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Updated by Simona Combi on May 11, 2016
Simona Combi Simona Combi
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Against positive thinking

The Case Against Positive Thinking

Blame it on Oprah. Positive thinking is touted as the key that unlocks success (remember "The Secret", which the Oprah Winfrey's show helped make an international best-seller?), but it turns out that an overwhelmingly rosy outlook can keep us from achieving our goals, according to psychologist Gabriele Oettingen.

The Antidote: Self-Help for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking
Everyone wants to be happy. But despite our goal to be happy, many of us still go through life unfulfilled, unsatisfied, and stressed out. Oliver Burkeman's The Antidote won't bring you instant happiness, but it does share some extremely helpful guidance on how to weather life's hardships.
The Staggering Bullshit of "The Secret"

Every generation in the past century has had a breakout self-help book that sells a bazillion copies and bulldozes through a few million people's wallets. Napoleon Hill's Think and Grow Rich did it first in 1936. Then it was Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking about 20 years later.

Why Positivity Is The Worst Response To A Problem

In math, multiplying a negative by a positive gives you a negative answer. Ever notice the same thing happens in life? When a coworker complains and you try to inject something positive, the outcome is usually more negativity.

The Tyranny of the Forced Smile

I am a Libra of Libras, an inveterate balancer of opinions. My scales rarely tip to one side; my cons stack up against my pros. Count on me to discern the downside to upside, and the upside to down. If you want an unequivocal statement, I'm not your fellow - at least not usually.

Stop Being So Positive

You've hit your limit of 5 free articles as an anonymous user this month.

Please stop telling me to be happy.

A digression about email closers At Safari, one of my first tasks was to edit our email journey for clarity, punctuation, and grammar. As a former Columbia Spectator editor and a self-proclaimed punctuation and typo bulldog, this task seemed uniquely suited to me. I set about it with great excitement.

The sad truth about optimism: It's overrated

"Reach for the stars" is the sort of uplifting advice parents impart on their children, coaches pass along to their players, and people all over the place repeat to themselves. And for good reason: A life outlook that, generally speaking, assumes the best, has many tangible benefits.

How to Build a Happier Brain

A neuropsychological approach to happiness, by meeting core needs (safety, satisfaction, and connection) and training neurons to overcome a negativity bias I spoke with Hanson about this practice, which he calls "taking in the good," and how evolution optimized our brains for survival, but not necessarily happiness.

We don't need more optimists: Unchecked positive thinking is more dangerous than it sounds

Depending on how you look at it, the mood in the United States of late has been either an overdue stock-taking - as we reckon with issues like racism, rape culture, runaway law enforcement and out-of-control income inequality - or relentlessly grim. Surely, unrelieved despair - either personally or more broadly, socially - can lead to paralysis.

Can Positive Thinking Be Negative?

Research suggests limits to looking on the sunny side of life "ACCENTUATE the positive," the 1944 song by Johnny Mercer and Harold Arlen cheerfully implored us. From Benjamin Franklin's 1750 Poor Richard's Almanack (which advised readers that "sorrow is good for nothing but sin") to today's parade of motivational speakers, Americans have long embraced an optimistic, "can-do" attitude toward life.

The Upside of Pessimism

The theory of defensive pessimism suggests that imagining-and planning for-worst-case scenarios can be more effective than trying to think positively. Please consider disabling it for our site, or supporting our work in one of these ways Subscribe Now > I have pretty low expectations for this article.

The Problem With Positive Thinking

MANY people think that the key to success is to cultivate and doggedly maintain an optimistic outlook. This belief in the power of positive thinking, expressed with varying degrees of sophistication, informs everything from affirmative pop anthems like Katy Perry's "Roar" to the Mayo Clinic's suggestion that you may be able to improve your health by eliminating "negative self-talk."

Optimism Is the Enemy of Action

Positive thinking can hinder more than it helps by zapping people's motivation to work toward their goals. Please consider disabling it for our site, or supporting our work in one of these ways Subscribe Now > Dr. Gabriele Oettigen, a New York University psychology professor and researcher, has been studying the effects and realities of positive thinking for over 20 years.

Good News About Worrying

In May, Mathieu Putterman and Anna Evans Putterman graduated from law school at Chapman University. In July, the couple took the California bar examination. Results will be posted on Nov. 20, at 6 p.m. The Puttermans are in the final throes of that four-month wait. Mr. Putterman, 29, is not breaking a sweat.

Astronaut Chris Hadfield Explains The Power of Negative Thinking

The Canadian is the best-known astronaut since Neil Armstrong. He explains how failings can motivate.

Researchers say positive thinking actually gets in the way of accomplishing your goals

Somewhere in an alternate universe, there exists the best possible version of me. Bizarro Sarah sends wedding gifts promptly and wakes up early to go running, three days a week. She keeps up her French, saves diligently for vacations, and reads emails as soon as they land in her inbox. She gets her bangs trimmed...