Dr. Rachel Goldman

We constantly hear about the power of positive thinking. And as women, we often tell ourselves that nothing is wrong and to carry on and just ‘be happy’.  There is evidence that positive thinking can improve one’s mental health, but the research around positive thinking generally focuses on the benefits of having a more optimistic outlook when experiencing difficult times. Having a positive outlook creates motivation for a healthy mind and body, and is something I encourage with my clients.  However, when this positivity is taken too far, it can be toxic. Toxic positivity is the belief that we should put a positive spin on everything or forcing this idea of “good vibes only.”  It is the belief that this is the only approach and believes that one should avoid all negative thinking, or negative emotions, and should always be happy. This can invalidate our feelings and ignores the fact that we have other emotions. Toxic positivity tells us to push away these difficult emotions and force ourselves, or others, to be positive. This can be quite harmful, because we have a wide range of feelings, and those feelings are real— and often they telling us something about underlying issues. 

Strategies to help you avoid toxic positivity when speaking to yourself:

 –   Recognize that negative emotions are normal, and okay

 –    Identify and label your emotions. Don’t try to avoid them, or deny them

 –    Have a support system that you can trust and talk openly about all of your emotions

Strategies to help you avoid imposing toxic positivity on others:

–    Recognize that negative emotions are normal, and okay

–    Encourage others to speak openly about their emotions and remind them that negative emotions are part of the human experience

–    Avoid having a positive response for everything​​

Just as I try and ‘get real’ with my clients and encourage them to talk about every aspect of their emotions, today I encourage you to accept feeling the way you are.  Remember feelings are temporary and they will pass, but let’s not ignore them and pretend they don’t exist.