Think Negative Thoughts: The Secret to Living a Happier More Productive Life

[Ed. Note: Here at the Daily Reckoning, we strive to bring you a unique and entertaining view of the world of finance. But we also realize that there’s more to this world than money. After all… what good is money if you don’t know how to enjoy it? So as part of our ongoing “Tip of the Day” series — brought to you by our friends at Laissez Faire Today — we’re proud to share this little actionable tip on living a happier, healthier and more enjoyable life than you ever thought possible. Enjoy!]

“I have always been fascinated by the law of reversed effort. Sometimes I call it ‘the backwards law.’ When you try to stay on the surface of the water, you sink; but when you try to sink, you float. Insecurity is the result of trying to be secure… contrariwise, salvation and sanity consist in the most radical recognition that we have no way of saving ourselves.” — Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity

Unpleasant truth time.

The highly popularized documentary The Secret lied to you. Positive thoughts alone aren’t going to glitter your life with gold and make everyone love you.

Sorry. Someone had to say it.

…imagining yourself with the things you want could make you less motivated to go out and take real action…

So take down that vision board and listen up.

Sitting around thinking about daffodils and driving around in an imaginary Ferrari isn’t going to get you what you want. In fact, positive thinking can backfire.

The brain can’t tell the difference between imagined reality and external reality.

In one series of experiments, researchers found that when thirsty participants imagined themselves drinking a glass of water, their energy levels dropped.

Why did this happen?

The researchers discovered that by merely imagining drinking water, the subjects were less motivated to drink water. The brain thought the body already got its fill.

So imagining yourself with the things you want could make you less motivated to go out and take real action — and more motivated to just sit there in the lotus position and imagine it. Especially when you are confronted with the inevitable obstacles to getting what you want.

Studies have also shown that too much positive thinking can lead to lower self-esteem.

When you attach yourself to a definite positive outcome, we now know, the mind becomes anxious when it doesn’t happen. Also, when you always expect only the positive, you’re never prepared for the negative. And when life catches you unprepared, it can feel like a deathblow.

That’s why thinking negative thoughts, many researchers are now realizing, is actually good for you. Provided you use it constructively and deliberately.

The Stoics have one technique they used as far back as third century BC for quelling anxiety called “the premeditation of evils.”

Essentially, you just imagine your fears playing out in your mind without reacting to them. Imagine losing everything. Imagine your boss or loved ones screaming at you. Imagine strangers laughing and pointing at you. Imagine laying on your deathbed, counting your regrets. And look calmly on.

Sounds masochistic, but it’s actually healthy. Truth is, you’re doing all of these things unconsciously already. By exploring these feelings and thoughts consciously, you can start to differentiate your fears from reality — something your unconscious mind is incapable of.

Give up hope. It’s a weak frame of mind.

Also, by constantly being aware of the possibility that you could lose all that you cherish at any moment — and will absolutely lose everything you hold dear on a long enough timeline — your gratitude will begin to grow for what you have in the moment.

And one more thing…

Give up hope. It’s a weak frame of mind. Hope just means that you’re wishing events will turn in your favor. It gives up responsibility for your life. And it stunts your growth.

Instead, set an intention. Challenge yourself to take small steps to obtain that intention. Make mistakes. Follow your instincts. If you’re not moving, your stagnant.

To recap: If you’re serious about changing your life…

Think more negative thoughts, imagine dying more, and give up all hope. Your happiness depends on it.


Chris Campbell
for The Daily Reckoning

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