The dark side of the mindfulness industry — the dangers of Compulsory Optimism

Alex Turner
8 min readJan 29, 2019

Marcus Aurelius — ‘The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.’

We can ’t escape it.

“Think positively.” “Be grateful.” “Focus on the good in your life.”

These are the mantras of our times.

Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

We live in an age of unprecedented connection — yet in many ways, we are more disconnected than ever, more anxious than ever, more overwhelmed than ever.

Positive thinking is touted as our savior to sidestep all this overwhelm we experience from constant stimulation — and this state of anxiousness is clearly as old as time itself.

Torturing ourselves is part and parcel of the human experience — it’s just our methods, along with the technology, that change over time.

Understanding the power of the mind and how it works goes back a long way — the Stoics were obsessed with it; yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have been around for thousands of years.

Occasionally when I am up to my eyeballs in anxiety from endlessly scrolling on social media or an unwanted email sailing into my inbox, or whatever it is that day, and I do manage to remember to take time out for meditation — one of my recurring musings is wondering what on earth the ancient Greeks or the yoginis of 500 BC were so stressed about that they needed these exact same tools for.

We are but human.

Mindfulness, then, is both a remedy and a superpower. And today it’s also a billion dollar industry — predicted to be worth $22 billion in the next three years.

Books, blogs, courses, retreats, workshops — the works.

By any account, it has undoubtedly transformed millions of people’s lives. But as wonderful as it is, there are some less well documented, detrimental effects, too.

For many, there's just no amount of positive affirmations, applied like a plaster, that will stem the tsunami of anxiety, fears, doubts and overwhelm, all rearing up like wild horses …

But does Positive Thinking actually work?

Alex Turner

Founder, feminist, entrepreneur, coffee + self care