An old acquaintance of mine recently wrote an article about positive thinking—a subject that is often misunderstood. For many years I, like many people on the personal-development path, believed that by writing down and repeating positive affirmations (positive statements about yourself or your life, written in the present tense as if they were already true), I would think more positively and the changes I sought in myself and in my life would happen automatically. I hung them up all over my house, memorized them, and repeated them out loud, sometimes as much as a hundred times a day. But it seemed like no matter how many times I said them, the changes I hoped to achieve eluded me. It would be nearly twenty years before I finally realized that while affirmations were helpful in clarifying what I wanted, positive action was required to achieve it. Positive action generates positive thinking, not the other way around. Positive action is a choice, one that can be challenging, especially for people who’ve experienced much suffering and pain in their lives—but it’s still a choice. For example, maybe you feel lonely and sad, but instead of isolating yourself, you do something positive like attend a cooking class, volunteer at a soup kitchen, or go out for a run—something that refocuses your thoughts and produces a more positive experience than sitting home alone eating cookies and feeling sorry for yourself.
Chronic negative thinking and the emotions it invokes is, like many destructive behaviors, a form of addiction. People become addicted to habitual, “gloom and doom” thoughts, as well as to the emotions they produce like fear and anger. It becomes their comfort zone—not very pleasant, but familiar. To break this addiction, you have to first understand its roots (nearly always found in your life conditioning), and consciously change your behaviors and actions to ones that create more positive results. Over time, you’ll build a string of positive experiences that solidifies a new internal reference point, and makes a positive mindset your new habitual way of thinking.