#215 When Thinking Positive Isn't Useful

Subscribe on iTunes


“Look at the brightside.” 

“Think positive.” 

“It’s not all bad.” 

How many times have you thought or been told to think like this when the words just fell flat in front of you? 

There are a lot of great things about having a positive attitude and a positive mindset. But, if the positive thought is something that isn’t true for you, it’s not going to be very useful in helping you move forward in your life, experience the change you need, or process the emotions you’re going through. 

Worse yet, just thinking positive when you don’t feel it can throw you into a shame spiral of judging yourself for not thinking the way you think you should be thinking! 

Ugh! So meta! ; ) 

In this episode, I’ll help you understand the difference between positive thinking and useful thinking. 

I’ll offer you two questions that you can apply to the way you’re thinking that will move you closer to thinking in a useful way. 

Meaning a way of thinking that will move you forward while allowing you to feel everything you need to feel without guilt or shame. 

Referred to in this episode: 

Better Than Before Breast Cancer Life Coaching Membership 

90 Days of Wellness


Read the full transcript here:

Laura Lummer  00:00

You're listening to the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. I'm a Certified Life health and nutrition coach, and I'm also a breast cancer thriver. If you're trying to figure out how to move past the trauma and the emotional toll of breast cancer, you've come to the right place. In this podcast, I will give you the tools and the insights to create a life that's even better than before breast cancer. Well, let's get started.


