Everyone said, “Think positive and you’ll be happy.” They were wrong. Here’s what actually works.

As someone who’s spent a good portion of my life studying mindfulness and eastern philosophy, I’ve always been curious about the power of positive thinking. We’ve all heard it before, “Think positive and you’ll be happy.” But is it really that simple?

After noticing countless self-help books and motivational speakers championing this mantra, I decided to put it to the test. For a month, I committed myself to positivity, attempting to banish all negative thoughts from my mind to see if happiness would follow.

However, my findings were unexpected, leaving me questioning the effectiveness of this popular belief. It seemed that simply thinking positively wasn’t enough. In fact, it was something else entirely that proved to be the real game changer.

In this article, I aim to share my experience and reveal what I discovered during this personal experiment. Keep in mind, what worked for me might not work for you, but there’s always value in challenging conventional wisdom and exploring new perspectives.

Now, let’s delve into what really brings about happiness and why positive thinking might not be the golden key we’ve been led to believe it is.

Embracing positivity: My personal journey

Determined to immerse myself fully in the world of positive thinking, I began this experiment with a few concrete steps. This wasn’t about ignoring reality or pretending things were great when they weren’t. Instead, it was about approaching life’s challenges with a positive mindset and channeling my energy towards solutions rather than dwelling on problems.

  • Starting the day with gratitude: Each morning, I would write down three things I was grateful for.
  • Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones: Whenever I caught myself dwelling on something negative, I would consciously refocus my thoughts on something positive.
  • Surrounding myself with positivity: I made an effort to spend time with people who uplifted me and avoided sources of negativity like negative news or pessimistic people.

These steps became my daily ritual, a commitment to positive thinking that I stuck to religiously for an entire month.

But as the weeks passed, it became clear that thinking positively wasn’t the magic happiness pill it was made out to be. Sure, there were moments of joy and contentment, but they seemed fleeting and often overshadowed by the effort required to constantly police my thoughts.

Let’s dive deeper into what I discovered during this experiment, why positivity wasn’t enough and what truly made a difference in my quest for sustained happiness.

The reality of positive thinking: My unexpected findings

After a month of consistent positive thinking, I expected to feel happier, more content, and generally more satisfied with life. However, the reality was a mixed bag.

Sure, there were some bright spots. I felt a sense of accomplishment each morning when I listed my gratitudes, and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones did bring moments of peace. But these moments were fleeting, often replaced quickly by a sense of exhaustion from the mental gymnastics required to keep negativity at bay.

More often than not, I found myself feeling frustrated and drained. The constant effort to suppress negative thoughts felt unnatural and forced. It was as if I was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole; it just didn’t sit right.

Furthermore, there were times when the attempt to be relentlessly positive felt dismissive of my genuine feelings. When faced with challenges or disappointments, my natural inclination was to acknowledge my feelings, not to dismiss them with a positive spin.

Overall, my month-long experiment with positivity didn’t yield the happiness jackpot I anticipated. Instead, it left me questioning the universally accepted mantra of “think positive and you’ll be happy.”

But it wasn’t all in vain. This journey led me to discover something else – something far more effective in nurturing sustained happiness. It’s time we talk about what actually worked.

Positive thinking: Expectations versus reality

When I embarked on this journey, I was bracing myself for a wave of happiness to crash over me. I envisioned a life where negative thoughts were easily swept away by a relentless tide of positivity. It seemed simple enough — replace the negative with the positive, and happiness would follow.

However, as the days turned into weeks, I found myself fighting a constant battle against my own mind. The negative thoughts didn’t disappear; they were just lurking beneath the surface, waiting to resurface at the slightest sign of weakness.

I realized that positivity wasn’t necessarily a switch that could be flipped on and off at will. It wasn’t as simple as replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. Sometimes, it’s okay to acknowledge the negative, to feel it, and then let it go.

Furthermore, while gratitude and positive affirmations did bring moments of joy, they weren’t enough to bring about sustained happiness. On the contrary, the constant pressure to think positively made me feel less authentic and more disconnected from my true feelings.

This experiment made me realize that there’s more to happiness than just thinking positively. And this revelation was an unexpected but welcome surprise. 

Finding true happiness: A shift in perspective

The month-long experiment brought me an invaluable insight. It wasn’t about forcing positivity or dismissing the negative. True, lasting happiness, I discovered, was about accepting all emotions as they come — positive and negative.

Rather than trying to suppress or replace negative thoughts, I learned to acknowledge them. I allowed myself to feel sadness, anger, or frustration without judgment. I gave myself permission to experience these emotions fully before letting them go.

This new approach felt liberating and more authentic. It was no longer a battle of positivity versus negativity; instead, it was about embracing the full spectrum of human emotions.

Moreover, I shifted my focus from chasing happiness to cultivating inner peace. Instead of obsessively trying to maintain a positive mindset, I worked on building resilience and finding peace amidst life’s ups and downs.

This shift in perspective made a significant difference in my overall wellbeing and happiness. I felt more at peace and less burdened by the constant need to be positive.

If you’re stuck in the cycle of forced positivity, I invite you to try this approach. Acknowledge all your feelings — good and bad — and work towards finding inner peace rather than chasing fleeting moments of happiness. Trust me; it’s a game changer.

Stepping back: A broader perspective

My journey with positive thinking wasn’t as straightforward as I thought it would be. But in retrospect, I realize that it was an essential part of my self-improvement journey, a stepping stone to something bigger and better.

The key lessons I learned were:

  • Positive thinking isn’t a magic bullet for happiness.
  • Acknowledging all emotions, positive and negative, is essential.
  • Finding inner peace trumps chasing fleeting moments of happiness.

These insights align beautifully with the principles I’ve come to embrace in my life. They resonate with the idea of developing emotional intelligence, giving ourselves permission to feel our emotions fully without judgment. They underscore the importance of mindfulness, being present in each moment and accepting our experiences just as they are.

Equally important is the emphasis on mental well-being. Trying to force positivity often felt like a strain on my mental health. It was only when I shifted my focus towards finding inner peace that I truly felt a sense of relief and contentment.

This journey also taught me the value of letting go of unnecessary attachments, in this case, the attachment to always thinking positively. By letting go, I was able to embrace a more authentic and freeing approach to dealing with my thoughts and feelings.

In essence, this experience taught me to balance idealism with realism. Yes, it’s great to aspire for positivity, but it’s equally crucial to stay rooted in reality and acknowledge that life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.

This comprehensive understanding of happiness has been a game changer for me. And if you’re looking for a way to navigate life’s ups and downs more effectively, I invite you to explore these principles further.

In my book, “Hidden Secrets of Buddhism: How To Live With Maximum Impact and Minimum Ego”, I delve deeper into these insights, sharing practical applications of Buddhist principles for a fulfilling modern life.

Whether it’s about positive thinking or any other aspect of life, the key is to keep learning, growing, and striving for better. After all, life is a journey, not a destination. And every step we take, every lesson we learn, brings us one step closer to becoming the best version of ourselves.

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Lachlan Brown

Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the editor of Ideapod and founder of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 6 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you to want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Twitter or Facebook.

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