The Horror Of Toxic Positivity: Why Positive Thinking Can Be Harmful

The Horror Of Toxic Positivity: Why Positive Thinking Can Be Harmful

Habitual acceptance of negative thoughts and emotions without self-criticism, judgment and denial can help us become stronger and healthier emotionally. According to a recent study conducted by the University of California, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, “habitual acceptance” of emotions and thoughts can lead to a number of psychological health benefits. The researchers explain habitual acceptance as the degree in which individuals “accept their emotions and thoughts without judging them.”

After surveying 1,300 adult individuals to determine the relations between habitual acceptance & psychological health, the researchers found that people who accept their unpleasant emotions honestly, without avoiding or trying to change them, tend to experience higher emotional resilience, better psychological health and less negative feelings over time.

The Horror Of Toxic Positivity: Why Positive Thinking Can Be Harmful

In an article published in Berkeley News, Brett Ford, lead researcher and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, said: 

“It turns out that how we approach our own negative emotional reactions is really important for our overall well-being. People who accept these emotions without judging or trying to change them are able to cope with their stress more successfully.”

The fact is accepting our emotions without trying to change them can ironically help us experience better mental well being and less negative emotions, without forcing ourselves to change. 

The authors of the study added:

“Acceptance represents somewhat of a paradox – it is effective at helping individuals change their emotions, and yet it is done without the intention to change emotions.”

How you can practice emotional acceptance

“The answers you seek never come when the mind is busy, they come when the mind is still, when silence speaks loudest.” – Leon Brown

Emotional acceptance means observing uncomfortable feelings as they are and realizing that it is part of life that will come and go time and again. There is no reason for us to deny, fear or fight these negative emotions. We simply need to acknowledge them and accept our emotions no matter how good, bad or frustrating they may be. Although it may be difficult initially, it will eventually help us to develop the emotional strength we need to navigate through the ups and downs of life smoothly.

If you are keen on practicing emotional acceptance, both positive and negative, then here are few quick ways to get you started:

  • Realize that negative emotions are a part of life and the complete human experience.
  • Embolden yourself to be truthful and honest in how you define exactly what you’re thinking and feeling.
  • Welcome all difficult feelings with love, kindness and compassion towards yourself. Know that it’s okay to feel such emotions.
  • Practice ‘Deep Acting’. Instead of being in denial or pretending to be okay and putting on a mask, try to listen to yourself and feel the actual emotion. Let it express itself naturally. 
  • Start journaling on a daily basis. Make sure you honestly write down what you are going through mentally and emotionally without self-criticism or judgment.
  • Understand that you’re not the only person experiencing negative emotions. Every single person on earth needs to experience these. Moreover, such feelings are never temporary and always pass naturally.
  • Start practicing mindfulness meditation as it will help you become more self-aware, understand yourself better and live in the present moment.
The Horror Of Toxic Positivity: Why Positive Thinking Can Be Harmful

Let positivity brighten your life

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it.” – Hellen Keller

Positive thinking teamed with positive action can empower us to completely transform our lives. However, when you force that positivity on situations that require you to take a pause and observe your thoughts and feelings, it can easily turn toxic and make your life difficult.

Your emotions need your full attention. Avoiding emotions makes you superficial and prevents you from understanding yourself and unlocking your true potential. When you validate your emotions, you enhance your capability to effectively face reality as it is. It helps you accept yourself as you truly are. This allows you to become more psychologically, emotionally and spiritually more conscious and empowers you to build a better life for yourself.

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