Researchers have found that eliminating negative thinking can do wonders for your mental health—helping reduce stress, combat depression, and relieve anxiety. This makes the term “toxic positivity” probably sound like an oxymoron. However, in some circumstances, extreme optimism can do more harm than good. Whether you’re experiencing a crisis or trying to support a loved one who is, the guide below helps you know where to draw the line.
When Is Optimism Helpful?
Optimism is most beneficial when it validates the individual’s struggle while still offering hope. For example, if you’re trying to support a friend or loved one who’s grieving, start by acknowledging their trauma and agreeing that the aftermath won’t be easy. Only after validating their feelings should you proceed to discuss ways they might be able to get back on their feet. You can also remind them they're not alone.
When Does Positivity Turn Toxic?
Toxic positivity encompasses statements like “this is just part of God’s plan,” “never give up,” and “wallowing will only make it worse.” Such statements fail to validate the individual’s feelings, which can seriously harm their mental health during an already vulnerable time. Toxic positivity can also place blame on the individual for making their situation worse.
Unfortunately, most of us are prone to providing toxic positivity on occasion. If we simply don’t know what to say, for example, we might resort to platitudes like “everything happens for a reason.” As such, try not to get frustrated at those who end up imposing toxic positivity on you. You should, however, seek more productive emotional support from a mental health professional.
If you feel like no one understands your feelings, turn to Sondra Sexton-Jones, MS, LPC, CT. Based in Juneau, AK, this licensed mental health counselor has more than 25 years of experience helping clients overcome life’s greatest hurdles. Today, she offers a broad range of outpatient services, counseling individuals, couples, and families. Visit her online to learn more about how she can help you deal with depression, anxiety, or the loss of a loved one. To make an appointment, call (907) 586-3313.