Every time I log into Facebook, at least one of my friends posts a positive meme. Be grateful. Be thankful that you… well, just look at the above one and you get the idea.

So, it’s good to encourage positive thinking, forgiveness, all the rest of it… if the person reading it doesn’t use it to deny reality for either themselves or others. If it doesn’t minimise the experiences of those who are struggling to cope, are depressed or have any other mental health issues, then, I’m for it. However, to be frank, if it prevents people from speaking up about issues that they are dealing with, then, it’s a problem.

In fact, so – called “positive thinking” can have negative results. According to New York University Psychology Professor, Gabrielle Oettingen, “positive thinking”, wishful thinking and daydreaming can give us a false sense of goal attainment, which will in turn prevent us from reaching our goal due to a lack of motivation. In regard to goal achievement, Oettingen argued that a better approach would be:

Instead of just thinking positively, one should employ the self – regulation strategy of mental contrasting – the act of weighing your envisioned goal against what you identify as your inner obstacle to be. According to her research, this method clarifies what you really want and what’s feasible, as opposed to goals you’d rather let go or or are unlikely to accomplish.

Sounds kind of reasonable doesn’t it? (even though it has it’s critics).She’s not against positive thinking altogether.Her argument is contrast the thought and the desired outcome to the reality of the situation.

Wrong ideas about positive thinking can backfire on mental health, argues Professor Anthony Grant.

It just doesn’t work. When people don’t allow themselves to think about problems, or sadness or any other emotion apart from happiness, it’s not helpful at all

That what I was getting at in at the start of the post. It’s great to be positive. But as humans, we also need to be realistic about exactly how we feel. We need to allow ourselves to admit that everything is not all roses. Be optimistic, yes. Be grateful, yes. But also we need to let ourselves at least admit our reality of our situation. 


It’s great that that the world is starting to talk about mental health – particularly in men. I saw an post on Facebook recently from a group of teenage boys spreading awareness about male depression. I think it’s great. But, I think to do that successfully, we have to say ourselves and each other that everything may not be OK, and that’s OK. We need that to be OK if we are going to get anywhere in preventing suicide.

Be grateful.

Be positive.

But be realistic.

And get help when you need it.

If anyone in Australia needs help:

Beyond Blue

For people between 12 and 25: Headspace (Headspace centres are nationwide, including now Albury/ Wodonga)

For American readers:

Austin Health

Mental Health America


Feel free to post any other mental health services in your country/ State/ region in the comment section.