pure.

    That’s what the morning air. An air that was naturally cleansed overnight of all human activity. It’s the best air of the day.

    I am not sure what I am saying. I guess if I’m saying anything is… Breathe and enjoy the morning air, the morning environment, the morning feeling.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Ben,

    I’m so happy to read that! I suspect most people would benefit from meditation. Meditating and practicing yoga are two of the best things I’ve ever done for my mental state and emotions.

    When I keep up with my practice, I’m far more even keeled so there are less emotions to (feel tempted to) block out.

    Have a great weekend =)
    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Samantha,

    I can relate to what you wrote in a big way. Some days I am more accepting of myself than others. I never realized before, though, that when I am critical of myself, I become more critical of other people. So working on accepting myself is actually an act of compassion for people around me.

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Taking time for me is a subtle approach to becoming more positive, but it seems to have an impact.

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Clau! I’m so glad you could relate, and also that you’ve found bliss through meditation.

    Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
    Lori

  • Tony Applebaum

    Amen. I fight wih this often, and it becomes one of my “shoulds” (I have many). I often tell myself I “should” be more positive. What a freeing thought – don’t try. Just be. Thank you Lori. Have a wonderful weekend.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Sam,

    I thought you might like this one! I think that without some type of meditation, yoga, or other mind-clearing activity, positive thinking can be really frustrating. It’s like fighting with your mind against its instincts instead of creating peace on a deeper level (which would then naturally change thinking processes).

    Good luck with your venture today! I think you and I are a lot of like–I stress about new things, too, but I always impress myself in the end. I suspect you will, too =)

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    I can’t believe it’s been such a mission to realise that peace – not a better life (cash, job blah blah etc ad infinatum…) – is what I’m craving. Which is quite hilarious now that I think of it because I’m always going on about how I all I want is a quiet life! I think I’ll start listening to myself a bit more.

    The venture went very well by the way, better than I was expecting! I’ll keep myself from squiggling away here, but will let you know!

    I think I stress over new things because I’m so eager (desperate *cough*) for something to turn out right for me. I know this is down to me: my thoughts on what’s right, ideal situations, the little thought experiments I construct in order to help me cope with things that I find uncomfortable; dreams, basically.

    Yep. I Turn my dreams into unbearable burdens. Go me!

    No more though. I’m where I want to be at the moment, where I need to be so that I can reach my dreams. I think this is the first time in 20 years that I’ve ever paused and felt content.

    Is this how it feels for you?

    Ramble ramble…

    Kudos

  • http://kristinshepherd.ca kristin

    Gorgeous, thanks, and beautifully said. (The Untethered Soul – great book, similar approach.).

  • Art

    So… what the hell do you actually do to make it happen?

  • Daniel

    Nice article! I´m just discovering the stillness, and the benefits of it. And I agree that´s very hard to keep the mind aways in a positive way.

    I Like your blog and I´m following you on twitter. Keep working on it, help us a lot!

    Best wishes from Brazil.

    “Fall seven times, stand up eight”
    (Japanese Proverb)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ILADC67X2POBYHNYZLNXKFAIAI Chris

    Great read, Lori! I get so much from your site on a daily basis, and this one like many, came at just the right time. Now if I can just get to that point where I am sitting back watching my thoughts like passing road signs……..

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you Chris! I’m so glad you enjoy Tiny Buddha. As for watching thoughts pass, I’m not entirely there yet, but some days I feel close.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Kristin! I haven’t heard of that book, actually, but I’d like to read it.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Art~ Make what happen?

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Daniel! Pleased to meet you. Thanks for sharing that quote!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Tony~ I know how the “should” game goes. I’ve played it a good few times. I’m so grateful for days when I get out of my own way. A wonderful weekend to you, as well!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    What a beautiful analogy. I’ve never really thought about it before, but I’ve definitely felt that sense of freshness and clarity in the morning. Thanks for commenting =)

  • http://twitter.com/TerryMLC Terry Vermeylen

    You reminded me to create my morning habit of meditation again…. thanks :)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ILADC67X2POBYHNYZLNXKFAIAI Chris

    Oh, and btw, I think its great to see that you take the time to see what ppl have to say and reply to their thoughts. Makes you more than just a faceless writer. I think thats awesome :D

  • Adam Farrah

    Wow, really profound post. I TOTALLY do that to myself! Thanks for helping me see something about myself today!

