Why doesn’t thinking positive work?

Just think positive; everything will be perfect. Really?

I’ve read many books, quotes and been told and I’ve even preached to others more times than I can remember about how important it is to think positive. You’d think that’s all you need to do to have a pretty good life. Everything will fit into place as long as we think positively. Is it really that simple?

Say you are sitting in the doctor’s waiting room after receiving a letter asking you to make an urgent appointment. It wouldn’t take a genius to realize it is not going to be good news! At this point, trying to think positively or being reminded by somebody that there are many other worse-case scenarios doesn’t help much. In fact, it’s irritating as hell. If you are one of these people, stop it! (At this point, I should apologize to every person I have told and preached to in the past.)

Thinking positive about something is great.


The problem with just thinking positive is that you are still thinking about the one thing you do not want to think about.

Of course, thinking of positive outcomes and how to deal with a situation is substantially better than being negative and worrying. So if you’re able to do that, then I would advise you to continue, however, for many people this is too difficult and the mind almost immediately jumps back to old habits of fear and worrying.

So what’s the alternative to thinking positive?

The direct opposite is to be negative, but the mind isn’t that simple. The mind works on habits, beliefs and best judgement based on previous ways of thinking and experiences that have built up over a long time.

There is a better way.

Your time is valuable so I don’t want this article to go into massive detail about how the mind works apart from this important fact. We are only able to consciously think one thing at a time. Try reading this article while concentrating on your breath. Try listening to a noise and concentrate on something different. You will find you flip from one to the other.

So while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, we can use this to our advantage.

Try this.

  • Take a few slow deep breaths.
  • While breathing in, mentally say the word `calm’.
  • While breathing out, use the word `relax’.
  • Try to go a bit deeper with each breath.
  • Your mind will wander. When you notice you’re thinking, just gently smile and return to breathing in and out while repeating the words `calm’ and `relax’.
  • Don’t get frustrated as your mind will wander, thoughts will come and go. This is normal. Your mind is not conditioned to concentrating on a single thing, but rather jumping around.

If you do this every time you need to relax and think of something different, it will become normal to you and even your subconscious mind will allow you to have your own space.

If you look at each breath and each thought as a single ‘time slice’, it is known as the present, and you have the ability to choose what to fill each present moment with.

It is hard at first, but it becomes easier and amazingly rewarding.

When you learn to focus your mind, you become conscious of what you are thinking and the impact it has on our daily lives.

There are many reasons positing thinking by itself doesn’t work, here I’ve just written about one. Of course you also have to do something, take action in a productive positive way otherwise it will not have any desired effect more than lift your life in the moment.

If this helped you, it will help somebody else!

You've just read an article by Steven Webb —  Guiding you through the most difficult times. Here is a link to my podcast Stillness in the Storms and Inner Peace Meditations.

I write to arm you with resilience and inner wisdom, helping you find calm in life’s chaos. Follow me Medium or on substack.

Steven Webb host of Stillness in the Storms portrait picture

Steven Webb

Steven Webb is a renowned meditation teacher with over a decade of experience. Known for his unique approach to quieting the busy mind, Steven navigated through a life of adversity to find his own inner peace. Now, he shares his wisdom to help others build resilience and find tranquility even in life's most turbulent times. Through his writing, courses, and podcast "Stillness in the Storms," Steven empowers people to discover their own sanctuary of inner peace when they need it the most.
© 2023 Steven Webb - stevenwebb.com

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