By: Kristen Soinski
One thing I wish I could tell everyone is that it’s okay to feel negative emotions. In the past, I used to find myself pushing my struggles to the side because I felt I needed to be positive all of the time. We get so caught up in staying positive, just brushing things off, and thinking that we need to be happy all of the time. How many times has someone told you during a hard time, “Just stay positive”?
Contrary to popular belief, that isn’t always the best approach and can lead us to running our tires in the mud.
The term “toxic positivity” is something I hadn’t become aware of until a few years ago. According to Psychology Today, “toxic positivity refers to the concept that keeping positive, and keeping positive only, is the only right way to live your life. It means only focusing on positive things and rejecting anything that may trigger negative emotions” (Lukin K., 2019)
Now, I am not saying we should constantly be thinking and feeling negatively. However, it is crucial for our health to acknowledge all the things we feel: good and bad. When we avoid our more “unpleasant” emotions, we only make them bigger. Think of avoiding your feelings like avoiding an important deadline. The more we wait, the more we procrastinate, the more we avoid the more overwhelming and unbearable it becomes. Research shows that toxic positivity oversimplifies the human brain and how we process our feelings and emotions, and it harmful to our mental health. When we experience negative emotions, we can use it as an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, our needs, and build resiliency.
Here are my tips to get through the more challenging times and move forward in a positive direction:
1. Talk it out. If you have someone who you trust, talk to them! When we talk about our emotions out loud, not only does it give us a chance to reflect, but it may also help gain outside perspective on the current struggle you’re facing.
2. Embrace how awesome it is to be human. We, as humans, feel a large variety of emotions! If we didn’t feel, life would be a lot more bland. Acknowledge that you may be feeling down at the moment, but it isn’t always that way.
3. Validate others’ emotions. If someone comes to you to talk about a struggle, let them know what they are feeling is normal and totally okay.
4. Journal! When I am trying to process emotions, I like to journal and then reflect on what I wrote a day or two later. This helps me see what I felt in the moment, what I am feeling once I let the feelings marinate, and what I need to do to move forward.
5. Like always, allow yourself some grace. Don’t be too hard on yourself and avoid comparing to others’ struggles. We often times only see the highlight reel of those around us, and just remind yourself that everyone has bad days sometimes.
6. Lastly, seek help if you need it. There are many great mental health resources, such as therapy or apps, that can help you through difficult times!
What are your favorite ways to move forward in times of challenge? What are some ways you can improve your approach to reflecting on emotions?
Lukin, K. (2019, August 01). Toxic Positivity: Don’t Always Look on the Bright Side. Retrieved August 13, 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-man-cave/201908/toxic-positivity-dont-always-look-the-bright-side