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Surprising Ways Overthinking Positivity Can Actually Drain Your Joy

Updated: Mar 13, 2023

We’ve all heard about the power of positive thinking. The concept suggests thinking positively can lead to increased happiness, success, and overall well-being. I don’t disagree. But, I don’t agree that only thinking positively will lead to a joy-filled life.

Positive thinking keeps us from feeling emotions.

Think back on a time when you were hurting, desperately. Someone, somewhere probably said, “just focus on the positives that you have in your life.” Ouch! This unintentionally shame-filled statement causes us to deny how we’re actually feeling. Life isn't always easy and pretending that it is can be hard for our emotional health. Ignoring negative emotions or experiences can cause us to bottle up our feelings, which can lead to stress, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. It's important to acknowledge and work through difficult emotions rather than just focusing on positivity.

Positive thinking can create unrealistic expectations.

Another danger is that it can create unrealistic expectations. Your brain is wired to feel emotions, but the inability to understand that it’s okay to hurt, be angry and sad, creates shame when we aren’t happy. We can't control everything in life, and sometimes junk is just out of our control. Focusing solely on positivity can make it hard to accept setbacks and move forward because your brain is too busy hiding all those emotions..

The pressure to always think positively can also make us feel shame when we experience emotions. We might think we're not doing something right or that we're failing if we're not able to maintain a constant state of positivity. This can create even more stress and anxiety, making it harder to find true joy and contentment in life.

Positive thinking creates disconnection.

Only thinking positively can make us less empathetic to others, and creates a vacuum of connection. By only focusing on positivity, we may unintentionally dismiss or invalidate the feelings of others who are struggling with difficult emotions or experiences.

And here’s something to consider: are their emotions making you feel uncomfortable? That’s on you, and is a signal that strong emotions are hard for you. That’s okay - but something to work on.

We all have the stock answers that we give to people when they’re hurting.

“It will get better.”

“Just be grateful for what you have.”

“Pray about it.”

While well-meaning, all of these unintentionally say to the other person, “just get over it”.

Throw them out, and give these a try:

  • “My heart hurts for you. I’m here to listen.”

  • “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through.”

  • “It’s okay to not be okay.”

  • Or, just be silent and let them talk, feel and be heard.

Is positive thinking bad? Nope. There is absolutely space for positivity. Give me a positive quote that inspires and brings hope any day. Look at me and tell me that the world will still turn, regardless of what I’m going through. However, by acknowledging and working through our difficult emotions, managing our expectations, and cultivating empathy and understanding, we can find joy, in both good times and hard times.

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