8 Negatives of Positive Thinking

Positive Thinking


Can a person be too optimistic? Although research shows a host of benefits from having a positive outlook on life, it is possible to have too much positivity. Believing that a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mindset, promoted by the popular 1988 Grammy Song of the Year of the same name by Bobby McFerrin, will make you happy is a lie. In fact, excessive positivity can have a toxic effect on your life. Here are 8 negatives associated with overly positive thinking.


Believing that a “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” mindset will make you happy is a lie. In fact, excessive positivity can have a toxic effect on your life. Click To Tweet


1. Excessive risk-taking.

An overly optimistic mindset can kill you early. According to one of the longest longevity studies ever published, the “don’t worry, be happy people” die early from accidents and preventable illnesses. Thinking it’s a good idea to try free climbing—rock climbing without any ropes or safety gear—when you’ve only gone rock climbing a couple of times is a very bad idea. It can kill you financially too. Believing you’re destined to be an entrepreneur and throwing all your money into a start-up venture in an industry you know nothing about can wipe out your savings. Pie-in-the-sky thinking is associated with underestimating risks.

2. Optimism bias.

When you believe that nothing bad can ever happen to you, it’s referred to as optimism bias. This can prevent you from getting insurance for your home because you’re confident that you’re immune to bad fortune. If a flood, fire, or tornado hits your neighborhood, you could lose everything. You might skip annual dental checkups or physicals because you’re certain you’ll be fine and miss out on important preventive health care.

3. Engaging in bad habits.

People steeped in excessive optimism often feel invincible. This makes you think it’s OK to have that third glass of wine, smoke that pack of cigarettes, or have that extramarital affair. Not being realistic about the consequences of your actions can have devastating outcomes on your health, wealth, and relationships. A study on college students found that those who were too optimistic had more binge drinking behavior. Research on compulsive gamblers shows that they were often rated as too optimistic. Not getting enough sleep is a bad habit that fuels excessive positivity. Research in the Journal of Neuroscience found that being sleep-deprived led to increased optimism and poorer life choices.

4. Not learning from mistakes.

The power of positive thinking can trick you into believing that past transgressions weren’t a big deal. This prevents you from learning from those errors and dooms you to repeat your mistakes.

5. Inability to process emotions.

A belief that everything is awesome prevents you from addressing real-life issues. If you don’t process your emotions after a traumatic event, it can set you up for mental health issues such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) down the road.

6. Being inauthentic.

If you’re always putting on a happy face even when you’re going through a rough time—a death in the family, a divorce, or financial problems—it can seem like you aren’t being honest. If you’re constantly telling people that “everything’s fantastic!” it also prevents you from getting the support you need from friends and family.

7. Failing to prepare for the future.

Individuals who think things will always fall into place are less likely to save for retirement or to have a rainy-day fund. If you aren’t actively preparing for the life you want in the future, you aren’t apt to achieve it. According to a 2017 study in Psychological Science, believing the future will be favorable without following a plan and putting in the consistent effort can prevent people from taking the actions that will likely make that belief a reality.

8. Ignoring warning signs.

Believing that “everything will be OK” can prevent you from noticing and acting on red flags. You may overlook physical symptoms associated with a major health condition, meaning you don’t get diagnosed until it’s too late. You may gloss over marital conflicts until the situation becomes so unbearable, you’re headed for divorce. You may downplay a loved one’s drinking problems until they have gotten caught in the grips of addiction. Or you may ignore symptoms of a mental health condition like depression or ADD/ADHD until your life has spiraled out of control. Not dealing with things early on only leads to bigger problems.


Developing the habit of accurate, honest, and disciplined thinking is a critical component of a happy and successful life. Having some anxiety is required. An appropriate level of anxiety helps us make better decisions. It prevents us from running into the street as children, risking broken bodies, and running headlong into toxic relationships as adults, risking broken hearts. The bottom line: It is always best to balance optimism with planning for and preventing future trouble.

Depression, PTSD, ADD/ADHD, and other mental health issues can’t wait. At Amen Clinics, we’re here for you. We offer in-clinic brain scanning and appointments, as well as mental telehealth, clinical evaluations, and therapy for adults, teens, children, and couples. Find out more by speaking to a specialist today at 888-288-9834 or visit our contact page here.


  1. Very wise thoughts in an era where we are meant and encouraged to be permanently – shallowly perhaps – 'happy'. And with it, to disregard the rich and often contradictory human condition and our need to embrace it.

    Comment by Franca Lane — October 28, 2022 @ 3:38 AM

  2. This sounds like you just described the mania stage of bipolar, just with a different name.

    Comment by Tammi Strasen — October 28, 2022 @ 4:51 AM

  3. There is also a profound trust factor that is not about positivity but something beyond that. The distinction is that positivity might be blind trust; genuine trust is based on actual events and the mystery of how things work out, usually unknown by the most.

    Comment by Regina St Clare — October 28, 2022 @ 6:11 AM

  4. I have a good friend who is "hung up" on positive thinking and never wants to hear about real-life, traumatic events her friends are going through. I finally got it that she is a very Narcissistic person who simply doesn't want to be bothered listening to other people's problems. She has little-to-no capacity for empathy.

    Comment by Bonita Brandt — October 28, 2022 @ 7:34 AM

  5. Good day, I am in Canada and my question is. How could a person get a brain 🧠 scan if they are having some of the system ?

    Comment by Pauline — October 29, 2022 @ 11:08 AM

  6. Excellent recommendation: accurate thinking over positive thinking. Thank you.

    Comment by Jean — October 31, 2022 @ 12:49 PM

  7. I'd love to go to your Clinic but I could never afford it.

    Comment by Gina Chavez — November 8, 2022 @ 7:28 AM

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