How Toxic Positivity Really Hurts Our Mental Health


Suruchi Patwary, August 05, 2021

Ridackan Positivity Quote |  www.shutterstock.com

Ridackan Positivity Quote | www.shutterstock.com

Only positive vibes, ‘Focus on the good’, ‘Happy thoughts are the key to a happy life’, These are some of the most common statements we hear when trying to open up about our vulnerable feelings. But how true are they? Sometimes we hear these statements from others and sometimes we say them to ourselves. This is what toxic positivity is, focusing only on positive emotions and neglecting negative emotions.

We spoke with Mahika Solanki, Mental health advocate and writer at The mood space; Y Vidhi tamboli, Co-Founder and Counseling Psychologist at The mood space to understand more about the ways toxic positivity can be harmful to our mental health and this is what they said:

1. It leads to the suppression of emotions

Repressed Emotions By Olga Ganovicheva |  www.shutterstock.com

Repressed Emotions By Olga Ganovicheva | www.shutterstock.com

We, as humans, are a ying-yang of positive and negative emotions that make us whole. Ignoring negative emotions can cause them to be repressed and present in unhealthy ways. Focusing on just feeling positive all the time can be detrimental to your mental health.

To explain this in an easier way, here is an example: imagine that you are the director of a round table meeting in which on the one hand your ‘positive’ emotions such as joy, love, affection, gratitude, pride, hope and inspiration they are sitting while you are on the other side, your “sad” emotions such as pain, anger, frustration, stress, anxiety, disgust, loneliness and annoyance are settled. While both sides are talking, if you pay attention only to the positive sides, naturally the negative side will raise its voice to be heard and create chaos, right?

2. Affects your state of balance

Woman with r.classen mask |  www.shutterstock.com

Woman with r.classen mask | www.shutterstock.com

We cannot choose the emotions we want to feel. We also cannot eliminate the emotions that we do not want to feel because we, as human beings, are destined to feel a variety of emotions triggered by different situations. It takes a bit of both positive and negative emotions to lead a balanced life.

For example, due to pandemic anxiety, people wear masks that lead to a positive outcome: their safety. In the absence of the little anxiety, they may not have made an effort to do so and would continue to wander without any precautions.

3. Avoid feeling things in their true essence.

Man frustrated by VectorMine |  www.shutterstock.com

Man frustrated by VectorMine | www.shutterstock.com

Toxic positivity prevents a person from feeling a full range of emotions and discourages their expression. Instead of sitting with the not-so-good feelings without judging them and letting them go, we tend to judge ourselves for feeling a certain way and end up feeling worse. Other than that, we diminish the possibility of helping ourselves feel better because we are too busy trying to ignore these feelings, although expressing them would make us feel lighter and better.

4. Invalidate your emotions and minimize your experience

The feelings are valid by Olga Ganovicheva |  www.shutterstock.com

The feelings are valid by Olga Ganovicheva | www.shutterstock.com

Many people think they preach positivity, but in reality, they preach toxic positivity. For example, saying ‘happiness is a choice’ can invalidate a person’s struggle to feel better because it can lead them to think that they are not ‘choosing’ happiness, that even in the face of struggle, they are doing something wrong. These phrases are often said with good intentions, but they don’t really help a person facing a difficult situation.

A person who confides in you their concerns could be doing so out of a need for support, love, or relief. But statements like “It’s not as bad as it seems “ it can make them feel that what they are feeling is unacceptable. When in reality, instead of shame. they want to know that what they feel is valid.

5. Avoid growth

No growth based on asset data from Funny Solution Studio |  www.shutterstock.com

No growth based on asset data from Funny Solution Studio | www.shutterstock.com

The idea behind toxic positivity is to not pay attention to negative emotions or emotions that can be painful. But wouldn’t that also discourage us from facing challenging situations and, in turn, prevent us from learning from them and growing?

Without a doubt, thinking positive has many benefits. It allows us to release stress, leads to better immunity, increases resilience, and helps you thrive, but that doesn’t mean you look at everything from pink glasses. Adversity requires you to think in a practical way and not under the influence of blind positivity, that is, toxic positivity.

How to avoid toxic positivity

Managing Emotions By Artur Szczybylo |  www.shutterstock.com

Managing Emotions By Artur Szczybylo | www.shutterstock.com

1. Learn to deal with all kinds of emotions, instead of avoiding them

Throughout your life, you will face both pleasant and unpleasant emotions, no matter how hard you try to deny the latter. But if you learn to deal with them, you will feel better and balanced!

2. Replace “I should feel …” with “It’s okay if …”

The truth is that you feel unpleasant and depressed. Validate your emotions by making sure that it is okay to feel the way you feel, that your feelings are real, valid, and important.

3. Don’t judge yourself or others for feeling challenging emotions

We are all humans who come into the world with our own set of emotions. Instead of avoiding difficult emotions, allow yourself to feel all the feelings. There are no “good” or “bad” emotions, there are good and bad ways to deal with them.

Once you accept the way you really feel, only then can you work it out, right? You cannot heal what you do not know exists. You may feel different about certain emotions than others, and that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their own feelings and no one deserves to be embarrassed about it. It is very important to know that not everyone faces situations like you.

It's okay not to be okay Quote By chrisdorney |  www.shutterstock.com

It’s okay not to be okay Quote By chrisdorney | www.shutterstock.com

4. It’s okay not to be okay

Being realistic, you can’t feel good all the time and that’s natural. Sometimes, instead of analyzing our emotions and acting on each of them, learning to sit with ourselves and support ourselves until the feeling passes can work wonders.

5. Acknowledge the messages that encourage toxic positivity and do not interact with them

Social media is one of the most common means for toxic positivity to spread. People only show their ‘perfect’ or ‘positive’ side and it is important to remember that everything we see may not be real. Remember that you are not alone in what you feel. We all have our own share of positives and negatives.

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