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  • Alyssa Abrahamson

What is Toxic Positivity? Why It’s Harmful and What to Do About It

Have you ever masked painful emotions by trying to just "get over it"? 

Ever feel guilty about feeling sad, angry, or frustrated?

Do you tend to give “positive-only” perspectives, such as 'Think of all you have to be thankful for!' instead of validating the person’s emotional experience?

These are examples of toxic positivity.

We know there are significant benefits of positive thinking. According to John Hopkins Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, those include improved cardiovascular health, a stronger immune system and increased lifespan. 

But when that positivity turns toxic, there can be harmful effects.

What is toxic positivity?

Toxic positivity happens when you avoid, suppress or reject negativity or difficult emotions such as sadness, anger or frustration. 

Toxic positivity takes the standpoint that no matter how challenging or dire a situation, you should maintain a positive mindset and only express positive thoughts and emotions. 

Toxic positivity phrases include

  • Just don’t think about it

  • Think of all you have to be thankful for

  • I should feel grateful

  • Look on the bright side

  • At least it's not…

Toxic positivity is often subtle and well-intended, not meant to cause harm. It typically happens when we want to help but don’t know what to say, or when we’re uncomfortable and we try to suppress our emotions. 

Causes of toxic positivity 

  • Toxic positivity is a defense mechanism, often stemming from a fear of emotional pain.

  • Societal, cultural or family conditioning. Being taught to always appear happy even when struggling.

  • Discomfort with vulnerability or lack of emotional coping skills.

How toxic positivity is harmful to our health

  1. It's shaming. We need to understand that all emotions are valid.

  2. It causes guilt, sending a message that if you don’t remain positive you’re doing something wrong.

  3. It perpetuates feeling invalidated, misunderstood and isolated.

Non-toxic alternatives when supporting a loved one 

  • This must be really hard

  • I am here for you

  • How can I support you through this?

How to deal with toxic positivity

  • Be realistic about what you and others feel

  • Validate all emotions 

  • Recognize toxic thinking 

  • Don't be afraid to challenge the person being toxically positive

  • Put your feelings into words by journaling

We can still be optimistic while we are dealing with a painful experience, but we must remember to give others, and ourselves, permission to feel all the feelings. 

Love, Your Wellness Coach,


P.S. Ready to receive personalized anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle support for your chronic health issues? Email me and we'll set up a call.

April 24, 2024


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