Ways of Being Positive When Anxiety Creates Negativity
Being positive is not easy when you have anxiety. Whether you suffer from an anxiety disorder or you simply need a little calm in your life, constant negative thoughts and anxiety can be debilitating. A vicious cycle often begins when anxiety fuels our thought patterns: we think of the worst possible scenario and that negativity contributes to further anxiety. However, being positive can prepare you with strategies to change your negative thought patterns – so how do you do it?
Being Positive Is Hard When You Have Anxiety
Anxious people spend hours and hours ruminating over negative thoughts and feelings. They tend to focus on what could go wrong instead of taking a more balanced view of the situation. This negative thinking cycle becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more they dwell on destructive thoughts, the more negative they feel and the more they tell themselves being positive is impossible.
If this cycle sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), anxiety is the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18.1% of the adult population every year. No one knows quite what causes anxiety disorders, but the AADA cites “a complex set of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality and life events.”
Positive Thinking for Anxiety: Is It Even Possible?
The good news is, anxiety disorders (such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder and social anxiety) are highly treatable. There are various types of medication and modes of therapy that have been proven highly effective. One of the more common types of therapy used to combat anxiety and negative thought patterns is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT and other forms of therapy work toward treating the long-term effects of anxiety by offering a practical, hands-on approach to problem-solving, rather than your mood being at the mercy of negative thoughts.
If you choose to take up CBT, your therapist will help you learn coping skills so that you maintain a sense of control and self-confidence, even after your sessions are over. There are also exercises you can do in the short-term to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks, which we will outline below.
How a Positive Person Deals with Worry and Doubt
In an ideal world, we would all deal with worry and doubt in a rational way. We would assess the situation at hand and ask ourselves the following questions:
- Can I control this?
- If so, how can I resolve it?
Positive people know that there is only so much in life they can control. It’s not that negative thoughts don’t trouble them, it’s just that they don’t become “stuck” in unhelpful thought cycles. They observe their worries, consider what they can and cannot control, and take appropriate action ("What Is Positivity? The Definition May Surprise You").
However, being positive in a negative situation isn’t just a case of “mind over matter.” Although anxiety is one of the most treatable mental health conditions in the U.S., it does take time to adapt to new ways of thinking. Your first step is to consult your doctor and see what treatment options are available.
In the meantime, you can try positive thinking exercises for anxiety, such as calming meditations, affirmations or journal prompts. Here are some to get you started.
- Affirmation: This is a simple affirmation to connect you to your inner strength, borrowed from the herbal tea specialist, Yogi Tea. Close your eyes, press your thumb onto the mount below your pinky finger and curl your hand into a fist. Say to yourself: “I am healthy, I am happy, I am great.” (See "Positive Affirmations for When Life Feels Too Hard")
- Meditation: Set a timer on your phone for 15-30 minutes and find a comfortable seat. Close your eyes, sit up straight and set an intention for your practice, such as “I will not worry about my past or future.” Breathe deeply for this time: inhale for four seconds, hold for four, exhale for eight. Focus on this breathing technique until your timer goes off. Then, open your eyes, take a deep breath and continue your day.
- Journal prompt: Imagine yourself as your favorite fictional character. How would he or she deal with your situation? Alternatively, imagine your anxiety as a monster and write a story about it.
Being Positive IS Possible When You Have Anxiety
Being positive in a negative world is tough, especially if you have anxiety. However, there are things you can do to overcome your negative thought patterns.
Remember: if anxiety is impacting your daily life, don’t suffer in silence. Talk to your friends and family, see your doctor, and research the many different therapy and anxiety self-help options available to you. The anxiety information and resources on HealthyPlace is a helpful place to start.
“Anxiety’s like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn’t get you very far.” ~ Jodi Picoult, Sing You Home.
Smith, E. (2018, December 11). Ways of Being Positive When Anxiety Creates Negativity, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, May 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/self-help/positivity/ways-of-being-positive-when-anxiety-creates-negativity