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Here's why toxic positivity can be detrimental to your mental health

It seems like more than ever, the world needs some positive energy. We’re experiencing times like never before and we’re leaning on our communities to stay uplifted and renewed. There’s nothing wrong with putting out good vibes, seeing the glass half full, and trying to remain grounded when tough things happen. However, there is a dark side to the permanently upbeat, “positivity over everything” wellness culture that has sprung out on our social media feeds and groups.

What is toxic positivity?

The Psychology Group defines the term as, “the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.”

The reality is, all our emotions are valid. No matter how unpleasant it may feel, it’s opportunity to reclaim our agency and self-worth. It’s not possible to remain in a constant state of happiness and deny ourselves the opportunity to debrief, reflect, and learn from how we’re feeling.

How to spot toxic positivity

Now that we know what it is, how can we spot it in our own lives? In the workplace, toxic positivity can manifest as glossing over important concerns, ignoring valid employee suggestions, and encouraging employees to only display positive behaviour.

This can actually have an adverse effect on the workplace culture. Deflecting on important issues is a red flag in a workspace, as you’re not allowing people to be honest or offering a space to have discussions. This behaviour feeds a culture of insincerity, distrust and negativity. Dismissing employee concerns or invalidating how they feel also doesn’t inspire creativity or high-quality work in the long haul.

Moving to personal relationships, the pandemic has shown a lot of us another side to people in our lives and it might be time to reevaluate why you have these connections in your life. Friends who don’t want to take the time to acknowledge feelings, let alone yours, can really make you feel lonely.

And while having a positive outlook can change your life and definitely has more pros than cons, it’s imperative that we take time to sit with all our feelings. Let’s stick to being honest over a positive caption. Let’s facilitate dialogue and safer spaces to chat with our community.

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