Una's Blog


Una’s little world 19. Balance





by Una Hearne.

We all want balance in our lives, it’s the modern holy grail. Today I want to talk about the balance between positive and negative thinking, and what we all think we do – ‘realistic’ thinking.

When we say we are being realistic we are usually being pessimistic. Whenever I did talks about positive thinking I asked my audience if it was ‘realistic’ to say it would rain tomorrow (statistically more likely to rain). Everyone’s hand would go up, after all, it’s always raining in Ireland! However this is not true on the East Coast, where it rains only one third of the days of the year (and where I did my talks). So it was in fact a pessimistic thing to say. (Of course if you are on the West Coast… well ok, then it is realistic.) 🙂

We do this all the time, thinking we are being ‘realistic’ when we say: ‘I’ll never get that job’ ‘Things always go wrong for me’ ‘I’ll never find love’. These are negative statements which sound like facts. What’s more, we gather evidence that fits with our beliefs and ignore anything contradictory. And so we can end up with quite a negative experience of life. The good news is we can interfere with this habit and train ourselves to think more positively. While this will not change the facts and events of our lives, it does make for a far happier experience.

Of course there is the other extreme, when positive thinking is not helpful and leads to living in a fantasy. ‘I’ll bet my last €100 on a horse, if I think positively enough it will win’ ‘I just have to sit on the sofa and believe the love of my life is coming and they will turn up on the doorstep’. Hmmmm.

We all face the dilemma of finding balance in different areas of life. It came up for me in relation to ME/CFS.  I’m inclined to ignore symptoms until they stop me doing what I want. Like the sudden collapse in my health at the end of 2015. The question is, did my ‘push through the exhaustion and carry on regardless’ positive attitude cause the relapse? Or was I right to wring the maximum joy out of my work and life while I could? Would I have relapsed anyway? There is no way to be sure, although the former looks more likely.

Is your struggle for balance related to work? Relationships? Adventure? Money? Activities?

I thought I’d offer a few of the tools I use to check myself and maintain balance:

  1. Adjust for the negative bias in your brain by challenging your assumptions: ‘Is this true?’ ‘Is there another possibility?’
  2. Gather actual evidence. It’s a great idea to write it down so that you can’t creep back to negative thinking. I record my sleep, food and activities. On a good day I’ll tell you I’m great and getting better. On a bad day I’ll tell you it’s hopeless. My records show that in fact I’ve stabilised and shown a small improvement. Yay!
  3. Bottom line questions: ‘How is what I am thinking and doing working for me?’ ‘Is my attitude making my life better?’
  4. Give yourself head breaks every day. Fun and laughter breaks. This keeps your life in perspective.
  5. A gratitude journal really works, especially in difficult times. (I know it makes some of you want to vomit but I wouldn’t suggest it if it wasn’t such a powerful tool.)  See blog 70 Gratitude Journal


Hoping these are useful to you and wishing you increasing balance and happiness.



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