Mental Health 4 MIN READ

Toxic Positivity and how it affects your mental Health

“This too shall pass!” “It will all be fine”, “Don’t worry about it!” Do these phrases sound familiar? We’ve heard them numerous times, from friends and family, whenever we’ve gone through a difficult time.

Written by Sunita Sylvia

May 19, 2021
Toxic Positivity MentalHealth
Everything Will Workout

“This too shall pass!” “It will all be fine”, “Don’t worry about it!” Do these phrases sound familiar? We’ve heard them numerous times, from friends and family, whenever we’ve gone through a difficult time. Although they are well-intentioned, this kind of over the top positivity, according to mental health experts, is detrimental to mental health. 

What is Toxic Positivity? 

There Enything cando

Toxic Positivity is the belief that we should only focus on positive emotions or the positive aspects of life. While having a positive outlook towards life is good for our mental well-being, life isn’t always positive. Everyone deals with their fair share of painful experiences. While these emotions are hard to process, often unpleasant to deal with, the need for them to be addressed with all honesty is of vital importance. Having a false notion of excessive positivity does not address the situation at hand, but merely ignores it by making light of the situation. Heather Monroe, a clinical social worker at Newport Institute, says that the problem with toxic positivity is that it oversimplifies the human brain, and how we process information, thereby, being detrimental to mental well-being. 

Additionally, several psychiatric studies have shown us that denying our feelings only leads to the increased stress of the body, as well as the mind. For example, in a study conducted by Gross and Levenson in the year 1997, wherein two groups of participants were made to watch macabre, medical procedure films, while their stress indicators were being monitored. One group was allowed to showcase their whole range of emotions while watching the clips, while the other set of volunteers were told to repress any emotion whatsoever. In the end, the results indicated that the participants who were told to repress their emotions had significantly higher amounts of psychological arousal, even though they remained cool and collected on the surface.

How do we go about addressing this situation? 

The Silver Lining

How should we accept our varied range of human emotions? First, by acknowledging and understanding that as human beings, we go through multiple and complex emotions. Shutting the door by being overtly positive does not make the problem go away, but we gain a larger perspective of what is on the other side by going through the door. 

Gaining closure is another important aspect of processing our emotions. By being positive, we’re not addressing the problem, but merely ignoring it. If we ignore our problems, we will never be able to attain closure. We will only be enabling a cyclic process of repressing our emotions, bottling them up for far too long only for them to spill out and cause more problems. Unfettered optimism and shutting the door on our emotions will not make them go away, and if anything, it exacerbates them. 

Good Vibes Only

Another drawback of having a “good vibes only” approach is that it hinders growth. It denies us the ability to overcome challenging situations or obstacles, which can ultimately provide us with deeper insight, enabling growth. As the great philosopher, Seneca once said, “Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labour does the body.”

Here are some ways to look at the signs which can help us identify such behaviour, and enable us to deal with our emotions better, and in the right way. 

  • Belittling yourself or others for making you feel uncomfortable is a sure sign of toxic positivity. We’re made to process a spectrum of emotions, and repressing one side of it will only make it quell up on another side. Letting our emotions flow through without judgment at first glance always proves to be helpful.
  • Feeling guilty about being sad, dejected, depressed or angry is another important sign. We must understand that it’s okay not to be okay, at times.
Failure Growth Success
  • Waiving away problems instead of addressing them only makes them go away temporarily.
  • Hiding our emotions by incorporating a cognitive bias, which is a strong, preconceived notion, towards positivity. This only provides a facade for the problem and doesn’t make it go away.
  • Having an “it is what it is”, or “this too shall pass” attitude doesn’t address the crux of the emotion and only seeks to delay or mute ourselves to the issue at hand.
Just Stay Positive

What else can one do, to help develop a well rounded and balanced mindset? 

Instead of adopting a “good vibes only” attitude, we can better articulate our emotions. When we articulate our emotions truthfully, we can easily identify the crux of the situation and go about finding a solution through proper understanding. To acknowledge and identify what exactly is causing the stress, instead of ignoring it already solves half the problem. 

Another key aspect is our capacity to accept “shame”, and turn it into an educational experience. Most people who indulge in toxic positivity have developed an unhealthy ego to such an extent that they’d rather ignore and brush away the problem, instead of accepting the shame in failure. In the long run, shame, as with any negative experience, only strengthens us and makes us learn through experience. 

Ultimately, to sum it up, in the words of Mark Manson, a distinguished author, Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame. Remember, strength and insight is forged through suffering, and not through ignorance. 



Subscribe to Metablog

Get the best, most science backed, and latest in metabolic health delivered to your inbox each week.

Thank you for subscribing!

Please check your email for confirmation message.

    You can unsubscribe at any time, no hard feelings. Privacy Policy

    Loading please wait...