The idea that emotional states are driven by thought processes is nothing new. However the notion of “positive thinking” sometimes has a Pollyannaish ring too it. Sometimes people feel bad and don’t perceive thoughts as the source of that feeling. And telling someone to just “think positive” usually doesn’t have much of a beneficial effect.
One of the most valuable tools I’ve learned of to help clients understand their own minds, and the genesis of much of their negative emotions is framework originally presented by Aaron Beck called Cognitive Distortions. Cognitive Distortions are essentially irrational thought processes that generate negative emotions. To the person having the thoughts, they don’t seem irrational at all. Nevertheless, when clients take time to examine their emotional states and the thoughts that drive those emotions they almost always identify one or more of these thought distortions as the source.
Take a look at this list of cognitive distortions. Are any of these affecting you?