    Adam

  • gemma

    THANK YOU!!!!! I can’t tell you how much i see myself in this!! I didn’t quite realise how hard on myself i was being. I feel like i have to be perfect at being positive, and that if i can’t do it, then i will fail at ever feeling peaceful or being a “good person”…….so ridiculous! I think i need to take up meditation!! thanks again!

  • Kathy

    Love the analogy! On those days I just don’t feel like rising, this thought will boost my energy to rise and greet the day. Perhaps this is why I always seem to so appreciate morning meditation…stillness while taking in that fresh morning air. Thank you!

  • Kathy

    I’ve been reading for a while, but this is my first comment. I so appreciate your messages. They’re down to earth and just what I need to hear. They’re gentle reminders to return to myself. Your easy, flowing writing style makes it a pleasure to read your thoughts. Thanks for such an inspiring blog! Keep on keeping on.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Kathy. It’s a pleasure to “meet” you. I’m so happy you find my writing helpful. I try to be open and honest because I suspect we’re really not all that different (people in general) and that we can all help each other if we’re willing to open up. Have a great weekend =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know that feeling well! That’s awesome you’re going to take up meditation again. I can feel a big difference when I get back into it after falling out. Have a great weekend =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I had a feeling I wasn’t alone, but I didn’t know for sure. I haven’t actually shared these thoughts with anyone before. Thanks for commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you =) I appreciate when people share their thoughts and I try to respond to everyone. It’s nice to create and then be part of a conversation.

  • Lmaurer

    I never considered that wanting to be positive isn’t the same as being positive. – so true. Obsess less – quiet the mind – be more.
    Thank you for sharing you.

  • Lori5dalziel

    quieting the mind and soul is the recipe for a true positive way of life. Days that I don’t quiet myself and be still, is a day of rushing, aggravation, judging and anger. However, I find that it isn’t too late in the day to be still and quiet myself and release the tension I’ve allowed in. Now I’m off to be still and patient. Good advice and good for you!

  • Nehira

    Dear Lori,
    I agree with what you say :o) Sometimes I think we are trying too hard to be the positive person that all these positive philosophies want us to be…the problem with that is that as soon as we don’t manage being totally positive about anything, we start beating ourselves up for not being perfectly positive (as you said, this need to be perfect is not good for us…I mean by the end of the day, we are human…and we are made of light and shadows).
    I find for myself, that one of the things which needs to be avoided with all this positive attitude or thinking vibe is that there is absolutely no need to be perfect about being positive and that if force ourselves we end up judging ourselves…there is no judgement that will help anyone feel positive.
    What helps me, is to simply think that I am human (as you rightly said!) and that I do not want to judge my emotions or feelings. Feelings and emotions are there to tell us something about ourselves. If we allow ourselves to feel what we feel, without judgement or without denial, we are respecting ourselves and being emotionnaly honest about how we feel is, to me, the basic and 1st step to healing or getting over stuff.
    We will not always and perpetually succeed in thinking positive…when I have a thought that is considered “negative” by…???…..I ask myself: why am I feeling like this? what is this emotion trying to tell me? what is the message it is trying to give me? and I do this without judgement upon it or upon myself.
    Meditating in the morning is an excellent idea :o)))) I found that if I take the time to do it, I feel much better and zen :o) You are reminding me that it is good for me to do it every morning, instead of just sometimes.
    I thank you for your EMOTIONAL HONESTY (which is rare rare rare!!!) and for your sweetness and send you a big hug.
    With love,
    Nehira

  • http://gumption.typepad.com Joe McCarthy

    Great post – thanks for sharing your insights!

