Positivity is a good thing. There is no shortage of studies that prove that having a positive outlook on life not only increases your quality of life, but also your longevity and can reduce your health risks. In fact, there are a number of studies that prove when people are diagnosed with an illness, having a positive outlook greatly increases their chances of recovery and healing.

It is at the core of an evidence-based intervention for anxiety and depression and a form of therapy that is used by most therapists, including myself, called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is based around transforming negative thoughts to positive thoughts and has time and time again proven itself to be one of the most successful therapeutic interventions. So with all this endless data on how positivity is a good thing, what can possibly be the issue? Well, like most things, too much of anything isn’t always great.

Smiling Woman with Hand on Mouth

Source: Tom Grill / Getty

While it is perceived that positivity is the antidote to all life’s problems, what happens when it blocks you from knowing there is a problem or from being able to acknowledge your feelings? We have been taught that feelings associated with the negative: anger, sadness, frustration – the really uncomfortable ones- should be shut down and not given any attention.

What we don’t like to talk about is how that may be causing more harm than good. Feelings are stronger than we think they are and will manifest themselves in some way whether you want them to or not. Sometimes in ways that become self-destructive. The feelings themselves are not the problem, but it’s how we express them.

Psychologist Dr. Salters-Pedneault suggests “If you frequently try to push away thoughts and feelings, you may be making more trouble for yourself. In fact, it’s possible that this is setting up a vicious cycle: You have a painful emotion. You try to push it away. This leads to more painful emotions, which you try to push away and so on.”

In 1987 a famous study called “The White Bears” concluded that the more people tried to push a thought out of their mind, the more frequently people thoughts of them. A 2011 follow up article seeking antidotes to this paradoxical behavior writes: “Many of these strategies entail thinking about and accepting unwanted thoughts rather than suppressing them–and so, setting free the bears.”

How Always Thinking Positive Might Actually Be Negative For You  was originally published on

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