Why we are failing to develop a positive attitude and the key to happiness still eludes us.
We keep hearing about the importance of the power of positive thinking. All motivational gurus tell us that being positive is an essential to our success and finding happiness. It is necessary for our daily stress management. The Secret is a bestselling book and movie explaining in detail the benefits of believing that good things can and will happen.

But with all the talk, we still don’t understand how to banish those negative thoughts.

A positive attitude can add healthy happy years to our lives and is considered to be the key to happiness.
It can help us drive towards a successful enterprise. It has been shown to help parents have healthier and smarter kids. Smiling makes us more physically attractive, and our relationships will generally run smoother.

Besides, no one likes to hang out with a party pooper.

So what has gone so wrong with positive thinking theory that we have had such a hard time adopting it? Here are some myths that you may have come to believe about the art of..well…believing.

Myth 1: Positive Thinking is Magical. Just believe and all your wishes will come true. Just think positive thoughts and everything will fall into place instantly, and you will reduce stress immediately.

This is so outlandish that we have a hard time believing such things happen. As far as I know, no one has found the Genie lamp, yet.

It is not that positive thinking cannot change your life and feel like magic. It has worked wonders in my life, bringing my wishes into reality. But there was no magic involved. Thinking and believing my desires can all come true has driven me to the hard work, creativity and focus necessary to make them happen.

The thought didn’t bring about the final outcome. The thought brought me to the place where I was willing and able to make the necessary commitments and do the tasks to bring about the final outcomes.

Myth 2: You can simply turn it on. From now on, just think positive and watch your ideal life unfold. Ignore the negative thoughts altogether.

Have you read enough books to think that this can happen? Have you ever resolved, “From now on, I will be more positive”? How long did that resolution last?

You can’t simply shut off your mind, or decide not to think about something. Here is an exercise to prove it: Don’t think about a pink elephant. Think about anything you want, just not a pink elephant.

OK, what are you thinking about?

The term positive thinking is misleading. Perhaps a better way to say it is Positive Filter. Rather than trying to un-think something, change the filter in which these thoughts enter the mind. We may be surrounded by negativity, but we can choose to not take it in. We are surrounded by as much positivity, and we can choose to focus on that instead.

It is what you choose to focus on which makes anything a positive or negative experience. The challenge is to make it all credible so your mind adopts this as an attitude in life, rather than a mere occasional exercise.

For example, instead of thinking of someone else’s shortcomings, can you think of his or her triumphs? And if there are none, can you focus on incredible people who do wonderful things? Instead of discussing all your misfortunes and gossiping with a friend, can you discuss your hopes and dreams and the happy changes in your life, or a recent positive or funny experience?

Instead of focusing on not having a job or how difficult it is to find one, can you choose to focus on opportunities in your life or how you can open more doors? Or focus on the gratitude for things you have in your life, (family, friends, health, skills, anything). This will give you the necessary state of mind to have peace at any situation.

Myth 3: Becoming a more positive thinker is an enjoyable experience.

The truth is that negativity is a deep seated habit, and like all such habits, it is hard to break. It is a basis for many of our other detrimental behaviors. Are you really ready to kick the habit?

Why is it so hard to give up a habit of negativity? Like all of our basic behaviors, it is familiar and known, which means it is comfortable. But what if you were told some habit of yours is creating havoc in your life and it is destructive to both your physical and mental wellbeing? Would you change it?

It is also difficult to switch from negative to positive because much of our negativity is tied to our self-image. What we think to be true about ourselves and others around us, what we were told when we were young, what everyone we know says and does. It simply feels unnatural to let go of what we know to be true. We may even feel ridiculous and disingenuous at first. We’ll be such oddballs! Downright silly!

Furthermore, some of us are tied to our loved ones through negativity. It is what we discuss, what we experience together and there is a fear that letting go of negativity will cost us too dearly. Negative thinking is a breeding ground for many of our other unhealthy behaviors which we may not be ready to give up: overeating, smoking, procrastination, various addictions, chaotic relationships, etc.

So what’s to be done in face of such a challenge? Take small steps and don’t expecting overnight changes, for a start.

Here are some things you can do immediately. First, know positive thinking can be as contagious as negative thinking. Be the leader in your circle, perhaps, to change the conversation or simply make a bright observation on dark topics.

You may also have to decide that some people may be too toxic, and it may be time to limit the time or intensity of some of your relationships. Or you may have to take more control of these relationships and set some boundaries.

The point is, you may have to give up a few things to be the person you want to be. Reevaluating relationships is part of it. This is not always enjoyable, and it can be a difficult task, but well worth it if you are ready to recreate your life.

Myth 4: A positive attitude means believing everything is fine no matter what.

There are realities in the world; some of them are not very pretty. There are environmental disasters, global instability, wars, disease, hunger, economic distress….How can you find any peace of mind and positivity in such a world?

If you find nothing good about a situation, then focus on the solution and take action. This is an immediate boost to your mental state! If there is no solution, and there are no positive aspects to your thought, then you may need to reexamine the topics on which you wish to focus, and why you choose to focus on them.

Practicing positive thinking means anticipating happiness, joy, health and a successful outcome of every situation and action. It means expecting favorable results, yet allowing ourselves to prepare and be at peace with the unexpected, unintended or seemingly unsatisfactory.

It is normal and healthy to prepare ourselves for situations that are less than ideal. The point is to learn to handle any situation or challenge which comes our way. Instead of thinking and focusing about just the outcomes, make every journey as enjoyable as possible. Favorable outcomes are more likely when we choose the brighter path.

Turning a blind eye to reality and giving caution to the wind is not a sign of positive thinking! It is called denial, which is a symptom of negativity. A negative thinker may not want to see the possibility of unfavorable outcomes or ignore difficulties. A positive thinker will look at all aspects of a given situation – challenges, possible end results, limitations, etc. – and find ways to work with them, or at least trust himself or herself to handle things successfully.

Developing the Positive State of Mind

Developing a positive state of mind may take time but I found it to be both enjoyable as well as meaningful. Some of the tools I am using are regular affirmations, creative visualization, positive self-talk, expressing gratitude, a vision board and prayers. Each of these techniques needs to be learned and used properly to be effective.

Easy and practical ways to start more positive thinking right now is to surround yourself with positive and happy people, read inspiring literature, see only uplifting movies, avoid negative media messages and unsatisfied people. Another powerful resource you can use on your own is self-hypnosis and meditation recordings. Such products help you adopt the lifestyle you want and give you a boost when you need it.

And always feel free to stick to the age-old advice: “If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing.” Do not be responsible for beginning or continuing negative thoughts, which spread like wild fire and are deadly and contagious.

Remember, the most important part of making the change to be a more positive person and to take up some positive thinking habits: it’s a decision, and it is up to you to make it, over and over again.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Abraham Lincoln

Author's Bio: 

Avinoam Lerner is a Certified Hypnotherapist who uses a multi-discipline approach to healing and personal development. His practice is located in Newton, MA and his specialties include overcoming addictions, holistic weight loss, stress management, anxiety and fears. Learn more about Avinoam Lerner and his 10 Week Personal Transformation Program, at www.HealingBeyondTherapy.com.

For your in-home healing and stress reduction experience, find Lerner’s recordings at www.MindBody101.com.