    I, too, tend to be a perfectionist (and an aspiring positivist). I also recently renewed my daily meditation practice, and am finding greater peace throughout the day.

    Some of your observations reminded me of an observation in The Prelude to Oriah Mountain Dreamer‘s inspiring book, The Dance, in which she asks (among other things):

    “What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?”

    and then goes on to suggest:

    “What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practises that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?”

    Thanks for sharing the warm encouragement of your own unfolding!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Nehira,

    Thanks for commenting! I love what you wrote about asking yourself what an emotion is trying to tell you. I sometimes judge my emotions, and I think that would be an empowering way to look at what I’m feeling.

    I appreciate that you took the time to write such an insightful and thoughtful response. =)

    Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks for reading Joe! I love that passage from The Dance. I’d never heard of the book before but now I feel inspired to buy it. Thank you for the link!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I know those feelings well. You bring up a great point about it never being too late in the day to quiet yourself.

    I used to have a very all-or-nothing mindset when it came to doing positive things for myself. If I didn’t start the day eating healthy, I likely wouldn’t end it that way. If I didn’t start the day drinking water, I’d assume it was too late to get my eight glasses and stick to soda and other sugary beverages.

    I’m learning to start each moment as a “new day,” and I think the same idea applies to mindfulness. Even we rush through the AM without being present, we can always find our center in the afternoon or be still later in the evening.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Lori

  • Daniel

    Hi lori, how are you? I have a question for you. What technique do you use to meditate? I try to count when I breathe, you know… trying to forget my thoughts concentrating on my breath and on my count. Do you think it could work?

    Thanks for the attention.

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  • http://www.nirvanamamma.com Erin@NirvanaMamma

    So true! If you’re a perfectionist, trying to think positive ends up creating more stress! I experience that as well. It all boils down to one sentece you wrote, “But I’m learning that being positive means releasing the need to judge”. But, you might just beat yourself up over judging, as I do too. ;) Meditation is an amazing method to overcome all bad habits (even bad *thinking* habits) and I need to get better at doing it more often. Thank you for the reminder!
    One thing I wanted to add that has helped me become more positive without falling into criticizing myself(um…usually), is focusing on finding joy as much as possible throughout the day. It’s kind of like a meditation, in that I silence the chatter in my mind by just focusing on how I FEEL during the day. If the feeling is less that warm and fuzzy, I find a way to switch it to warm and fuzzy. It usually involves getting silly, playing, or creating in some way. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    What an excellent suggestion! Some days I don’t experience as much joy as others. At the end of the day, I usually realize I’ve let myself get caught up in my challenges instead of noticing and appreciating the little things. Thanks for commenting =)

  • Kelsey Stenta

    I’m almost at a loss for words because your situation seems so similar to mine. I too have struggled with being a perfectionist my whole entire life and sometimes I confuse being happy with being perfect. I just want to be able to feel positive, fullfilled, energetic, generous, and happy all the time even though I know that’s not always going to be the case. I found that the more pressure I put on myself to be positive, the more I saw myself as failing. Thank you for your insight because this might be the answer for me. I tend to think too much when I should really just try to be myself. Nobody’s perfect and I’m on my journey to accepting that fact. Thank you again! I really benefited from this post and now I feel inspired to turn my life around by just being the best that I can be :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Wow Kelsey that’s awesome! I’m so glad this post helped you to feel more accepting of yourself. If there’s one thing that causes me stress, it’s the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. When I take the pressure off, my whole world transforms.

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  • Kmassey22

    I just came upon your web site and this was the first entry I read. How perfect that this is what I discovered on this night. Nearly everything you said is what I was realizing about myself today. I have been searching for way to understand life, to foster peace within myself and to help others for along time. In the process I have come accross wisdom in the teachings of many yogic philosophies and practices, Buddhism, The Law of Attraction, Vedic astrology, Ayurveda, The Power of Now, I Ching and many others. They have all served me well in different moments in life and have indeed brought about a deeper knowing of myself. I enrolled in grad school at Naropa to study Somatic Psychology which fostered even more self-awarenss. But what I didn’t know was also happening was that my awareness was often working against me. I could not escape the ongoing commentary created by an aspect of myself who was analyzing every action in hopes to find truth. It has been and continues to disconnect me from the moment. I have found that it is difficult to even enjoy the simple things like cool grass in between my toes without that little person on my shoulder ruining it by telling me “Look you are enjoying the grass in between your toes”. In some ways I see how the more I have learned about myself has lead to more analysis, thinking and judging.

