Positive thinking ‘doesn’t help’

Controversial new book argues that positive thinking does more harm than good

A new book by sociologist Barbara Ehrenreich has caused controversy in America by arguing that positive thinking can actually do more harm than good.

In Bright-Sided: How The Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, Ehrenreich, a former breast-cancer sufferer, asks whether positive thinking, in its most extreme forms, might have been responsible for the financial crash in the U.S.

She argues positive thinking has taken such a hold of everyone’s consciousness, that anyone who dares to say ‘hold on a moment! Is what we’re doing really right?’ is deemed a ‘toxic’ nay-sayer and shunned.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the author says: ‘There is hope, which is longing. There is optimism, which is a natural feeling that things are going to go well, and there is positive thinking, which is a discipline, a way of forcing ourselves to think positively – if you expect things to get better, they will.’

But forcing yourself to look on the bright side of life may not work, argues Ehrenreich. Her theories are supported by evidence: a study recently published in the journal Psychological Science showed that people with low self-esteem felt worse after repeating positive mantras about themselves.

But all is not lost, researchers from Sheffield and Manchester universities have found that looking at a beautiful landscape can boost a person’s mood. So next time you feel glum, head to the countryside and let nature work its magic.


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