Laura Lummer  00:32

Hello, and welcome to episode 215 of the breast cancer recovery coach podcast. I'm your host, Laura Lummer. And this podcast will be coming out gosh, I think it's going to be November 4. Can you believe it? November, we are in November. And you know what November makes me think of? Well, my birthday because my birthday is in November. But Thanksgiving, right? I think of Thanksgiving, I think of the holiday season is in full swing on Halloween and the United States is behind us. And we're moving in to food season right? The holidays are all about food or at least oftentimes it seems like that. Everywhere we go, there's food and people want to go out to eat and parties. And sometimes at this point in the year, we just kind of put our wellness on the backburner and we step away from it. And we say, you know, I don't want to say no to the cookies, I don't want to say no to the pies. I'll get back on track in January. I think we don't have to say no to the cookies in the pies if you don't want to. We can do it in a way that actually is healthy. If we stop in a moment and say, does this serve me right now? What is the reason that I'm choosing this and we're intentional with our food choices? And we're intentional about what we're doing and why we're doing it in that moment. Now, I know for sure, because I coach a lot of women and all of my clients have had or do have breast cancer, that food is a really big issue. Not only what do I eat what I feel safe eating but you know, I eat something in the past that gave me cancer. How do I know if this game cancer I deserve a reward? I deserve a treat? What does it matter, right? We have so many thoughts around food. Oftentimes, we just turned to food as this buffer as the I'm confused, I'm overwhelmed. I don't know what's right, I don't know what's wrong. So I'm just going to eat whatever the hell I want anyway, just because I like it. And then the moment we say that was delicious. A little while later, we may feel guilty, we may be afraid, we may have you eaten more sugar than we actually wanted to. So I have something that's going to help you out with that. You can go to my website and download how to eat without fear and guilt after breast cancer. It is a free download. It's a simple guide, that's got some very good information and some important questions for you to ask yourself, because the important thing is not what I say or what anybody else says you should or shouldn't be eating. The important thing is that you learn to tune into your body, your hunger cues, your satiety cues, the way that you react and respond to different foods. And that you learn and get very, very, very close and intimate and personal with the reactions of your body. And you start to really love it and make food choices from a place of love and compassion from a place of serving you and serving your wellness and serving your health, rather than from a place of false pleasure that you tell yourself as a reward, which is really not true if you stop and think about it. So you can go to my website, the breast cancer recovery coach.com. And you'll see that free download right on the homepage. Or you can go straight to it at the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash eat and download that free guide, read through it and actually print it out, get a pen and write the answers to the questions that I asked you as you're doing this self examination. You know, a lot of resistance come up comes up. When I ask people to write things down, we just don't want to do it. We don't want to write it down. We want to look at a piece of paper, we want to think through it in our own head and tell ourselves it's done. What happens when we write something down is that we actually have to slow our brain down enough to write you know, we slow our brain down enough to think about it. And then to write it out in it creates a little bit of space in addition to the whole process that goes on the learning process and examination process when we're thinking about something and then writing it on paper and then evaluating it. So that's why I asked you to write it down. It's really really important has a completely different impact on the results that you create for yourself than it does to just look through something. See if you're anything like me scan through something, and then thanks for the answer and then move on, that's not going to have a lot of impact on you. So when I put out these downloads, and my members know, and I have our weekly action guides, and there's writing exercises in them, the writing is so critically important to the process. And you're worth a few minutes how to eat without fear and guilt after breast cancer is not a big long booklet, right? It's easy, there's just a few exercises that will just take you a couple minutes, but they will give you a tremendous amount of awareness. And that awareness may help you as you move into food forward slash holiday season this fall. Because I thought about this season, actually, it's one of the primary reasons why I decided that in my membership, we did 90 days of wellness, which we are on the last 30 days of our 90 days of wellness program. Because I really wanted my members to be very focused and very intentional. As we came up on the end of the year and the holidays, I wanted them to be completely grounded and absorbed in their own understanding of their wellness, I wanted them to have had all of this three months, this 90 days worth of working through examining their thoughts about themselves and the choices they make and the decisions they make, and getting more information on what really serves their health and their bodies. So that when they come into this holiday season, they feel super strong and super capable, and very competent in the decisions that they make, and that they're making them from a place of compassion and love. And I'll tell you what, as I say that, we'll have a surprise for you. Also, it's my birthday month. So I want to be able to give surprises out as well. But I have taken that 90 days of wellness and put it in its own