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How Focusing on the Positives Can Be Counterproductive

How Focusing on the Positives Can Be Counterproductive

Whenever something bad happens or we’re feeling down, people will often tell us to keep our chin up—to look for the silver lining and keep focusing on the positives. The truth is that sometimes this is unhelpful and patronizing. When we are feeling sad or angry, when we’ve been through a rough time, we need our feelings validated and we need to acknowledge the negativity in a healthy way in order to move forward.

That doesn’t mean that we should wallow in bad feelings and harbor destructive tendencies. Instead we need to look for opportunities to see the bright side in healthy and constructive ways. We also need to give attention to negativity and address the things that are uncomfortable and unpleasant.

It’s important to find healthy ways of focusing on the positives.

When we face adversity, it’s vital to keep things in perspective so that we don’t spiral into depression and despair. Having an attitude of appreciation and gratitude about the things that are going right will help to balance our negative feelings. A good way to do this is to consider two things. Firstly, things can always be worse. Secondly, if things can’t get any worse, they can only get better.

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We should maintain awareness of privilege and ask ourselves, in the scheme of things, how bad is our situation really? Does what we are going through impact our physical safety and our health? Will it change our life dramatically in the long term? Or is it a minor hiccup, only causing us temporary discomfort and inconvenience? Often our emotional reactions are exaggerated because we are accustomed to a certain lifestyle or pattern and when things go wrong and our comfort zone is compromised, we can overreact. That is not to say that our initial feelings aren’t valid, but a brief moment of reflection will allow us to separate our immediate and reactive response from what is actually an appropriate and warranted reaction in a given situation.

It is precisely in the face of misfortune when experiencing joy is vital. There should be no guilt or shame for taking pleasure in the things that make us happy, even when a situation calls for grief or sadness. Laughter is indeed the best medicine and reminding ourselves about the things we love and the things that make us happy, in the midst of a crisis, is a good way to even out our emotions and help bring things into perspective. It gives us the relief and motivation we need to energize ourselves to get through hardship.

Living in the moment will take us away from the response to a bad situation that is often playing out in our minds rather than in reality. Often the psychological effects of a run of bad luck can be very powerful and crippling, stopping us from doing even simple day-to-day activities. Having a distraction from the drama and focusing on the positives in a healthy way, is best achieved by paying attention to the present. Sharpening our awareness of exactly what we are doing and where we are right now can be a potent strategy to take our mind off things.

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The good things in life are already good; let’s not taint them.

While putting things in perspective may inevitably mean making comparisons, we should be careful to avoid taking pleasure in others’ suffering. Schadenfreude is a German word meaning literally “harm-joy.” It refers to the feelings of happiness we can experience when we see others in a worse situation than ourselves. This is unnecessary and counterproductive. When we take pleasure in others’ suffering to feel good about ourselves, we inevitably assume others are doing the same to us when we find ourselves in crisis. Our attitude towards others will always inform how we think people see us too.

Instead of indulging in our privilege to boost our mood or self esteem, it is more constructive and kinder to understand our privilege and use it to promote empathy. Thinking about the good things in our life in comparison to the injustices others experience is important—not to serve the purpose of giving us satisfaction or pleasure, but instead to give us clarity and context. It should make us want to alleviate the suffering of others.

Altruism is cyclical. The more we connect with others and contribute to their well being, the more we find ourselves on the receiving end of the same generosity and affection and furthermore, the more we want to participate in the exchange. That doesn’t mean ignoring or shying away from trouble or ill feeling. It simply means using our common humanity and our shared experiences, even when they are painful, to raise each other up.

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Focusing on the positives and staying present shouldn’t result in a refusal to reflect on our past experiences or look forward to brighter horizons. Being mindful and present doesn’t mean disconnecting from the one thing that is unique to our human species: contemplation. In fact, mindfulness enhances this quality. The clearer our mind, the less clouded we are by irrationality, the more we are able to make sense of our past experiences in order to move forward.

While focusing on the positives in a self serving way can be counterproductive, we don’t need to spend our time dwelling on the negatives in order to extract value from our tribulations. Acknowledging our disappointment, feelings of betrayal, sadness, anger, jealousy and frustration is healthy, but it’s not necessary to feel obligated to indulge in ill feeling or lament injustice. It is perfectly normal and acceptable to respond appropriately to any situation that upsets us without needing to over analyze every aspect of it. However, to ignore these feelings or distract ourselves from dealing with them will only cause them to fester and grow. The result is a destructive and burdensome force that could have been prevented and avoided.

The negatives need our close attention.

