Is 'positive thinking' just nonsense?

By Emma Reynolds

Could 'useful thinking' be the new positive thinking? Photo / Getty
Could 'useful thinking' be the new positive thinking? Photo / Getty

If you've ever woken up in the morning with an impending sense of dread, trying unsuccessfully to "think positive", this could help.

Positive thinking is a waste of time, according to Melbourne author Chris Helder, what you need is "useful thinking".

The idea, outlined in Chris Helder's book, Useful Belief, is brilliant in its simplicity. When you find yourself feeling negative or miserable about something, don't try to force yourself to think positive. That's likely to have the opposite effect.

"If you've had a bad year, week or month, and someone says, 'be more positive!', you want to punch them in the face," Chris told news.com.au.

"People are sick of speakers standing up and saying how great they are and how perfect life is."

Instead, take a useful approach.
Maybe today will be a bad day, but what's the best you can make of the situation?

When it works

The problem: You're convinced that meeting at work is going to be a total waste of time, and you can't help feeling irritated. If you try to think positive, as soon as it starts going off topic, you'll be lost in frustration.

Useful thinking: You have to go, so forget the emotion and tell yourself that if there is anything good in the meeting, you'll find it. You'll be looking for something helpful, and the experience won't be as bad.

The problem: You're a parent of three kids. They're constantly on their iPhones playing stupid games and you and your mum and dad friends are at your wits' end trying to change them.

Useful thinking: "I say, it's the best time in history to be a parent or a kid," said Chris. "It doesn't matter if it's true, if I believe it, my brain dials right into right now."

The problem: You travel constantly for work, so you're away from home and you spend a huge amount of time hanging around in soulless airports, hotels and on planes.

Useful thinking: Chris is always travelling for work. He loves it. Use the time on planes to catch up on work or watch movies and enjoy the alone time. Make the most of something that's part of your life.

According to author Chris Helder, reprogramming how we see the world can  stop a spiral of negative thinking. Photo / Getty
According to author Chris Helder, reprogramming how we see the world can stop a spiral of negative thinking. Photo / Getty

Your reality

This is all about reprogramming how you see your world, and stopping yourself when you find yourself in a spiral of negative thinking.

"It's about looking at your reality and saying - I have a wife, kids, a job," said Chris. "If I choose not to change those things, they're part of my reality."

He still stops himself 30 or 40 times a day and thinks, 'that's not a good thought, it's judgmental or it's not helpful. What's the most useful move?'

"It's not about perfect, it's the opposite, about guiding you through. It's just being conscious.

"We all have that sense, when we're stressed or in traffic, that this is awful, and it just gets worse. Stick an audio book or music on, or a podcast."

Your brain can be trained to look for certain things in any situation. When you've gone through a breakup, you see happy couples everywhere. When you're thinking about buying a Toyota Yaris, you see them all over the roads.

"The difference between people who are average when it comes to success and outstanding people is that they see opportunities others don't," said Chris. "They say, this is a tough market, I'm going to make even more money."

He says the theory works well on teenagers when they complain that they hate school, their teachers and their subjects. They have no choice but to go, so they may as well accept the bad with the good and make the most of the chance to learn.
Suffering through life will hurt no one but you.

- news.com.au

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