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Mental Health

Why Toxic Positivity can be Harmful

Slogans such as “good vibes only” and “choose to be happy” are sayings that you just can’t seem to escape these days. Of course there is nothing wrong with spreading positivity, but lately there has been a movement of “staying positive” that conveys a message that if you just stay happy, life will be perfect. Now, I’m a big believer in the Law of Attraction, and that what you focus on will come back to you. However, staying positive all the time is easier said than done, and I believe the phrase can actually have the opposite effect. If I’m trying to be happy and focus on the good all the, why don’t I feel great? In my opinion, sometimes embracing every emotion can allow you to truly find positivity. When I made this connection, I finally understood what it meant to live presently and embrace every moment. But the toxic positivity movement can confuse this concept.

What is “Toxic Positivity” anyway? According to Verywell Mind, it is the belief that “no matter how dire or difficult a situation is, people should maintain a positive mindset.” While positivity is great, the idea of always staying positive can be detrimental and cause one to feel that they are failing at “being happy”. Life isn’t meant to be just a one emotion experience. Difficult, low moments are a given, and avoiding these emotions can cause them to build up later! 

Processing difficult emotions is the key to moving on and feeling better. Rather than rejecting positivity altogether, sometimes you just have to recognize what you are feeling in a particular moment, process it, and allow it to pass. Maybe that’s in the span of an hour, or maybe it’s ups and downs for multiple months. However, I have learned that rather than taking the “good vibes only” approach, understanding that this difficult time is temporary and life will get better is much more useful. I choose to stay positive that these negative emotions will pass, rather than pushing them down, knowing the light at the end of the tunnel is almost near. As Maddy Moon said, sometimes you have to “feel the sh*t to feel the shift”!

Ashley is currently a sophomore at UH Mānoa. She is majoring in biology with an interest in marine and wildlife conservation. In her free time she loves to practice yoga, read, create wellness content for her instagram @soulfullyashley, and explore the island.
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