A short rant about mindfulness and positive thinking

Regular readers may remember that last summer I went through a bit of a bad patch emotionally.

I sort of whispered that, to be ironic about the fact that we aren’t meant to talk about mental health difficulties, but let’s be honest, we all know I was a bit of a wreck. It’s one thing to feel a bit down in the dumps, another to get as far as the kitchen, shaking, only to burst into tears and run back to bed, feeling completely unable to put a teabag in the cup.

That’s life though isn’t it? We all go through shitty times, just like we go through ace times, and none of it lasts, even the good stuff.

While I was feeling iffy, I tried a lot of things to perk myself up – I read a lot about fear and positive thinking, I played relaxation CDs and uplifting music and I listened to podcasts from an overly optimistic American man who repeatedly told me how awesome I was, and how, if I ever felt down, I should hold a pencil between my teeth and look around me at the glory of nature.

(I did do the pencil thing on many an occasion – it changes your expression and tricks your brain into thinking you’re smiling. It’s pretty effective as a short term measure, just like sitting up straight and lifting your eyes. Your brain is easily fooled.)


At the time, these things often felt a bit futile, but 18 months on it turns out that I have trained myself pretty effectively, without even realising it. When bad things happen, I click much more smoothly into a smile. I look around me and breathe deeply, appreciating things like the fact that I don’t have toothache. It’s a pretty effective coping strategy.

So where am I going with this? 

Well, this positive thinking is all well and good, but sometimes I find I get annoyed with myself for being so chilled out. It’s ridiculous isn’t it? 

“It’s fine,” I’ll say to my fiancé, about something that probably shouldn’t be.

“It’s not fine!” he’ll say, clearly frustrated with me. “Just say it’s not fine!”

But I can’t, because I’m genuinely not sure any more. 

And this is what annoys me. 

If you take positive thinking and mindfulness to an extreme, at what point does it start to work against you? Where is the passion, the rage? Sometimes it would just be nice to get irrationally angry about something pointless – really properly enraged, without hearing soothing pan pipes in my head. Apart from anything else, how can I maintain a steady flow of ranty blog posts if nothing feels worth ranting about?

I worry too that we are putting ourselves under pressure to relax – that we won’t feel like we are good people if we aren’t living in the moment, abandoning every worry and concern for the future.

Colouring schmolouring, do we really all want to be walking around with pencils between our teeth, gazing in awe at the Autumn leaves and chuckling fondly as we are forced to walk behind that annoying person in the street who is going at half the speed of everyone else?

Sometimes I just want to get MAD.

Photo – Artens/Shutterstock



  1. 5 November, 2015 / 12:44 pm

    Good point Jo. I think positive thinking and mindfulness are all coping strategies but ultimately we need to at times let our real feelings show otherwise we risk not really being true to ourselves! Like you, I’ve had a horrible spring and summer and at times found it really difficult to cope. I use positive things to try and keep me going and find having something to look forward to important, but equally if it all gets too much I need to let it out, ideally to a sympathetic pair of ears.
    Hope things improve for you.

  2. 5 November, 2015 / 4:05 pm

    Coping strategies to get through crap days and times are great skills to hone. However, they are are bandaides and not a cure to what might be the cause of the crap. Denial is not a coping strategy so I whole heartily agree that when things aren’t fine, acknowledge and deal. Positive thinking helps build resiliency but so can a burning in the gut anger that moves a person to action. Good thought provoking post.

  3. Dawn F
    5 November, 2015 / 9:13 pm

    Maybe you should have an allocated time in your week where you shout, scream and curse even if you are feeling ok. Things get bottled up whether we like it or not and its never a good idea to keep it all in for the sake of staying positive. As there is positivity and light, there must be darkness and negativity to balance it.

  4. 5 November, 2015 / 9:16 pm

    Made me smile, and made me think. I think it’s right to get MAD but for me it’s then letting that go afterwards that positive thinking is needed for! When the kids have all moved on and I’m still fuming. I need to get that pencil between my teeth then I think!

  5. 7 November, 2015 / 1:02 am

    I can so relate to this right now, I’ve been dragging myself kicking and screaming using coping techniques for years and I’ve finally laid down the gauntlet so to speak and decide to tackle it head on… And it’s hellish. So looking forward to being out the otherside of it and reinstating the pencil smile x

    • Jo Middleton
      10 November, 2015 / 12:45 pm

      Good luck with it Lori. Positive thinking and coping techniques are really useful, but I do worry that they can be used as a plaster – covering up a problem or trying to learn to life with it rather than dealing with it. It’s really hard to actually just face things though. xx

  6. kerrie
    7 November, 2015 / 9:01 am

    HAHA, did make me laugh…..sounds like you need to work on the worry not the anger x……..far too much worrying x

    • Jo Middleton
      10 November, 2015 / 12:44 pm

      Maybe you’re right – am I worrying about worrying?!

  7. 8 November, 2015 / 8:10 pm

    Love this. Thank you for expressing my unconscious thoughts about mindfulness

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