Not that long ago someone told me about the positivity challenge. The point of it is to only have positive thoughts for an entire week. As soon as you start having any negative feelings or thoughts, you will either have to twist them into something positive or try to think of something else instead.
It sounded great and very promising: no more stress or anxiety, no more sadness, no more anger, only positivity. So I decided to give it a try. In fact, I tried it multiple times and it never worked for me. Trying to turn negative emotions around brought even more negativity in my life.
Being positive all the time had the opposite effect on me. I started to feel worse than ever.
During the challenge I noticed that even though I was thinking positive, I wasn’t feeling positive. For example, when feeling negative after a long and hard day at work I would try to think “At least I have a job. I get paid. I’m better off than the homeless person who’s hanging out in my street. I’m getting paid a lot. I live somewhere nice. All is great.” But my shoulders still felt tense, my hands were shaking, my mind kept wandering off and I couldn’t stay focused on anything.
Then, at some point, I failed the challenge. I wasn’t having positive thoughts anymore and the negative thoughts had come back. Afterwards, I got into a phase of ‘feeling bad about feeling bad’. It was as if a few days of trying to be positive all the time had caused me to feel worse than before. And the only answers that Google could give me were along the lines of ‘You must be doing something wrong’, ‘You feel bad because you gave up‘ or ‘Just do it for a longer time’. So I started the challenge again. And the exact same things happened. And then I gave up again, started again and felt worse again. Eventually I gave up completely.
Positivity is great, but sometimes feeling negative is just as fine. If you know how to deal with it.
The main problem I have with this challenge, or positivity culture in general, is that it doesn’t give us room to be negative. No one wants to be sad, but unfortunately we all have negative emotions or mood swings sometimes. Shutting down or ignoring negative thoughts, or ignoring what’s causing them, will in the long run only cause more negativity.
I discovered that allowing myself to have negative thoughts from time to time is fine. I don’t try to suppress feelings of sadness or anger anymore. Instead, every time I notice myself having any type of negative feelings, I will allow myself to feel the emotion and will try to figure out where it comes from and what it’s doing to my body. Additionally, writing and talking about my feelings has helped me a lot as well.
Obviously I don’t recommend the positivity challenge. But I do strongly recommend analysing your negative feelings or thoughts as soon as you notice them. This will not only make you feel happier, it will also make you more aware of what’s causing your negative thoughts.
Cover picture: alana.io