This is a question I have been asked many times and a conversation piece that fascinates me. As a Therapist and Coach, clients often ask if it possible to feel positive and happy all the time and the short answer is no, it’s not.
So much of what I do is based in positive psychology and teaching how it is possible to change our mindset to enable a more optimistic outlook on life. We know that we can absolutely train the mind to start seeing things more positively even in ‘negative’ and challenging circumstances.
Is this the same as feeling positive or happy all the time? Personally, I would say no as having a positive mindset doesn’t take away the fact that we all experience emotions which can range from extreme anger to extreme joy. It does mean that we are more equipped to manage the not so pleasant experiences and challenges in life.
Can emotions be catergorised into ‘negative’ and ‘positive’?
People often refer to negative and positive emotions with anger and fear being perceived as negative and happiness and excitement being perceived as positive. Is it the emotion that is negative or the situation surrounding it? Is it the emotion that is the problem or the accompanying behaviour?
We very much seem to be living in a world that is trying to promote false positivity – the idea that we can and ‘should’ feel happy all the time and avoid ‘negative’ emotions. How many of you know someone who is ‘always happy ‘ in that overly zealous ‘my life is so amazing and nothing ever gets me down’ kind of way? How many of you know people who portray that ‘life is so awesome and perfect’ on their social media profiles? Are they truly always happy and do they really have perfect lives? Of course not, yet maybe they believe they ‘should’ behave in that way.
That, to me, is really quite unhealthy. The reality is that we ALL have emotions and we need them including the perceived ‘negative’ emotions of anger and fear. The emotion itself is not the problem – it is the behaviour that goes with it that can be negative and destructive. So to encourage people to suppress or avoid these emotions leads to trouble. We are emotional beings and rather than feeling like emotions are bad or good, what if we just accepted that emotions are emotions and that they are transient? What if we all learned to be comfortable with our emotions and gave ourselves permission to feel them – all of them?
Now I’m not saying this is easy because it’s not, especially if we have lived a life believing that it’s not ok to feel or express emotion. It feels uncomfortable and takes some getting used to but the more we allow ourselves to feel and be present, the more we are able grow and build resilience.
Where does mindset come in?
The truth is – life really sucks sometimes. We will experience pain, loss, grief, anger and fear along with a multitude of other feelings because this is what makes us so wonderfully human, and that’s ok! It’s ok to not always be ok, it’s ok to be vulnerable and to allow ourselves to feel and to take time to process emotions.
Even in our most trying times, it is possible to maintain a positive mindset even if we don’t feel positive at the time. Training our minds to see the positive in every situation is having a positive mindset. Being grateful for even the smallest thing is having a positive mindset. Taking learnings and understandings from negative situations is having a positive mindset. Accepting that life isn’t always easy and doesn’t always go our way is having a positive mindset. Being kind and compassionate to ourselves and others, even in times of darkness, is having a positive mindset. It’s in these times where we are able to learn so much more about ourselves and to build on strength, resilience and learn how to fully love and respect ourselves.
So is it possible to feel positive and happy all the time? No. But is it possible to have a positive mindset and outlook? Yes. Maintaining a positive mindset isn’t always easy. It’s about a choice and it requires effort, but it’s absolutely possible.