program. And you can now go through 90 days of wellness on your own, you can join the 90 days of wellness program. And in that program, you will get everything that my clients have been receiving for this 90 days of wellness. It's an incredible program where you'll look at everything from your microbiome and healthy foods to finding joy in wellness, working through your own thoughts, how we avoid feeling the things that cause us to make choices we don't want to make and how to get past doing that. And you'll also have access to coaching with me. And I will help you look at what your thoughts are and what your mindset is when it comes to your wellness. And what better time to start right started off in November. And you're grounded in this program for November and December and January, some of the most difficult lessons to stay on target and on track with your healthy lifestyle. Now a lot of times people hear something I've done say, I don't even want to start until January. But think about that thought, your health your wellness? Is that really something you want to put off it till January? And sometimes I think the underlying thought there is I don't want to miss out. But what if you don't have to miss out? What if 90 days of wellness could serve you. And there aren't any rules, you don't have to follow a food program, you're just going to have an increased awareness of the choices you make. So you will make those choices from a place of love for yourself from a place of supporting your wellness ends. If you want something and you want to turn to an indulgence, you'll know it's your choice, but you'll be aware of when you're doing it. And that's a game changer. Alright, so if you are interested in finding out more about the 90 days of wellness, just go to the breast cancer recovery coach.com forward slash wellness and get all the details. All right. Let's jump into this week's podcast. So the title of this week's podcast is when thinking positive, doesn't serve you. And let me explain a little more about that. You know, my clients, I think if you asked any of my members, any of my clients, they could probably give you a few buzz phrases. They know, I'm going to ask right when something comes up and they'll say what do you think? Or what should I do? And let's already know you're going to say what do you think you should do? Right? And there are other places where they get stuck sometimes in thoughts, the women that I work with will get very stuck in a place and let's say I'm just stuck. I just can't get out of this place. And when that happens, and we go through some of the thoughts they have. These thoughts are either primarily negative thoughts, or they're positive thoughts that they've heard, that they're supposed to have. And when we talk about the way they think about And I'll give you some examples in a moment. But when we talk about those specific thoughts, my question for them is, how does that serve you? Now, when it comes to thinking positive, it's interesting actually share a story with you, I was having a conversation with my mom. And we were talking about my dad, and my dad passed away 10 years ago, the last 1013 years of his life, were really, really rough. He undermined his health wouldn't care for himself. And the fact is that my dad suffered from some very severe depression after the death of my brother. And because of that, he just was not interested in taking care of herself. And my mom was the one right, she was giving him his medication and trying to encourage them to eat different food. And he was not willing to change, as we talked about that. And I said, Well, don't you think one that that was just a result of him being so deep in depression? She said, we were just raised, you just deal with bad things. And you keep going on? And I say, Yeah, but Mom, that's not dealing with it. Right? Look what happened to Jack. He wasn't dealing with the pain and the grief of the loss. He was just trying to hold it down. And he tried to hold it down with cigarettes. And he tried to hold it down with food. He tried to hold it down with this idea that if you just think you just keep going on, you don't deal with it, you think positive life goes on, you move forward, you keep working, you keep doing the right things. But that didn't serve Him. Some people may say, Oh, that's great, because you're thinking positive, and you're getting back to life. But that wasn't true. Right? He was avoiding life. And I bring that story up, because I think it's really relevant here. Because I see that often. in breast cancer survivors, sometimes, you know, in that first year, when we're out of treatment, that's a super difficult year. And oftentimes, I'll compare that year to grieving, there's a process you go through in that year after breast cancer treatment, because you kind of think that things are just gonna go back to the way they used to be, and they don't. So there's a tremendous amount of resistance, confusion, anger, frustration. And if you don't deal with that, then it doesn't go away. If you just say, I got through it, I lived, I should just be grateful and you keep moving forward. It doesn't go away. And part of the reason for that is you're not doing the work. You're not allowing yourself to feel what comes up. And then to examine what those feelings are. You're not examining the thoughts behind those feelings. And so when we say just think positive, when people encourage you just think positive? Well, that's all well and good. But when you look at that, and you think, do I believe this positive talk? And the answer to that question is no, then you have an even bigger problem on your hands. Because you don't really believe that the positive thought is true for you, then you feel guilty for not believing that the positive thought is true. And you're telling yourself you should just think positive. And so often I'll be in a coaching session with someone and they'll be telling me, I should think this and I should think that, and I don't suppose to feel like this. And again, the buzz phrase, I'll ask, how is that useful for you?


