We’re often told to be happy and positive all the time. In fact, a huge positive thinking movement has spawned in recent years thanks to the Law of Attraction.
But is it really helpful to be positive all the time?
According to Zen master Osho, trying to be positive could actually be hindering us. He says that we need sadness to give rise to happiness:
“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.”
According to Osho, the problem with trying to be positive all the time is that isn’t authentic. He calls it “shallow happiness”. He goes on to say that sadness is actually a friend if you get to understand it:
“Sadness is silent, it is yours. It is coming because you are alone. It is giving you a chance to go deeper into your aloneness. Rather than jumping from one shallow happiness to another shallow happiness and wasting your life, it is better to use sadness as a means for meditation. Witness it. It is a friend! It opens the door of your eternal aloneness.”
Negative Emotions are Important for Mental Health
Osho is not alone with these sentiments. Recent research has found that experiencing negative emotions aids in the development of our mental health. The moment we suppress our thoughts, we tend to experience a counter reaction.
Life’s complexities and hardships can become beneficial for the psychological well-being of a person.
Hal E. Hershfield and Adler – both professors at New York University had undertaken a series of investigation to locate a link between psychological welfare and combined emotional experience. They conducted the survey via a 12-session psychotherapy program. The researchers found that mixing both good and bad experiences aid a person to survive events and tragedies.
An increased number of people are suffering due to the overriding bias towards positive thinking.
It is necessary and beneficial to cultivate positive emotions. But it becomes an issue when we start to believe that we need to be positive all the time. Life is also about distressing emotions such as sadness, anger, anxiety and we should accept and experience them.
You should not back away from your negative emotions. Instead, you should accept and acknowledge them. Doing so will help you alter your emotional state and develop internal and mental strength.
How to cultivate acceptance
We’ve found some handy advice from a mindfulness expert here. Here are 4 steps to cultivate acceptance of your emotions:
1) Gently state the label of the experience you aren’t accepting. For example, if you’re not accepting that you’re angry, state in your mind, to yourself, ‘I’m feeling angry at the moment… I’m feeling angry.’ In this way, you begin to acknowledge your feeling.
2) Notice which part of your body feels tense and imagine your breath going into and out of the area of tightness. As you breathe in and out, say to yourself, ‘It’s okay. It’s already here… It’s already here.’
3) Consider how much you accept or acknowledge your current thoughts/feelings/sensation on a scale of 1 to 10. Ask yourself what you need to do to increase your acceptance by 1, and then do it as best you can.
4) Become really curious about your experience. Consider: ‘Where did this feeling come from? Where do I feel it? What’s interesting about it?’ In this way, the curiosity leads you to a little more acceptance.
Originally published on The Power of Ideas.