A Positive Attitude Doesn’t Work!

This girl is using a plastic yellow blower.

Some self development teachers stress the need for a positive attitude to life.  But maybe mindfulness is a better way.

A friend of mine was walking through the park when he began to have very negative thoughts that told him he was no good and unworthy. He came back from his walk in the park complaining how bad his mind was today.

I told him that his problem was that he took his mind too seriously.

“It’s only thoughts, its only your mind. Don’t take it too seriously,” I said.

He then exploded with anger.

“I have to take it seriously. It is serious. How dare you tell me not to take my mind seriously?”

I decided to leave his company before the situation got too ugly.

I was trying to get my friend to lighten up and get a more positive attitude. To someone in a dark mood just telling them to be more positive and less serious does not work.

So how do you deal with your mind when it is troubling you?

Mindfulness is the answer. What is mindfulness?

One definition of mindfulness is:

The practice of becoming more aware of the present moment, rather than dwelling in the past or projecting into the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli (really noticing your breathing, feeling the sensations of your body, etc.) and being “in the now.” While mindfulness has origins in Eastern philosophy and Buddhism, there is no necessary religious component to mindfulness — anyone, with any belief system, can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness.

from About.com

For most of the day there are thoughts going on, a constant chatter, and inner dialogue and normally you are completely identified with this dialogue. The inner dialogue is who you are.  In mindfulness you take the role of the witness. You become an impartial observer as if you are listening to yourself on a podcast.

As the observer you begin to clearly see what your mind is telling you. If your mind is telling you that you are unworthy then you can ask yourself questions like:

  • Is that true?
  • How do I know that is true?
  • Is that true all the time, or just some of the time?

In this way you begin to unravel the lies that the internal dialogue says about you. You start to see things as they are rather than what your thoughts tell you. You will probably find that you are really a fairly OK person.

Mindfulness is better than just having a positive attitude. A positive attitude can be a denial of what is going on in your mind. Mindfulness allows the negativity to carry on. At first your negativity appears solid and serious, but the more you observe it, the less solid it becomes. You may even find yourself laughing at the absurd things the inner dialogue tells you. Then, like a soap bubble bursting, the negativity is gone!

Mindfulness is not always an easy technique to do but, like any skill, with practice you can master it.

There has been a lot of research into the benefits of mindfulness which has been used to help the following conditions:

  • Anxiety Disorders, Including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Depression
  • Sleep Problems
  • Eating Disorders
  • Stress

If you want to use mindfulness to help with stress management, then my book ‘How to Manage Stress’ will be useful to you. As well as teaching mindfulness, it also gives other strategies for dealing with stress. There is no charge for this book.


The practice of mindfulness defuses our negativity, aggression, and turbulent emotions, which may have been gathering power over many lifetimes. Rather than suppressing emotions or indulging in them, here it is important to view them—your thoughts and whatever arises—with an acceptance and generosity that are as open and spacious as possible. Tibetan masters say that this wise generosity has the flavor of boundless space, so warm and cozy that you feel enveloped and protected by it, as if by a blanket of sunlight.

Sogyal Rinpoche

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  1. Being aware of how your thoughts unfold is a huge key here; what a great point. While practicing mindfulness, you observe your thoughts without judgment — and it’s a very easy way to see how your brain tends to jump to quick conclusions based on shaky premises.

    Summer B.’s last blog post..9 Ways to Face Your Fears

  2. I think to some extent everyone has anxiety, some people just know how to deal with it in a way that they never realize that they have a problem.


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