Laura Lummer  13:26

And the bottom line is, it isn't because it isn't believable for you. If you do not believe what you're thinking, then it's not going to work. Let's talk about the difference between positive thought and a useful thought. So I looked up the definition for positive thinking. And according to the Mayo Clinic, positive thinking means that you approach when pleasantness in a more positive and productive way you think the best is going to happen? Not the worst? Positive Thinking often starts with positive self talk and self talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. Again, going back to the very beginning of this podcast, where I talked about the importance of writing things down, because an endless stream of thoughts does not create any space for examination and understanding. So let's look at that definition. Also, it's looking at unpleasantness from a more positive and productive place. Is that useful? Right? So if you are in a place in life, where you are struggling with anything, whatever it is you're struggling with, and you tell yourself, let me just look at this from a more positive way. And you don't believe that positive thought. Is that useful? I'm gonna say it isn't. Just because I have seen for myself that it isn't, because you're not looking at where you're at. What is a useful thought when you're in A place where you're struggling. A useful thought is, I am struggling.


Laura Lummer  15:07

I am having a difficult time right now. I don't like this. I don't understand this. Now, is that a negative thought? Or is that a useful thought? It's true. And therefore, it can be useful. If you're looking at something, say I am struggling now. Versus this is hard, but I'll get through it. Well, like this is hard, I'll get through it. Just keep pushing through thinking positive, you're just kind of glazing over what's happening. If you're saying, I'm really struggling. Now, this gives you a space to do a thought download to say, okay, what are all the things on my mind? Why am I struggling? Why am I feeling overwhelmed? What is everything going on in my head? Let me take a look at this. Now, I would say that, that is more useful. Whereas a negative thought might be something like, this just sucks. I can never get ahead. I never get a break. I can't do this anymore. I'm just sick of this. Those are negative thoughts, right? Those are also not useful thoughts, because they're not leading you anywhere, right there. catastrophizing or, you know, saying that this always happens in my life, most of the time, it doesn't. It's not something that always happens. Oftentimes, I'll ask clients to slow down and actually look at what you're talking about, how often does it happen? Let's look at the actual truth. Let's look at some actual facts. And when you break life circumstances down into actual facts, and you remove all of your drama, and all of your emotion, and all of your denial from them, and you just say this is what's happening. And this is how often it happens. And these are the actual facts. Now it's useful. Now you have something to work with. So on either side of that spectrum, where you go into just think positive, just think positive. Well, is that useful? is looking at unpleasantness from a more pleasant perspective really helpful? Or is that looking at unpleasantness from the perspective of what is true for me? And then let's say that you say, Okay, well, this is true, this sucks. Okay? This does not Is that useful, is thinking, this sucks. This is hard, is that useful? Or saying I'm struggling? And here's where I'm struggling? I'm having trouble figuring out a solution. I'm having trouble understanding how to care for myself better, I'm having trouble understanding how to communicate my needs more effectively. These are useful, because these thoughts are tools, right, these thoughts are stepping stones towards the life you want to have towards the life that you want to live. Whereas staying and just think positive, can oftentimes just glaze over what is going on. And I think that we can get confused. And that also, let's say when we're looking at relationships, if you're in a relationship with someone, let's say it's an intimate romantic relationship, or it's a sibling relationship, or it's a parent child relationship, or just a friendship, or a co worker relationship, any of those things, what we have the tendency to do is to say, Oh, my God, this thing is driving me absolutely crazy. Like I'm really having an issue with this person doing this, and either will hone in on that one attribute, or will say, but there's so many other things that are great about this person. And either way, we're not looking at the real issue, right? We're not stopping and saying this is wonderful person. And I love this person, and I'm glad I have this person in my life, or this is a decent human being. And we have some personality conflict, but we have to work together. How am I going to approach this person with this thing that is bothering me, it needs to be addressed. Not proven right or proven wrong, but something that needs to be addressed in a constructive way. So again, when we're thinking about and approaching where we struggle, even in a relationship, when we go to bed, they're a good person, and we want to hone in on all the good things I do. Well, that's wonderful. And it's great to acknowledge that, but it doesn't mean that you still are not experienced in a conflict, that you still maybe the veil has been lifted, you've been through cancer or you've decided, hmm, I need to regroup here. Some of the things in my life are not working well for me. I'm not satisfied, fulfilled, happy. Then you look at the situation and you say, Okay, you're a great person. Well, I actually find it difficult to use my voice with you. Right? What stories if I told myself about this? What's keeping me here? And I'll tell you one of the most popular things that I hear when it comes to people dealing with relationships, I don't want to hurt their feelings. I don't want to make them Do this way, I don't want to make them think this way. And we have to come back to ourselves and say, first of all, you can't help the way people think people are gonna think whatever it is that they think. But you come back to yourself and your needs in your life. And you say, what do I need? And how can I expressed that in a loving way? How can I feel confidence in voicing my opinion as an independent adult human being? How can I feel confident in expressing my needs in a constructive way? That's a useful thought. Right? It is a great thought, again, to say, Oh, this is a great person, it is a great person that in every relationship, issues come up. And I think especially after breast cancer issues come up, where you realize I'm holding back here, and suppressing emotions here I'm holding in negative feelings of anger and frustration of loneliness, of disconnection, glazing over that isn't useful. All right. So how do you approach a useful thought? How do you approach a situation? And kind of unlike the Mayo Clinic definition, where it's like, look at an unpleasant situation from the most positive perspective?


