A recent NY Times article discussed whether a focus on positive thinking is helpful in creating positive outcomes. The research by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen and Heather Barry Kappes found that visualizing a successful outcome didn’t make someone more likely to achieve it. In fact visualizing a positive outcome often sapped someone’s energy which made the results less successful.
While I see a value in using cognitive approaches to deal with anxiety and depression, I also think there is wisdom in using other ways to deal with uncomfortable feelings and thoughts. For example, using a mindfulness approach where each feeling is allowed to pass through without a person having a judgment about it. In our society we expend a lot of energy trying to avoid negative emotions when truthfully turning towards our negative emotions is really the most effective way of deal with them. When I discuss this in my work people are often skeptical about the “sitting with your feelings” approach. However, I point out that by fighting the negative emotion you are judging it and usually yourself along with it. This perpetuates a negative thinking pattern.
So try the mindfulness approach for a day. Whenever you have a negative emotion take a moment to sit down and notice it in your body. Just sit with the feeling and observe it without judgment. See if this changes how you react.