Positive thinking or positive feeling – which are you doing?

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“Think positive.” How many times have you heard those words?  They’re always well-meant but don’t they sometimes make you want to scream? If you suffer from anxiety then you know all too well that simply ‘thinking positive’ isn’t the answer.  In fact I bet you then use those words to beat yourself up a bit – asking yourself why you can’t seem to ‘think positive’ or why trying to think positive isn’t making you feel better. It might help you for a few minutes, a few hours maybe, but all too often you then go right back to where you were before. And I also believe there’s a danger of trying to force positive thoughts in place of more challenging feelings, which only buries them, without allowing you to feel them and work through them.

The answer is in two very different words. Think. Feel. They’re worlds apart. I could also add in Know. You can ‘think’ something, you can ‘know’ something in your head (knowledge is power right? Well, no, not unless you know what to do with it!). But neither of those are any good unless you also truly ‘feel’ it. In your core. Otherwise you’re just living in your head, not your body.

I’ve ‘known’ for months that to help calm my over-active nervous system down (which, by the way, controls virtually every aspect of your body, which is why with an illness like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome you can get so many apparently unconnected symptoms, including anxiety), I need to be positive (which can be hard when life seems to be giving you plenty to feel negative about!). But there is a huge difference between thinking positive thoughts and actually believing them and feeling them. Thinking positive often means thinking something that doesn’t actually feel true.  For example I could think to myself ‘I’m going to get better.” But if I don’t really believe it, what use is it?  Ok it’s better than thinking the opposite, but when you feel it and believe it then that you’ll really feel a shift inside of you.

So how can you make that shift from thinking to feeling and believing? It’s amazingly simple yet incredibly hard sometimes.

Find the positive. The real positive.  What can you find in your situation that is really, truly positive?  There will always be something no matter how bad things seem.  As an example, I think I’ve mentioned before, that the first thing one of my amazing coaches, Raeya from CFS Health, asked me to do was write a list of all the things I CAN do. It was a short list. At the time I was housebound and in bed for much of that time. I came up with 10 things, like ‘brush my teeth’, and ‘have a bath’. She also asked me to write down everything I was doing on a daily basis to improve my health and wellbeing.  Writing these lists focused me on what positive things I was doing. I was finding the positives in my situation. And because they were true, I wasn’t trying to convince myself, which is what ‘positive thinking’ often feels like.  I’m now a few months on and decided to write another ‘what I CAN do’ list. In 10 minutes I’d written 50 things.  The increase from my initial 10 things was partly because I’m gradually becoming able to do more, but in the most part they were things I’ve always been able to do, I’d just taken them for granted. So on my list were things like I can breathe, smile, laugh, cry, listen, love, learn, be inspired, inspire, eat, think, plan dream… Suddenly I’m thinking ‘Wow look at all the things I can do!’ I’m not trying to think positive thoughts, I’m feeling positive!

Another quick example. I’ve worried at times over the past months what effect my situation is having on my two children. Well, the other day I was lying outside and my seven year old daughter asked me to play with her. When I asked what she wanted to play (expecting to have to say no as it would be something I wouldn’t have the energy to do) she said, “Let’s play relaxing. And I’ll make you a fan.”  Isn’t that awesome? I could feel bad that at the moment I can’t (please note ‘at the moment I can’t’ not just ‘I can’t’ – there’s a big difference!) play with my kids as much as I’d like to, take them out places, take them to school etc. Or I could find the positive – which is that seeing me going through a challenging time is helping them build life-skills such as empathy, kindness, resilience, independence, determination and an appreciation of life and the people in it. It also made me realise I could come up with other fun things to do with her that don’t require much energy, like painting our nails, making face packs out of mashed avocado. (My son’s harder – he mainly wants to play football so still working on that one!)

Finding the positive in things means you believe what you’re thinking and you truly feel that positivity in your heart, your core. And the more you do it, the more you’ll naturally start seeing the positives in more things. And once you’re looking at the world that way, the negative thinking will naturally diminish too.

So what have you been thinking negatively about? Can you look for a positive?   There’ll be one somewhere… and if you need help to get you started, just comment below and I’ll see if I can help!

“When life gives you a hundred reasons to break down and cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile and laugh.” Power of Positivity.