    Just recently in the midst of caring for my first baby all of the teachings I have been “trying” to practice or beating myself up for not practicing are beginning to come to life and I am realizing that none of them really matter if I am not embracing what is before me right in this moment however pleasurable or painful it may be. Caring for my baby is asking me to practice this every day without fail and no matter how much I may kick a scream through it without fail I see the teaching in that moment.

    I am happy to see that there are people out there writing about the truth that goes on inside there minds, it helps others allow themselves to do so as well.

    Thanks,
    Kristen

    Thanks for sharing your story…
    Kristen

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I have also learned that self awareness can turn into a curse. It’s a delicate balance–enabling personal growth without over-analyzing ourselves. I’m so glad this post was helpful to you!

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  • Sreereddy496

    Hi good morning,
    This is sreenath reddy from india,.from biggingthe day onwards my mind will think negative,.i dont know why?.,,.i m not keeping concetration on any thing,.,..,99% my thoughts will be negative only.,,.by that lot of fear,.lot of bad thinikngs,..,pls tell me how to over come,…,and how to be happen in my life,.pls reply to my mail id ie,. sreereddy496@gmail.com

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi there,

    Thanks for commenting. I understand your plight. It can be really difficult to let go of decades-old conditioning. I read somewhere once that the majority of people think 70% negative thoughts. My best suggestion is to take a two-part approach:

    1. Work on changing negative thoughts to positive ones. Try to catch a negative, worrisome, troubling thought and reframe the situation. So if you’re thinking, “I’lll never get this; I fail at everything; the world’s against me” catch yourself and then think, “That’s not true. I have succeeded plenty of times, even if I’ve failed a few, as well. I can do this.”

    2. Take time each day to consciously think positive thoughts. (As opposed to just waiting to replace negative ones). Focus on all the good in other people and the day, and practice mentally noticing them. Positive thinking really does take practice. Just keep in mind it’s totally healthy to not think positively always. Life is all about balance.

    I hope this helps!
    Lori

  • Em

    This is so good to read! I‘ve been reading Tinybuddha for a while now and whenever I need to get my mind focussed on the now again, I read some of the older blogs. Today I stumbled on this particular one.
    I have had a difficult time the past year and I still do to be honest. But since the moment I stopped trying to ‘think positive’ all the time I felt so much better. I was so caught up in turning negative feelings and situations into something positive, I had to learn from everything that had happened, with the emphasis on ‘had to’. I just felt worse when this didn’t work. Not only was I still feeling sad and worthless, but on top of that I felt weak for not being able to turn all this into something positive for myself. I needed to realise that sometimes things just happen to you and that it isn’t always something you attracted by not thinking the right things or anything of that The Secret-stuff ;) and that sometimes you will feel sad. Sometimes it just is.
    Thank you for reminding me of this and thank you for reminding me that I am only human, just like everybody else!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome Em. I felt much the same as you, and this type of thinking has helped me tremendously. We are all only human, and we’re all in this together. =)

  • Alyssa

    Hi Lori,
    I just want to let you know that I think your website is amazing and that we all think to much sometimes. I’m a freshman in college and this year has been the biggest year of over-analyzing my life, myself, my importance, and my future. Everything really, but your website makes me feel less insane. It helps me realize that I’m not the only one who constantly analyzes everything. I’m currently majoring in marketing which i saw that you did as well, but I’m starting to think philosophy and writing is much more interesting. Still, I feel more content with not knowing exactly what the future brings. We don’t need to discover ourselves, we create ourselves.Thanks for being so inspiring! I’m putting a link to your website in a website I have to design for a class just so you know! Also, if you haven’t already, I suggest you look into Maslow’s self-actualization.

    p.s. I couldn’t agree more with your thinking less statement.

