Positive Thinking and Mental Health

I don’t necessarily like the “positive thinking” movement. Now that’s a potentially inflammatory statement! But before you dismiss this article as being wrong or useless, please read it through and consider what I have to say. At the very least please just take what I’m saying here with a grain of salt, and either throw it away, or perhaps keep an open mind and place it on a shelf somewhere for future consideration.

Time and time again I have heard people say things like “Don’t allow negative thinking to creep in. Whatever you think will eventually become reality.” For those of you who have never struggled with mental health issues, this type of statement can be both liberating and encouraging. But for those of us who have struggled with mental health issues (I suffered from depression and anxiety for years), this statement is shaming, and a curse.

You see, depression, anxiety, negative thoughts and the like for some are not consciously chosen. When I was riddled with gut-wrenching anxiety day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year, it wasn’t because I was choosing anxious thoughts over living in the present. No, not at all. The thoughts were just there. I did not think the thoughts: the thoughts were thinking me. Make sense? I could no more stop them through force of will than I could a freight train moving at 70 mph. It was an impossible order.

Then people began to tell me that I had better start thinking more positively, because if I didn’t, all of the negative things I was thinking would manifest in my life. What was I to do? I couldn’t stop the thoughts, so the result was I felt shame. Shame that I was such an obvious failure because I couldn’t do even this simple thing, think positively. What was worse is that it created even more anxiety for me, because now I was sure that – due to my negative thinking – I was now doomed to have bad things happen to me forever.

Here is the key as I have learned it. The universe does manifest in our lives what we think, but it looks at our intentions, not our actual thoughts. The question I have to ask myself when I’m anxious or depressed is this: do I want to be this way? If I’m really honest I’ll find out whether or not my ego is getting in the way or not. You see depression can often be the result of self-pity, which is one of two manifestations of the ego. When I allow the ego to take over, I find myself either in a place of self-importance, or self-pity. Self-importance says that I have it way better than you, and am better than you. Self-pity says the same thing, only on the negative side. It says that my case is special and unique, and that I have it way worse than you do.

Ego comes from the Greek word, which simply means “I”. It is all about focusing on me, myself, my own situation, and forgetting about you. It is self-centred thinking, and is the cause of most – if not all – of the problems in the world today. Chuck Chamberlain, noted motivational speaker and the father of the actor Richard Chamberlain, termed it simply as “conscious separation from.” From you. From what’s important. From reality. From life itself.

So you may well not be able to think positively at this stage. Don’t fret, you will not manifest all sorts of negative things in your life as long as you intend to keep the ego out of it. Depressive, anxious thoughts may rule you, but again, ask yourself if this is what you want? If not, then be assured that the universe will honour this desire. There is a caveat, however, and that is this: if you don’t intend for the anxiety and/or depression to be there, then what are you doing about it?

Consequently, sometimes it is necessary to seek help and support to make dealing with anxiety and depression easier. For instance, a friend of mine found that attending regular sessions at a Christian anxiety treatment center helped him to regain focus and start to feel better.

The universe, I believe, looks not only at intentions, but whether or not those intentions have any actual weight behind them. The only way I know to demonstrate to the universe that my intentions are real is to take positive, constructive action to bring about the result that I want in my life. I do what I can, now, today, and leave the rest up to the universe. Often this means that I must take an action contrary to that which I want to do. I’m depressed, so I want to stay in bed and pull the covers over my head. Instead I get up, clean up, eat a good breakfast, shower and dress myself up as if I were going to a job interview. Then I get moving: if I have a job to go to, I go. If not, I find a place I can volunteer and go help out. Nothing beats depression more than helping someone else.

If I can’t find a place to volunteer, then I start in my neighbourhood. The older couple down the street whose driveway is covered in snow? I sneak over with my shovel and clean it off. Or if it’s Fall, I rake their leaves. Or if it’s Summer, I go to the local park and pick garbage up. If none of this is available, then I get in my car, go get myself a coffee or a tea at the drivethrough, and pay for the order in the vehicle behind me: but I have to get out quick so that the person doesn’t have time to stop me and thank me. Try it, if you want something to brighten your day. You’ll get an amazing, warm, happy connected feeling if you do. There is always something I can do.

The key is, like the Nike slogan has it, to just do it.

If you’re in depression and anxiety, can’t think positively, and you refuse to do anything about it, then I’m going to suggest that the universe will begin to manifest in your life what you are thinking about. It must, because our intentions – not our thoughts – create our reality, and in fact create reality itself. So it must reward you with that which you desire. What you desire is a function of your intentions, and your intentions are made clear by your actions.

One of my friends lives in Florida and uses medical marijuana to treat her severe anxiety. She has found that since using marijuana her anxiety levels have decreased and she feels happier, less depressed and more confident in herself. All she had to do was search online for a “florida dispensary near me” and she was able to get the help she needed, including information on how to qualify for a medical marijuana card. Alternative therapies aren’t for everyone, but if they can work for some people, their health benefits must be a possibility.

The picture I’ve included today is of a good book on a technique known as the Emotional Freedom Techniques. I use this often to realign my thinking. What I like about it is that it doesn’t require me to stand there and utter positive thoughts and affirmations that I am struggling to believe. That was the problem with the way people were presenting positive thinking to me: they would suggest that I use daily positive affirmations. It didn’t work, because my depression was so deep that even when I tried, my brain would take over and say things like “You don’t believe these thoughts anyhow, so why not give up?”

The Emotional Freedom Techniques allow you to say what’s really on your mind, followed by a positive affirmation. All the while you are tapping on various points of your body, points based on “Meridians” used for centuries by acupuncture practitioners. It literally realigns the negative energies in your body, converting negative to positive. Does it work? It sure did for me. This and other techniques have allowed me to break free of the grip of anxiety and depression. Once medicated heavily for both, I have been medication-free for years now. Not that I have an issue with medication per se, but I do think it is far-too-often prescribed for people who need to be taking action against their negative thinking. It certainly was with me.

Now folks, if you’re on medication already, please don’t take this as me saying you should get off of it. I AM NOT A DOCTOR. I am describing my personal experience with you, and my opinions are based on that, plus my experience in working as a Life Coach with many others who have overcome anxiety and depression using means other than medication. I do not know what is right for you. All I am saying is that if you suffer from these things, you may want to try some of my suggestions here. They often work.

To wrap it all up, positive thinking is a great thing IF it is based on right intentions. If I try to think positively, but have no intention to change, then the universe will react accordingly. Conversely, if I am trying to think positively, and am taking positive, constructive action to that end, and my intention is to change my negative thinking, then I’m golden! Even if the negative thinking continues, as long as I’m doing something to combat it, then the universe WILL bring me to a place of peace, serenity and happiness eventually.

So get to it: intend positively, don’t just think positively, and that means that you have to act positively, even when you don’t want to.