The “look on the bright side” cadence is popular in the U.S., but this outlook on life can be harmful to our mental health.

We have all probably heard these phrases said to us as some point – “It could be worse,” “Stay positive,” and “Look on the bright side.” Depending on the circumstances, this is called “toxic positivity”. According to a Psychology Today article, “toxic positivity refers to the concept that keeping positive, and keeping positive only, is the right way to live your life.”

Photo of a person drinking a cup of coffee and writing in a journal

While it is good to find silver linings in bad situations, it is not possible, or healthy for humans to be positive all the time. In fact, consciously suppressing negative emotions makes them grow, further increasing periods of intense stress, anxiety, or depression. Negative situations are going to happen in our lives. It is inevitable. When those situations occur, it is important to allow yourself to feel your feelings and remind yourself that it is okay to not be okay.

Here are some tips from a Healthline article on how to deal with toxic positivity when it creeps up in your life:

  1. Do not ignore your emotions – good or bad. Take time to acknowledge them and sit with them. It can also help to talk to someone about how you feel or write it down in a journal. Putting feelings into words can help reduce the intensity of negative emotions like sadness and anger.
  2. Listen and validate how others feel, as everyone is entitled to their own feelings. No one should ever feel ashamed for feeling a certain way, so it is important to acknowledge that even if they cope with something in a different way than you do, you still need to listen and validate them. Only when the situation is appropriate, should you offer suggestions. The safest way to navigate these situations though, is asking the other person what kind of support they need.
  3. If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed or exhausted, allow yourself time to rest or do something guilt-free.
  4. Stay realistic by starting with small, actionable steps. If you feel like you’re in a rut, starting a brand-new task will not help. Instead, expand on things you are already familiar with. Stick to what you know, as those activities require less cognitive effort and protects you from setting and not meeting any unrealistic expectations.
  5. Recognize toxic positivity messages from others and yourself. Any phrase that dismisses other genuine emotions is considered toxic positivity. And again, it is okay to find a bright side in a bad situation as long as you have allowed yourself to feel your emotions.

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Nebraska Public Transit is a program administered by the Nebraska Department of Transportation. NDOT’s Local Assistance Division is responsible for coordinating public transportation activities in Nebraska’s 93 counties and provides technical assistance as requested. NDOT receives money from the Federal Transit Administration and state transportation funds to fulfill requirements set forth by Nebraska Revised Statute 13-1204.

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