    -Alyssa

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Alyssa,

    I think it’s tremendously comforting to realize that most of us do and feel the same things.We’re all only human, after all! I’m so glad that you’ve found this site inspiring.

    I actually majored in writing, though I worked in marketing after college. If I were to go back to school, I would likely study philosophy. I’m sure that would be fascinating!

    Thanks for saying hello =)

    Lori

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jot-Kaur/100001424651498 Jot Kaur

    hello lori i am so much superstitious please help me put help me

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Jot,

    How can I help?

    Lori

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Blerta-Haxhijaha/627218683 Blerta Haxhijaha

    Beautiful. I really think that the whole ” being positive, escaping from every single negative thought like it was the devil which will make you so miserable” is a kind of exageratted. I have read so many books on this, and my life experience has also showed me that it is very true that we attract the things around us and we better be positive, but I believe we should also give ourselves the SPACE to simply be. To be human. You mentioned stillness, and I love that. I think that is a much powerful way of living, than just trying to envision ourselves as better and thinking positive 24/7 about things we want to attract in our lives. Getting the things I once wanted, does make me happy, but for a short time. Realizing that at some level, everything is OK, and I have everything I need within me, makes me content and peaceful.
    Thank you for this amazing post.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome. It sounds like you’ve come to some pretty powerful conclusions! I find it hard to really connect with people who say that they are always positive. I feel a lot happier when I give myself the freedom to acknowledge the darker parts of my experience. Suddenly those seem less like shameful things to cover up, and more like things I can accept and then minimize through self-awareness and mindfulness.

  • lmeiy

    Hey Lori, thank you so much for this. I didn’t realise that was what I was doing too all along. Sometimes I find myself feeling bad about someone and I’d blame myself for being selfish, for being so petty and being angry that i’d immediately feel guilty. Only after reading your article did I realise that this isn’t the right way to really ‘let go’ and not let certain things get to me.
    Thanks a lot again.

    PS: I’m really thinking about joining a yoga class too. I think it would really help :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I’ve gotten caught up in reactive emotions many times before. Sometimes it feels so difficult to just let go, but it’s so freeing to be able to do it. I hope you enjoy your first yoga class! It’s been one of my greatest passions in life, and I know you’ll love it!

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  • http://twitter.com/CHANDRAKANTHA Jeevan/Mr.Gupt/Jolly

    Hey Lori,

              Being a Perfectionist myself; you pretty much summed up all the negativeness I go through on a daily-basis; more or less.  It really got me when u said, “There are days when I judge myself so much you’d be surprised I run this site,” bcz I remember having that conversation with you on fighting our inner demons & stuff sometime back…& i agree; Meditation does do wonders if we can do it on a daily basis…its something I try pushing myself to do daily since I have a tendency of doing it for a while & then not doing it…Thanks a bunch; this article really put a lot of words in paper that I have always kind of struggled to explain myself & others…

    P.S. this also gives me hope in continuing to write in my site as well; whether anyone is really reading them or not..since we we have miles to cover in http://www.inner-u.com site before it can be developed into a well-rounded one..lol, but nice to be hopeful; hahah..!!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I find that a lot of my struggles come down to consistency. I know which activities keep me centered and (mostly) peaceful–I just need to make sure I do them regularly! Which reminds me, it’s time to meditate. =)

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  • Andrewglencross65

    Oh, enough already of all this positivity palaver…it’s turned a whole generation into self obsessed robots, robbing people of outward character…I dare say George Orwell would have called it what it is: groupthink. Thoughtful criticism or analytical comment seems to have been banned, in favour of “just be positive and don’t bring us all down with your negativity”. Now I’m NOT saying people should spend all their time being negative, but how about some balance?…quite frankly I find the omnipresent positvity police..a terrifying lot…..Just be yourself…sure, iron out the psycho-emotional kinks along-the-journey, but stop forcing the world into believing there’s only one acceptable mode of thought…ie .. delusional.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I understand your point here. I agree there is a difference between being negative and thinking critically. I remember when I was in my early 20s I got caught up in a pyramid scam (thinking it was a legitimate business). A big part of the leader’s method involved telling us all to stay positive–which meant not questioning him. That’s when I realized I wasn’t being positive–I was being naive. Now I try to strike a balance!