Hazel x

https://m.facebook.com/findingthepositives/?tsid=0.42757148134525713&source=typeahead

6 thoughts on “Positive thinking or positive feeling – which are you doing?

  1. Hi Hazel.

    I absolutely loved this post. Can relate to so much of it. For so many years, I actually kept trying to force myself to ‘be positive’ and ‘think positively’ – I realise now, that actually in the long run, this ended up doing me a huge disservice. It disconnected me from my true feelings and my body. Sometimes we aren’t feeling positive! And that’s okay! Denying any feelings that aren’t so good, and beating yourself up for feeling low/fed up / etc just suppresses things and in my opinion, causes more problems further down the line.

    Where I’m at now is a place where I honour however I am feeling. Wallowing in negative emotions isn’t helpful, but allowing feelings to emerge, be felt, then worked through is healthy. Once we’ve felt what we need to, and flowed with our emotions, then is the time to gently coach ourselves back to positivity.

    I also loved your idea from Raeya. Definitely going to write one of those lists for myself.

    And finally, bless your daughter saying ‘let’s play relaxing’. Made me smile.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog

    Lots of love.
    Emma x

    P.s I blog about my own healing journey over at consciouslyhealthy.co.uk if you also want to connect over there!

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    1. Hi Emma thanks for taking the time to comment. Isn’t it wonderful when you finally ‘get it’! So glad to hear you’re at a good place and yes I’ll definitely head over to your site – there’s so much we can all learn from other people’s experiences. Hazel x

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  2. Hi Hazel, I always thought i was a positive thinking person, but my body has reacted negatively to things such as my environment or something i was doing or trying to do.

    I have always been able to do a bit of soldering of wires in the past, but when i attempted it months ago, i could feel my body going into a panic about it, my hands were shaking so much my son had to take over, and finish the job. I had made an adaptation to my gransons electric Quad bike, a speed control. I was pretty pleased with myself for being so inventive as i always used to be able to do things like this before ME took hold of my life. But my body found it challenging. I have since been taking a new medication for restless leg syndrome ( Ropinirole ) It’s amazing how it has increased my confidence, so i’m now attempting things i could only ever dream of doing before i started taking this medication.

    I would often get into a panic over going into or just thinking about small spaces, but i’ve noticed lately i can do those things without panicking. The body is a wonderful tool, but sometimes through no fault of it’s own, it developes a poor understanding of what’s fearful and what’s not.

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    1. Hi Keith! So true, my understanding is that sometimes the central nervous system has been so overloaded it goes into overdrive and sends the body into physical anxiety fight or flight mode without any anxious thoughts happening. I’ve always needed to eat regularly but since I crashed if I start getting hungry I get physical anxiety symptoms and no amount of positivity will help – I just have to eat. It’s like my body sees the hunger as a threat and acts accordingly. When I was at my worst I would get it even from too much visual stimulation so watching TV gave me anxiety symptoms. That’s calmed down now so I think the work I’ve been doing to calm my system down is gradually helping. It’s all about finding the root cause of the symptoms I guess – and that’s where a lot of people don’t realise that anxiety isn’t all in your head – as you say, it can be the body having a faulty response to what is a threat. Best, Hazel

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      1. That really helped me Hazel because for the last 8 months I’ve been struggling with severe anxiety and it, I believe, was brought on by pushing my body too much after a prolonged period of stress. When I overdo things physically I get symptoms of anxiety since having encephalitis years and years ago. Unfortunately it’s got into a vicious cycle where I’m thinking about the horrible effects I’m experiencing. However I’m working on the feeling side of things as you say. Imagining how I was before this intense anxiety, and trying to kind of make times to stay in that moment and bring it into the present. I’m so glad I came across this. I very hear or get any acknowledgment that anxiety symptoms can be brought on by something physical, yet it has been my experience for years and I’m still only just learning how to manage it.

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      2. I’m so sorry to hear you’re having a tough time. And so glad that I might have helped in some small way. Anxiety is most definitely a physical response / the body and mind are completely connected. I get feelings of anxiety when I’m hungry – again it’s because my body feels under threat and is telling me to take action! I really hope you manage to find some respite. I have a Facebook page too on which I put bits of advice / inspiration so that might also be helpful. Best, Hazel

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