Toxic Positivity: When Being Positive Is a Problem

When someone shares their struggles with you, have you ever been told to “just stay positive”? Chances are, it didn’t provide much comfort and may have even made you feel worse. In today’s society, happiness is often viewed as a personal choice, implying that we are responsible for suppressing any negative emotions. However, our brains are not designed to function this way when we are facing difficulties. Consequently, attempting to embrace the “good vibes only” philosophy can actually have a detrimental impact on our mental well-being.

Understanding Toxic Positivity

Toxic positivity refers to the prevailing notion that individuals should always maintain a positive outlook, regardless of the challenges they face, and that any negative emotions should be repressed. This “keep your chin up” mentality is believed to be advantageous for the person experiencing turmoil. However, in reality, it offers little benefit to them as it merely encourages the suppression of emotions for the sake of others’ comfort.

Origins of the Toxic Positivity Trend

The toxic positivity trend is a relatively recent development that has emerged alongside the increasing awareness of mental health issues on social media in recent years. The concept of toxic positivity stems from the belief that a negative attitude is linked to depression and poor mental health. Additionally, emotions such as grief, fear, and sadness are often considered “uncomfortable,” causing distress not only to the individual experiencing them but also to those around them. On the other hand, a positive attitude is associated with improved mental well-being and success, making everyone involved feel good. This notion is based on the theory that negativity has a more significant impact on the human brain than positivity, leading many individuals to view it as something to be avoided at any cost. Psychologists commonly refer to this inclination as the “negativity bias.”

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