Why Positive Thinking Is a Waste of Your Time and How to ‘Feel’ Instead to Improve Happiness

Positive thinking does nothing to improve physical and emotional wellbeing.

Darren Stehle
6 min readFeb 28, 2022

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Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Just think positive,” they say.

It will all work out for the best,” said someone who wants to be helpful but doesn’t know what to do.

If you see it and believe it, you can achieve it.”

How many times have you said any of above, or heard them hundreds of times? There’s a reason these statements are clichés: it’s because they’re meaningless and unhelpful.

What about the person who tries hard to think positively about something they want to accomplish? How do they feel when they fail miserably, criticizing themselves for not having thought positively enough and blaming themselves — as if there is something inherently wrong with who they are.

“You just need to think positive.”

What exactly does that mean? What is the practice, specifically? And what, exactly, are positive thoughts?

Positive thinking will not lead to transformational change that improves wellbeing. Specifically, positive thinking doesn’t affect the neuroplasticity of your brain that will have a positive effect on behaviours and feelings.

There are no positive or negative thoughts.

Similarly, there are no positive or negative emotions. Our emotions are action programs that are generally triggered by external stimuli that are perceived or remembered. Action programs are the software that work to maintain homeostatic balance in the body, like breathing and hormonal release.

What we label as positive or negative thoughts are simply descriptions and judgements. Action programs are a physiological response to our environment to restore and maintain a healthy, fully functioning system. (1)

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Darren Stehle

Thinking Partnership Coach for Queer Change-Makers. I write about: actionable self-mastery; morals & ethics; LGBTQ+ rights & advocacy. DarrenStehle.com.