Beliefnet
Doing Life Together

woman-1901702_1920You are feeling down and your friend tells you, just think happy thoughts. Utter a few positive self-statements. Follow this with a happy meme and it will brighten your day.

How many times have you turned on the TV or watched a You Tube clip of a positive thinking guru who tells you to just think happy thoughts?Doing so, will change your mood and your outlook. But does this really work?

Actually no! Not if you have low self-esteem. And in fact, it might make you feel worse!

A study at the University of Waterloo and University of New Brunswick had some interesting findings. People with low self-esteem who rehearsed positive statements (e.g., I am lovable) in their head actually felt worse, not better. Those with low self-esteem did not improve their feelings or mood by generating positive self-statements. But those with high self-esteem did feel better repeating positive statements. However, the boost to feeling better was small. Thus, it appears that telling yourself positive things works for those with high self-esteem, not low. In fact, for someone with low self-esteem, positive self-statements might even make you feel worse.

The thinking goes-if you don’t feel the positive affirmation is true on some level, you probably won’t believe what you re saying. Most likely, you will resist the positive self-statement. Furthermore, if you are convinced that others do not see you in a positive light, you will also reject the positive self-statement even though you generated it! It just doesn’t ring true.

That said,  thoughts do determine feelings. So what is helpful is to challenge your negative thoughts to see if they are accurate, biblical, or overly negative. Notice your thoughts and don’t allow them to dictate feelings if they are somehow distorted or overly negative. Do an appraisal. Is that thought generalized from one or two experiences? Is it true all the time? Is it only true with certain people or circumstances? Balance the scales and be objective. Don’t overgeneralize, mind read, become overly personalized, or even move to a catastrophic thought. Notice the thinking error and  retrain your brain. Think of a more reasonable thought. Put those new more positive thoughts in your mind to rewire the brain. Change your thoughts, change your feelings. If your thoughts are less negative because you are being more realistic, you will feel better. And that process will make you feel happier!