Is Too Much Positive Thinking Bad For You?

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Is Too Much Positive Thinking Bad For You?
Health And Wellness

It's okay *not* to be okay.

There are a lot of reasons to feel down right now.

In the age of social media, we’re constantly comparing our lives to the highlight reels of others, feeling like we need to improve our bodies, work harder, and travel more, all while somehow maintaining close personal relationships.

Then, there’s the news cycle that fills us with fear for our health and finances in the wake of coronavirus, or exposes us to the violent reality of modern racism. Many of us are isolated away from close family and friends, feeling alone and scared.

Yet bloggers, influencers, and friends on social media would have us believe that a motivational quote about positivity is supposed to cure all of our problems. As if the words “Stay positive!” ever actually helped anyone stay positive. 

RELATED: 3 Steps To Keeping A Neutral Mindset & Staying In Control When Facing Negative Emotions

Positivity is a powerful emotion that can give us the empowerment and courage to pull ourselves out of negative mental spaces, but it’s not the answer to everything, nor is it possible for everyone. In fact, sometimes positivity can be harmful by delegitimizing negative emotions and not addressing the causes of these feelings.

Positivity can be toxic, and it is when it has the exact opposite of its desired effect.

Is positive thinking bad for you? To answer that, we first need to explore toxic positivity.

What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity is an ineffective outlook that generalizes emotions and suggests that happiness is possible in all scenarios. It puts the blame on the person who is feeling down or depressed by insinuating that they could get themselves out of this mental state by simply being happy.

It misunderstands human experience and denies the reality that negative emotions are inevitable and should not be ignored.  

Coronavirus has brought a wave of toxic positivity that's doing nothing for our mental well-being. The pandemic has taken its toll on the mental health of many.

According to a COVID Impact Survey, two-thirds of people report feeling nervous, depressed, lonely, or hopeless during at least one of the 7 days prior to the survey. Yet often on social media, we are made to feel like we should using this time to learn a language, write a book, or train for a marathon. 

We're experiencing a collective trauma that we have little control over. We’re losing loved ones to coronavirus, systemic inequality and police brutality. Positivity can’t and won’t end racism, nor will it cure coronavirus.

RELATED: 28 Quotes About Why The Phrase ‘Positive Vibes Only’ Is Toxic & Why It’s Healthy To Feel Your Negative Emotions

It’s okay if all you want to do is curl up in bed. Many people are finding themselves in unsafe home situations or cannot access the services they need. Positivity won’t help abuse victims or end poverty. 

The pressure to be positive can have damaging effects by shaming people who feel negative emotions.

It leads people to repress their emotions for fear of judgment. This only worsens trauma and negativity, leading to internalized depression.

According to one study, emotional suppression makes us more preoccupied with these emotions, but leaves us with no outlet or strategy to overcome them. Toxic positivity creates a stigma around unhappiness that can make people feel alone and isolated with these feelings.

When the world is filled with “Good vibes only” signs and empty motivational quotes, it’s no wonder so many people suffer alone, in silence. 

So, how do we avoid toxic positivity without letting our negative emotions swallow us whole?

Denying the power of positive thinking is not the answer to our problems, either. Troubling times are difficult to overcome, and chances are all your life’s worries will not go away overnight.

But there are ways to tackle our negative emotions rationally without undermining or exacerbating them. 

RELATED: 4 Signs Those 'Positive Thinking' Quotes Are Hurting Your Mental Health (& What To Do About It)

1. Embrace both positive and negative feelings.

Our perspectives can shift on a variety of issues, and your emotions are no different. It’s possible to be sad about some aspects of life while being grateful for others.

Be honest with yourself. If you’re having a bad day, there’s no need to force yourself into a positive space that you don’t fit into right now. Equally, if you’re in a good mood, you don’t need to feel guilty about being positive through trying times.

Feel what you need to feel in the moment and be kind to yourself.  

2. Analyze your emotions.

Instead of sweeping your sadness under the rug and forcing yourself to be positive, face up to how you feel.

Try journaling or even just sitting with your thoughts. Ask yourself why exactly you’re feeling down. Are there practical ways to improve your mental state? Is there someone in your life who is making these emotions worse? Could you visit a trusted friend? Change your job?

Maybe you don’t see any solutions and that’s okay, too. By addressing your negative emotions, you’ve told yourself that it’s okay to be down.

Eliminate the barriers between you and your emotions, and become comfortable with yourself and the changes you’re experiencing.

RELATED: Understanding These 6 Emotions Can Change How You Take Care Of Yourself

3. Put yourself first. 

The world is heavy right now, but the only person you need to carry is yourself. You are your own project, so make a habit out of prioritizing your needs and everything else around you will fall into place.

Set yourself a routine of going to bed and waking up early, feed yourself nourishing food, move your body by walking, stretching or dancing, hydrate yourself, take a long bath or shower. These things won’t solve all your problems but feeling good in your body is a great start.

Start with some small personal goals and don’t get disheartened on days where you feel unmotivated. Pushing through the bad days brings you closer to the good days. 

4. Talk to someone. 

When things get too much to bear, it helps to have someone to turn to. Whether it’s a friend, family member, or mental health professional, there’s always someone out there who will want to help you.

It can seem scary but you’ll find that many people around you are feeling the same way and will be happy to listen to you. Even on your good days, you deserve to have people to share your thoughts with and continue to lift you up.

Reach out to people regularly so you can build strong bonds and feel less alone.

RELATED: 4 Ways To Stop Your Unconscious Thoughts & Feelings From Ruining Your Life

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Alice Kelly is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.

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