Creating your own reality: Positive thinking doesn’t mean you’re Pollyanna

Authored By chloe.morrison

Your thoughts create your reality.  

I’ve always known that on some level, but it’s very easy to forget during the daily grind. 

If you’re unsure if this is true, you can test it. You could try sitting around and worrying and focusing on what might go wrong. 

And the more you worry or think about all the wrongs the world has put your way, the more you’ll notice bad things, and you’ll likely even attract more negative things to yourself. 

(You probably don’t even have to force yourself to look for the bad-just observe whether it’s happening. When I started observing my thoughts, I was horrified at how many were worrisome and negative-even though I think of myself as a generally positive person.)

A better test of this is to sit quietly and practice loving-kindness meditation, which is a good antidote to the nagging, negative inner monologue that most of us have. 

Loving-kindness meditation helps us have an open, soft heart toward ourselves, others and situations. It’s akin to positive thinking, and it’s done in an intentional, focused way. 

I practiced it for the first time this week with Yong Oh.

I wasn’t in the mood to meditate. I was in a major funk after a long, draining, emotional weekend at a funeral, so my mindset wasn’t great. But something told me that meant I needed meditation even more than usual.

After spending an hour talking to Oh and being guided through the meditation, I felt peaceful and content-the opposite of how I would have felt had I continued dwelling on sadness. 

During our practice, we repeated to ourselves: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease and well-being.”

We focused those words on ourselves, then on a friend/loved one, then on someone we have neutral feelings about, then on a difficult/challenging person or situation. 

It would have been so easy to sit around and continue wallowing in my sad thoughts; it would have created a “sneaky hate spiral.” But meditating and consciously generating loving, positive feelings was a perfect counter to my funk. 

Positive thinking or practicing loving-kindness meditation isn’t a miracle drug. It’s an antidote. 

I spoke again with Stacey Castor, Ph.D.-a life coach and educator who has years of experience as a psychologist-who reminded me that it’s easy to misunderstand what positive thinking is really about. 

“It is not a magic elixir,” she said. “Positive thinking is a skill. It is the skill of not letting your mind develop a melodramatic script for what’s happening. It is the ability to stay grounded in your belief that life is basically good and to reside in a place of gratitude when life isn’t going the way you had planned.”

Positive thinking as part of a mindful practice doesn’t mean you go all Pollyanna on the world. It doesn’t mean that you ignore or suppress bad things that happen. That isn’t healthy and takes up so much energy that it can deplete us, Castor said. 

Both Oh and Castor talked about keeping a gratitude journal to help create a habit of savoring life’s majesty. The effort is about noticing and appreciating the intrinsic good that surrounds us every moment. 

I experienced the benefit of noting daily gratitude through a #100HappyDays experiment last year. 

Castor said that when her clients first start keeping a journal, they often find themselves writing the same things over and over. They are thankful for their homes, their jobs, their families. 

“There is that moment when they step out of the front door and are instinctively grateful for the sun on their face or the person holding the door for them or the taste of coffee, and then there is a huge shift in their perspective,” she said. ‘They begin to feel gratitude more frequently; they become more and more sensitive to those events and moments that bring them pleasure.”

And when your perspective shifts, your attitude shifts, she also said. 

You notice the good more frequently. You start to expect it, and you attract it. 

I’ve experienced this shift in perspective, although I find myself wandering back to the dark side sometimes.

When that happens, I try to come back to the present moment and disconnect from my inner monologue, which is likely spinning irrational, worrisome tales. I try to do so without judgment or self-criticism, which can be a challenge. 

I know that-even in times of despair-there is endless beauty in this life. And it’s a sin to overlook it.

So I choose to practice gratitude and think of the good, even when bad things happen. My thoughts create my reality. 

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