Why "Stay Positive" Isn't the Best Advice

Updated: Jul 16, 2020

Don't worry! Stay positive!

Have you ever received this advice from a friend? "Stay Positive!" What does that even mean?

You go to your friend about a problem you're facing and they respond with: 'just stay positive' and you're left there feeling unheard, feeling like you didn't get the help you need or the answer you expected. Or worse, feeling like there's something wrong with you because you can't think positive and you didn't even realize you were thinking negatively...

The problem with this advice is that it really doesn't provide a concrete solution. This response is vague and feels soft and fluffy. In this blog post, I'm going to share with you a few reasons why this approach doesn't work and what you can say to a friend instead. Then well talk about how to really "stay positive".

So what does stay positive mean?

When we advise people to stay positive, its because we want them to be happier. We want them to gain perspective in understanding that maybe it's not as bad as we think. And while that can help, for most people it does nothing. In fact, it can:

  • make you cover up negative emotions

  • make you feel guilty about not being happy

  • make you feel like your emotions are invalid

  • make you compare negative emotions ("my pain is worse than yours")

  • make you feel even more disempowered and helpless.

So what do we need to do instead?

Feel Your Emotions: Even the Negative Ones

Nobody is happy all the time. Nobody is positive all the time. You have every right to feel what you're feeling. Instead of trying to change your emotions, you need to listen to them.

And I don't mean just hearing them, I mean actively listening.

What is active listening?

Active listening is when we listen to gain insight and information

Consider this:

Your emotions are a feedback mechanism in your body. Physically, when something hurts you, you feel pain and that pain is what tells you to stop doing the thing that is hurting you. Emotions work the same way. When we are put in situations in life that hurt us, they are there to steer us in the right direction.

When dealing with emotional pain: let it in. Let it teach you. Let it go.

99% of the time, emotions are there to teach us something. There is a part of you that you need to expand on. Something you need to become more aware of. Something you need to heal, work through, break and rebuild. Emotions even help us get closer to ourselves and one another.

Don't Force Positive Emotions

Feeling emotions that are uncomfortable, doesn't mean you need to immediately change how you feel. If you're feeling it, it's normal. If you're not feeling positive, that's okay! We need to practice acceptance when we approach our emotions. We need to make sure we are taking care of our emotions instead of pretending we only have positive ones.

Emotions that cause us pain are ones we tend to avoid. But thats only because we don't yet understand them. As soon as we work to understand our emotions they become easier to deal with.

Emotions don't go away. Emotions that we havent delt with, stay as "pain points" in our mind, soul and body. Ignoring your emotions, and piling on positive ones to cover them up, won't help you because the emotions will still be there and you'll have to deal with them later on. This is why sometimes when we feel an emotion, we often feel other unprocessed emotions that are in the same family.

We need to work to process our emotions so that when we experience a new one, we're not re-experiencing old, unprocessed ones, as this can be very overwhelming. This is why it's important to stay on top of your emotional health by developing coping strategies.

Take Action

So things are not how you want them to be. While it is useful to cultivate a positive mindset, what's more useful is taking action towards changing the things we don't like about our lives.

There will always be things you can't change. But I encourage you to expand the way you think about these things. You can change your job. You can change where you live. You can change how much money you make. You can change the way you think.

And while these changes may seem too big, they are entirely possible. It may take time, work, patience, commitment, trial and error. It might take a lot of mistakes and failures, and do-overs. Having something to work towards can massively improve your mental health and also feel incredibly satisfying when you get there.

You have your whole life to be what you want to be. It is never too late to start to feel better. And that's really what life is about. Every big change in life starts with inner work and that is 100% in your control.

You are entirely up to you

So yes, stay positive about the things you can change, but give yourself the freedom and permission to feel frustrated and upset when you need to. Learn from how your feeling and use your emotions to guide you towards positive experiences.

What to Say Instead of "Stay Positive"

  1. Tell me more

Sometimes your friends just need to talk more about what’s really bothering them, let them know you’re listening to the problem instead of being quick to offer solutions.

2. Stay empowered

Yes things will change and they will get better, but most of the time that starts with inner work. Empowering yourself is the quickest way to feeling better because even when something bad happens you can handle it. Say empowering phrases like "you can do it!"

3. Stay focused

Finding clarity can be the beginning of finding peace. Staying focused on what really matters can give you strength in hard times.

4. Be patient

Maybe things really are changing and this is the beginning of something better. Be patient and stay aware of the messages you receive from the universe for guidance. There is a plan in effect for you but the universe does things in Her own time. Make sure you are doing your part in co-creation and trust Divine timing.

5. Ask for help

When things are seriously wrong, we forget that we don’t have to handle them alone. Reach out to various resources available to you, both physical and metaphysical.

Try this exercise when you feel like you can't be positive:

Keep a Complaint Journal

Although complaining sounds counterproductive, there is a lot of information we can learn about ourselves with a complaint journal.

Simply write about the things you don't like. Complain, whine, rant. Give yourself true freedom to feel everything you're feeling. Be negative. Be ungrateful. Be angry.

BECAUSE THEN (and here is where your true power is) you will re-read the section you've written and highlight the things that you can change.

Then, for everything you highlighted, write at least 3 ways to improve or change it.

This exercise allows you to understand what exactly it is that's upsetting you and it gives you the direction of where you need to change.

You cant think of solutions while you're still in "ranting mode". Let it all out and then back track to create solutions.

Ask yourself the following questions to enhance your emotional awareness:

What are my emotions trying to tell me?

What underlying emotions are hiding from me?

What truth am I avoiding?

What emotions are too uncomfortable to feel?

How do I want to feel?

What is it specifically about my life I want to change?

What steps can I take to make these changes?

How can I ask the universe for help?

How can I learn from this?

Where can I grow emotionally and spiritually?

Affirmations to help you

I believe in my ability to take the necessary steps towards change.

I know this moment is temporary

I have a right to feel what I'm feeling

I honor my emotions even if I don't understand them

Feeling negative doesn't mean I am negative.

As always, comment below to let me know what you think about this post.

Consider answering the following:

What can you learn from this?

How can you use this information to work for you?

What questions do you have?

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