  • Elly

    Thank you so much for this. I left a company a while back because of this “positivity culture”. Everyone who had a different view on things became a negative outcast. I don’t know how that is positive behavior. Being naive is not the same is being positive. I left beause they made me feel that there is something wrong with me. I started asking friends and family if they saw me as a negative person and to be very honest with me. No, they never have, I am a very serious person who thinks things through, but it has left a mark on me. Are you sure I asked many times, but they were sure. I am now constantly analyzing how people see me, what they think of me, that agenda as Lori calls it.I used to approach people because I liked them and I started approaching them because they were a way for me to move up in the company. I hated what I was becoming and I decided to leave. I am slowly realizing there is nothing wrong with me.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Elly! I am always skeptical when anyone suggests that critical thinking is negative. That’s so wonderful you’re realizing there’s nothing wrong with you!

  • Joshua Cartwright

    Very good. I’ve been reading Andy Shaw’s work and practising acceptance has done more for me being happy than actually trying to be happy!

  • Riddhi

    Lori,

    This is brilliant! Love this post very much and was pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I am so glad I came across this article. Until today I really did think I was the only person that was over thinking things as much as I was. There was one point in the article where I thought to myself “Hey, I don’t remember writing this article” because it sounds exactly like me.

    A few months ago I started my personal development journey and was very excited to see the changes it would bring in me. I read a few pages, took in what I was reading, however, after a couple of days I was beating myself up for not being that positive person the course was promoting. Like Nehira said, I was beating myself up for not being perfectly positive. I stopped reading through the course eventually because I thought it was not really doing anything for me. There were a few moments of motivation where I said to myself get into gear and give this a go again. So I tried again, wrote down a list of things I wanted to do with my life and things I wanted to achieve (helping out the homeless, working with troubled teens etc) but once again negative thoughts and over thinking took over and I said to myself I don’t have time to accomplish all this.

    More recently, I have come to the point where I am sick and tired of analysing everything and constant thoughts and emotions whirling around in my head. Reading your post today has inspired me to take up (and stick with) meditation as it has worked for me in the past. I can see it helping me get rid of the constant thoughts as to why I cannot do things perfectly and clear my head.

    Thanks for this great post (even if it was a while ago) I enjoyed reading it.

    -Riddhi-

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Riddhi! I suspect this is a challenge for most of us–we try to be positive, but we’re just too overwhelmed by our thoughts to do it! I know when I’m feeling the least positive, it’s usually because I’m thinking too much and I simply need to take a deep breath, clear my head, and let go.

    I’m about to disconnect from my computer and stop thinking, but before I do, I’m sending good thoughts your way! =)

    Lori

  • Ithink…

    In the east, they worry about destroying the ego and in the west, they worry about building it up. The older I get, the less I understand positive thinking myself because of the effects it has on others. In essence, its a religion of materialism and turns one into a selfish, greedy individual(at least from what I’ve seen). Buddha taught morality and the rewards of being moral.

  • Annette

    Dear Lori, Thank you for posting your experience. I struggled with the same lifestyle and always worried about what everyone is thinking of me. By sharing your post you’ve given me a clear view of myself and how to change. Ive read numerous books in positivity and even watched many documentaries but nothing made more sense to me than your real life experience. Thank you for sharing with us.