Laura Lummer  21:21

Well, I think first, the most important thing is to like truly accept where you are. Now, this is extremely difficult. We have an extremely hard time, when we're struggling with something in life, if you're struggling with weight, if you're struggling with an emotion, a relationship, a job, anything, it's so hard for us to stay there and say, why I'm having a hard time, immediately, we want to jump out of it, we want to jump out of it and make it pretty and shiny. But if we stay here and say, I'm having a hard time. And this is true for me, I don't want to indulge in it. I don't want to stay here with it. But I want to understand it, I want to understand it. So then I can create some useful thinking around it. And then begin to work on this issue. When it comes to something like a healthy lifestyle. And people say to me, I'm overweight, and I need to lose weight, I want to lose weight. A useful thought is to say, Why do I keep making the choices that I'm making that are not supporting my weight loss. Whereas someone else might say, a positive thought is to say you look beautiful, just the way you are. Well, it may be true, and you may look beautiful, just the way you are. But if you are unhappy and feeling uncomfortable in your body, and feeling as though the state and condition of your body and the choices you're making to nourish it are not serving its health, then the useful thought is to say, I am not happy with the amount of body fat that's on my body right now. And the choices that I'm making that aren't supporting lessening that, right, that's useful because it's also true. So I think it's an important thing to look at positive, useful, negative thoughts and say, are they true?


Laura Lummer  23:14

Once you establish if something is true, then you ask, is it useful? So the situation that I just gave you, hey, I want to lose 20 pounds. Okay, do you need to lose 20 pounds? Well, my doctor said, I should lose 20 pounds, and I'm feeling a little bit uncomfortable. And I know that extra body fat can increase my risk for recurrence and breast cancer. So yes, I would like to lose that lake to look at that person say, well, you're just beautiful, just the way you are. True. Very true. Next question, Is that useful? Not really, that's just saying, Oh, just be happy where you're at, because you're beautiful. And it doesn't help to serve your health, if you know where you're at is not the healthiest place you can be. So we can apply these questions across the board. When we're having thoughts. And we're telling ourselves, I'm thinking positive. Ask yourself, is this thought true for me? Many times, my client will come up with a thought we will realize the thought they're having is not creating a result they want in their life. And I'll say, what's another thought that you could come up with in this situation that might help you move forward? And they'll offer me a thought and I'll say, is that true for you? Does that resonate for you? And they'll say, No, not really. So we have to keep digging, right? We've got to find another thought that is true, and is useful. And most of the time you'll know when you landed on a thought like that because it will feel different to you. I love the word resonate because to me resonate carries with it some kind of a vibration. It's like oh, that resonates with me. I feel that in me. And I think when you come across a thought that is true and is useful. You do You feel that it's this shift and so many times that I'm working with someone, I see them hit on that thought, and I love it because I can see their whole face change. And it's just kind of like that lightbulb moment. Now, some people refer to this if you're just thinking positive thoughts as toxic positivity, right, just thinking positive all the time and not looking at the realism of your situation. I think also that that term, toxic positivity isn't really useful. You know, that's a pretty negative thought, that kind of throws shade a little bit on looking at the situation from a different light. And so I don't really call it toxic positivity. But I just like to look at the thought and offer that for you to ask yourself those two questions, if you're struggling with something, is what I'm thinking about this thing true. And is it useful, right, so if it's super positive, but it's not useful, it's not working for you. If it's very negative, and it's indulging in negativity and self pity, you have a little pity party tennis not useful, right? So try to apply those two questions to what you're going through and what you're thinking. And again, the best way to see what you're really thinking, to put an end to that continuous stream of thought, get it out of your head, write it down, start looking through your thoughts and apply those questions to each of those thoughts. And see what happens for you see what you can come up with and see if that doesn't help you kind of shift what you're struggling with into a new, more productive pathway for you. Alright, my friends, that's all I've got for you today. I hope that something that helps you and I look forward to talking to you again next week and until then, be good to yourself and expect others to be good to you as well. Take care.


50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.