Positive thinking, a booby trap ??

The injunction to happiness and positive thinking flourishes on the shelves of our bookstores and on social media posts.

One of the privileged means of achieving this would be, according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor at the University of California and author of the book “How to be happy… and stay so” (Flammarion, 2008), the practice of gratitude. This exercise consists in writing, every day, a list of positive things that happened to us during the day, in order to focus on what is positive in our lives and ultimately achieve happiness. However, it may well be that this practice is not as effective as it seems.

Take Caroline's example. Caroline has a well-paying job, a husband and two children she loves, friends, and yet she is bored. One of his colleagues, a follower of personal development, advises him to keep a gratitude journal.

The idea? Write three positive things for Caroline every day. Caroline, enthusiastic, lends herself to the game. It gives: "thank you for having a husband, two beautiful children, a house", or "thank you for being in good health, for having a job, for being able to pay my bills" , etc. However, after two weeks, this exercise begins to annoy Caroline. She no longer sees the meaning, so she ends up abandoning it. Then, one night, Caroline has a terrible nightmare: she drives on the highway, her two children in the back. She then encounters a car driving in the opposite direction ... It's the shock, the black hole. Caroline wakes up with a beating heart. It takes a few seconds to realize that this story was only a nightmare, and that her children are alive and sleeping peacefully in the next room. She feels terribly relieved. In the morning, at breakfast, she savored this moment with the family, which reminded her of how much she cares about her little tribe for which she is so grateful.

One thing is clear: it is negative thinking that has given Caroline enthusiasm, not positive thinking. Why ? Because the brain focuses on new stimuli, not on the routine. Now, if the exercise of gratitude is repeated every day, it too becomes routine; this is what psychologists call hedonic adaptation, that is, habituation to pleasure. Whereas if we imagine the worst, the stimulus is not long in coming and immediately causes a rise in anxiety! Two psychologists, Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson have shown through experiments that this method of negative thinking is more effective than the repeated exercise of gratitude.

And you what do you think ? Leave your opinion in comment!

Magali Giraud

We all already have what it takes to be the happiest in the world. We just have to remember it all the time.

Hal elrod

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