  • Dave

    I really like this Idea of not thinking compared to positive thinking which seems like hard work.
    (Ignorance can be bliss (and we can get a lot more done with it.)
    And your blog is quite rare in this field so I am now one of your fans. Keep up the good work, might save people from getting positively Lost.
    Dave of GumpsWorld.com

  • Aneesh

    hello Lori ,
    I’m Aneesh , I have made a website please do visit that and read :) it would help :) http://www.thatsomethingworks.blogspot.com

  • Ray

    Must ‘stillness’ involve silence? I love music. From the time I awake to the witching hours before sleep I listen to music. If not audibly, then in my head. I walk into a pub or restaurant or elevator and I automatically tune into the music: what’s the song? the instruments? the genre? the key? the time signature? my emotional response? I would rather listen to music than watch TV.

    I’m often reminded of the health benefits associated with meditation and would love to explore the benefit. However, I don’t think I can sit for 10 minutes because I could be listening to, or missing, something cool. Youtube has become my musical rabbit-hole. I’ve tried mediating to the Zamfir-esque type music popular in meditation circles. But music is so subjective and meditative music is just not my thing. Can a person meditate to a favorite genre even if the music of ones preference happens to be, say, something like Black Sabbath or Muse or Kongos?

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I don’t think stillness has to involve silence–though there are different benefits we can enjoy from sitting still in silence and sitting still with music.

    I actually love guided meditations, and find them very effective in creating mental calm. I think it really comes down to finding what works for you!

  • Jenn

    Hi Lori,
    I did a search for “Why doesn’t positive thinking work for me?” and came across this. I know it’s from a few yrs ago but just wanted to say thanks; this is probably the best thing I’ve come across on the subject. Everything else I found says something to the effect of “It doesn’t work because you’re not doing it right!” (Which just makes it worse, as you said!) The strange thing about me is, NEGATIVE thinking always seems to work so much better than positive! I’ve read all the books about positive thinking and tried all the techniques many, many, times, and for many months/years at a time…but it always seemed like no matter how hard I tried, in most situations I would keep having bad things happen instead of the good things I had been visualizing/thinking, and I couldn’t understand why! Literally, I would be blindsided by the bad things that happened, because I had truly and honestly been expecting great things, after all, isn’t that supposed to be the “Law of Attraction”, it’s a “universal law” so it’s supposed to work for everyone, right? Oddly, though, (after trying the whole positive thinking thing for extended lengths of time and finally giving up), I started to realize that whenever I would go into a situation thinking it was probably going to turn out bad (expecting the worst, so to speak) I would usually end up pleasantly surprised at how good it turned out! And, actually, it’s still that way with me! I’m starting to realize that it’s probably because I’m a perfectionist/control freak/type A, whatever you want to call it. Basically, I try too hard already, and already give 100% in everything I do. So while the whole positive thinking thing might work for most people (who, I hate to say this, don’t make enough of an effort most of the time), it won’t work for those of us who are already giving 100%, because that’s not what we need to learn. What we need to learn is to “let go” and realize we can’t control everything. Let God handle it (or whatever higher power you believe in). He’ll do a much better job than you. ;) I think the positive thinking thing may work for a lot of people who have a “victim” mentality and need to learn to take control over their own lives. I’ve never had that mentality, though – in fact, my problem is the opposite; hard work and perseverance has gotten me a lot of great results in the past, so I tend to think I can get anything I want with it…when in reality, not EVERYTHING is up to me. It’s incredibly hard for me to let go and trust that God can handle it, but you know what…He’s never let me down! So I’m not going to attempt to “think positive” anymore; I’m just going to budget some more time for relaxation/meditation, since currently I’m always “going” and never take a break. And when I’m stressed out, maybe take a deep breath, and say a prayer. Can’t hurt, anyway. Thanks again for this; you are great! :)
    Jenn

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I’m glad you found this helpful! It sounds like we are very similar, as I’m also a perfectionist/recovering control freak, and I’ve also needed to learn to let go. I still work at it every day, but the days when I make the effort to mediate, it’s far easier! I hope the relaxation/meditation helps you, as well. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Neha. Thanks for sharing your mentor’s words and the link to the video! I can definitely see the value in believing we’re for a specific purpose. I know when I put my energy into a specific goal, it’s much easier to not get caught up in my head!