There is much written about the importance of being positive.  The idea that if you view life through an optimistic lens, not only are things more likely to turn out well, but you will feel better anyway.  The 'glass half full' mentality does serve people well.  In contrast, it is equally clear that viewing life through a negative lens can cause depression, and can certainly reinforce one.  The ideas behind cognitive behavioural therapy are that changing the way you think can improve your life significantly.

So positive thinking is good then.  But is it unconditionally good?  Should we always be positive?  In this article, I suggest that always seeing things through a positive lens is not a good thing.  Remaining unconditionally positive carries consequences for your health, relationships and life.  Let's explore this in greater depth.

1.  Your health

There are a number of studies that have been done into the relationship between your outlook on life, and your health.  Broadly speaking, people were placed into categories, defined according to how they viewed life and the events and challenges encountered during it.  The results are rather interesting.

We would generally expect negative people to suffer the worst health issues, and this is indeed the case.  Of course, they might argue that they wouldn't be as negative if they were more healthy!  But generally speaking, 'glass half empty' people are less healthy than more optimistic types.

So far so good then.  But here's the twist.....Another group who apparently suffer from poorer than average health are those who always view and talk about life in positive terms.  What's that all about?  Here's my take then.  The people in this group would be what I call 'false positives'.  They are so because they have a deep held belief in not saying negative things – about self, others or anything. 

They don't allow themselves the luxury of a bad day, avoid confronting issues, and don't get how they feel off their chest.  What doesn't come out goes down, buried deep in our bodies – over time, this suppression creates 'health time bombs' that if left for long enough, go off in our bodies.

I talk from some experience, having had a couple of health scares myself.  Getting old stuff off our chest is a great thing to do for our health.  From my personal experience, I've seen too many 'nice' people die early – of cancer and the like.  So bottling things up and not recognising a bad situation does not serve us well.  Being unconditionally and scathingly negative doesn't serve us well either.  So what does?

The healthiest group is what I'd term the realistically positive, those who generally view life through a positive lens.  But when things aren't going well, they let it out, and let others know.  Hopefully they do so without alienating others, but that's another article!  In other words, they emphasise the positive, but don't ignore the negative.

2.  Your relationships

False positives are often not great people to be around.  Not only can they land as inauthentic or false, but they don't help the stress levels of people they deal with.  Here's an example to illustrate why.

I used to have a manager who was unconditionally positive, and he was generally a nice guy.  But he avoided confrontation as a religion.  One day, he walked into the office just as two professional staff were cooling down from a confrontation that had got personal.  I had become involved, and to say there was an atmosphere would be a massive understatement!  Anyway, at this time, aforesaid manager walked in, looked around, smiled and uttered the immortal words - "isn't it great to see so much talent in this room!".  So much for a positive outlook helping the situation.  Most of us could have cheerfully throttled him, and his intervention resulted in the stress levels rising further, but being suppressed.  Unconditional positivity increases the stress in other people sometimes.

3.  Your life

Being a 'false positive' is bad for your life.  Why do I say this?  Let's start with something Steve Nobel said a few years ago - "We can grow through inspiration, or from desperation".  This comment has stuck with me over the years.  However, an analysis of why people change highlights that, for most people, the desperation element has a stronger motivating force in change.  That's why change most often takes place in response to a crisis - be it a change of career, collapse in a relationship, or a company taking emergency measures to survive.  Vision and inspiration on their own are not enough.  Even visionary leaders, like Nelson Mandela say, started from a position of desperation.

Ask yourself the question, what prompted your last significant life change?  Most people will answer in a way that includes an element of crisis, or even worse.
Against this evidence,  I hardly need to say that viewing everything in 'good' terms is a guaranteed way of never making the changes you need to make.  Instead of verbalising the pain and frustration, you internalise it, and pay the health penalty later on.  To a degree then, we should call a spade a spade.  If something in our life is 'not good', we should call it that way.

Being 'generally positive'

In conclusion, being consistently cynical and negative is not the answer.  But the 'false positive' is not much better - either for the person concerned or for anyone else.  The most fruitful approach is the 'generally positive' approach to life.  View the glass as half full most of the time, and yes, look for the silver lining in setbacks - learning is valuable, and you will feel better anyway.  But don't pigeon-hole everything as 'wonderful' or 'good' when it's not.  Life is a struggle sometimes - the questions are 'where is it a struggle' and 'what do you do when it's like that'.  The healthy and authentic response is to acknowledge when things aren't great, but not to over-emphasise it, or dwell on it.  Deal with the situation, move on, learn the lessons, and view the future through a more optimistic lens.


Author's Bio: 

A published author and coach consultant, Mark has 25 years experience of helping people develop their leadership, power and career to become the best they can be. His motto is 'bringing personality to work, and work to life'. He owns Brilliant Futures, and can be found at Here, you can sign up for the Simply Brilliant Newsletter.