Welcome to the Positivity Edition for this week's newsletter!
Having a positive mindset is POWERFUL and TRANSFORMATIVE, so why is it that some see positivity as a toxin?! How is it that positivity can be both attractive and abhorrent? To answer those questions, the idea of toxic positivity must be examined and compared against its antidote genuine optimism.
What is Toxic Positivity?
Toxic positivity is a phenomenon in which a person responds to others in a way that lacks sympathy or validation of the difficult experience one is facing/has faced. Toxic positivity is a perpetual state which reduces or minimizes what humans are experiencing. Rather than pausing to show concern about an individual's challenging time(s), a person who has toxic positivity responds by saying something along the lines of, "You'll get over this soon" or "Just keep trying and you'll get
it." Demonstrating toxic positivity can be particularly hurtful as it creates untenable pressure for people to achieve what is unattainable at the time.
In the case of telling someone that he or she will get over something soon, what if the individual needs more time to process what is being experienced? Is it fair to give others a time limit for "getting over" what is being experienced? Though unintentional, when one is told, "You'll get over it soon," it does not validate their emotional state, but rather, it devalues the person's emotional state and can possibly create more shame than what is already felt.
Instead of telling someone, "You'll get over it soon," tell this person, "No matter how long it takes to get through this, I'm here by your side." This type of affirmation is needed because it instills psychological and relational safety rather than depositing fear. When people are going through a difficult time, the last thing they want to worry about is losing the love of a friend or family member because it took "too long" to walk through the difficulty.
You can avoid toxic positivity by really trying to understand what another person is going
through. For example, if a friend or family member is sad, upset, or anything other than well, rather than telling the person you only want good vibes, you should lean in and say, "Tell me how you're really feeling.... I want to hear your real unadulterated, human emotions." This indicates that you are giving the other person permission to be vulnerable and it creates a non-judgmental space which can be filled with transparency.
Now that we've discussed toxic positivity, let's review genuine optimism also known as POSITIVITY!
There is nothing wrong with being genuinely optimistic or hopeful about something. There is nothing wrong with seeing things out of a glass half full lens versus a glass half empty approach. When you focus on positive thinking, it has the ability to revolutionize the way you routinely think and the way that you respond to problems/issues. Positive and optimistic thinking can be so beneficial to your health as it may do the following:
- Reduces cortisol levels in your body (cortisol is the primary stress hormone).
- Increases immunity or your ability to fight against illnesses.
- Retrains the brain forcing it to develop newly reframed patterns of thoughts due to negativity being rejected.
- Creates resilience by allowing you to see you can cope with problems in a healthy manner rather than allowing problems to become a crisis.
Positive thinking allows one to turn negatives into positives by fully recognizing that despite the fact that what is being experienced doesn't "feel good," one can still make the best out of a "bad" situation. Positive thinking doesn't mean that you don't realize bad things happen or exist, rather it simply means, instead of ruminating over those unpleasantries, you carefully consider how to make them more palatable which in turn has an amazingly wonderful impact on our mental health.
Be well & continue being GENUINELY OPTIMISTIC!
Until the stigma is no more,