Learning life’s lessons means living a life of complexity and diversity. We need the ebb and flow; the ups and downs to be able to make that distinction. How will we ever truly know and appreciate happiness if we never experience loneliness or sadness?

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Our endurance and resilience only flourishes when we are challenged and this in turn compels us to contribute and participate in life. It inspires us to want to make a difference.

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Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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Last Updated on October 16, 2019

5 Powerful Ways for Building Fulfilling Relationships

5 Powerful Ways for Building Fulfilling Relationships

We all have relationships. We have acquaintances, relatives, colleagues, neighbors and friends. However, for a large percentage of us, many of these relationships are not fulfilling.

They are unfulfilling because they lack real strength; and they lack real strength because they lack real depth.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, we tend to have shallow, superficial relationships with others, and it’s extremely hard for this kind of relationships to provide anything more than faint satisfaction.

I’d like to show you, based on my experience as a communication and confidence coach, how you can add a significant amount of depth, and thus strength, to your relationships and make your social life a whole lot more meaningful.

Here’re 5 simple yet powerful ways for meaningful relationships building:

1. Meet More People

This is an apparent paradox, but the quality of the people you meet has considerably to do with the quantity of people you meet.

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If you don’t know a lot of people and you barely meet one or two new people every season of the year, considering the variety of individuals out there, you won’t meet very often people who are a good match with you in terms of personality, interests and values.

And since this natural match plays a huge part in building strong relationships, you’ll just as seldom have the opportunity to develop strong relationships.

Conversely, if you go out a lot, you meet a lot of new people and you constantly expand your social circle, you’re much more likely to meet people you match up well with, and these people have a tremendous potential to become good friends, reliable partners, etc.

This is why it’s important to meet more people.

2. Talk about the Things That Matter To You

A relationship becomes the strongest when two people discover they believe in the same things and have similar interests. It’s these commonalities regarding values and interests that create the strongest emotional connection.

I’ve noticed that many people keep conversations shallow. They talk about trivial stuff such as the weather, what’s on TV, the lives of various movie stars, but they rarely talk about what really matters to them in life. This is a mistake from my perspective, because it’s the perfect method for a relationship to not develop.

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Talk about the things that truly matter to you and give others a chance to know what you care about and what you believe in. If they believe in the same things and they care about the same things, they’ll eagerly let you know. Thus you’ll find meaningful common ground and you’ll feel more connected.

3. Express Vulnerability

Many people try to come off as perfect. They don’t talk about their failures, they hide their shortcomings and they never say anything that could embarrass them.

This is all just a facade though. You may appear perfect to some, but you know you’re not perfect and they know that too. You’re only human and humans have flaws.

However, by hiding your flaws, what you do succeed in is appearing cold and impersonal. You seem like a marble statue rather than a real person. And this makes it very hard for anyone to connect with you emotionally.

Humans connect with other humans, not with ideals. Keep this in mind and don’t be afraid to let your vulnerability and your humanity show. This is what takes a relationship to the next level.

Take a look at this article and find out Why Showing Vulnerability Actually Proves Your Strength.

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4. Have Integrity

Integrity, as I see it, is the alignment between your thoughts, your words and your actions. When you say what you think and you do what you said you’ll do, you have integrity.

This is a crucial trait because if you have integrity, people can trust you. They can trust you to give them an honest feedback, even when it’s hard to shallow, and they can trust you to keep your promises.

This trust is one of the central pillars of a strong relationship, both in your personal and your professional life. So, as challenging as it can be sometimes, always try to have integrity.

Be honest with the people around you, even when this will initially hurt them. It’s more important for them to trust you than to not feel hurt. And always do what you promised. Even better, think twice before you promise anything, and only promise what you really can and you are willing to do.

5. Be There for Others

Another central pillar of strong relationships is support. Connections between people grow sturdy if they can rely on each other for support when it’s needed, whether that support means a few kind words or several massive actions.

Of course, you can’t be there for everybody, all the time. Your time, energy and other resources are limited. But what you can do is identify the genuinely important people in your life and then seek to be there as much as possible, at least for them.

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Your support will help them practically, and it will comfort them emotionally; which makes one hell of a difference in a relationship.

The Bottom Line

With the right mindset and the right behavior, you can strengthen a wide range of relationships in your life and advance them as far as they can be advanced.

And with strong relationships, not only that you feel more fulfilled, but you feel more connected to the entire world. You feel that your life has real value, you have more fun and you live in the moment. An entire world of opportunities opens up in front of you.

Then your task is to simply walk through the open doors.

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Featured photo credit: Proxyclick Visitor Management System via unsplash.com

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