Is "toxic positivity" impacting your life?

by Jordan Green

If you’re trapped in a negative way of thinking, it’s time to drink some lemonade.

We’ve all heard the old cliché about folks who view their glasses as being half empty. And we’ve all heard that old advice about making lemonade when life gives you lemons.

I was reminded of these two starkly different ways of thinking while sitting in a college classroom a few weeks ago when someone started talking about “toxic positivity.”

What in the heck is that?

“Toxic positivity” is a term some people use to describe people whom they think are just too happy. People who shrug off the bad stuff in life and refuse to let it get them down.

I think that’s a great quality to have, personally. But some people in this world think too much positivity is a bad thing.

I’m completely the opposite. I think too much is still not enough.

Most folks seem to acknowledge that we live in a world with a lot of negative people. They are, as discussed, the folks who look at the empty half of their glass, ignoring the great-tasting eggnog in the lower half.

Well, maybe not eggnog. But I digress.

The truth is that, yes, many folks are living tough lives right now. They could have lost a spouse or loved one, a job or a multitude of other important life aspects. They could quite literally only have a half-full metaphorical “glass” because a big void has come up in their lives.

We need to empathize with them, and we need to help them get back into a positive way of living.

Being positive doesn’t mean we ignore the harsh realities and facts in our lives. Rather, it means we try to find something good in the situation and keep up our hope that the situation will work out for the best.

Sometimes, those tough situations can teach us valuable lessons and ultimately make us stronger. Take a friendship or relationship for example. A rocky stretch can seem like it’ll never end – like throwing away your connection with that person might be easier. In reality, once you effectively work through your differences, you’ll emerge stronger than before.

That same principle applies to jobs and school, too.

Most folks have had a boss or a teacher they just couldn’t stand. Maybe the boss or teacher is too tough, and maybe the person is just not friendly at all. But in my short years on this earth, I’ve found that tough bosses sometimes have good hearts under all of that gruff veneer. And sometimes, the teachers who make you study the most are incredibly passionate about changing young lives.

Not to say that’s a rule of thumb. Some hard-nosed bosses are just miserable people, and so are some cranky teachers. In those cases, however, they still teach you a valuable lesson; they’re a great example of how we should not behave and treat others.

Looking for good lessons in a bad situation is probably the best way to be positive. After all, bad life situations seem to be aplenty. So, as the other cliché tells us, we might as well start enjoying the lemonade we can make.

After all, negativity certainly won’t make our problems go away. But it certainly will make them worse. Studies show – go look ‘em up – that having a negative mindset is bad for your physical and mental health. That only compounds whatever existing problems you might have.

Being positive, however, has the opposite effects: better heart health, decreased anxiety and reduced risk of hypertension.

To me, negativity sounds toxic. And if being positive is so healthy, why has it been called toxic? It sounds like it ought to be the next health fad.

Learning to have a positive mindset takes time, and it comes mostly from having good influences. If you want to be more positive, hang around folks who are. Mentorship is powerful, and we’d all be better off by spending time with caring, compassionate, considerate, kind, happy people.

However, none of this is to say we should entirely avoid people who aren’t always positive.

Yes, some folks choose to be negative without good reason. They’re lazy, and they’re probably not worth your time or energy. But remember those folks we talked about just a little bit ago: those who have suffered the death of a loved one, financial shortcomings, you name it. These problems are real, and people need help getting through them.

My hope is that, by being empathetic listeners and remaining positive, we could help folks like them without becoming negative ourselves. In many cases, those folks might just need friends – someone to talk through legitimately saddening life situations. We can be a positive force in their lives if we’ll help.

Even if it comes at the cost of being labeled “toxic,” I’d rather be the most ridiculously positive person in the world than being even mildly negative. No, I am not an optimist who denies reality, but I’m sure not a pessimist who thinks it’ll never get any better.

I suppose you could call me a realist who does believe, however, in a world that will get better.

When it comes to positivity, too much really isn’t enough. Take a moment today to think about how you can take on a more positive mindset.

Despite what negative people will tell you, there’s no such thing as being too positive.

Even if your glass really is half empty, go ahead and make use of the lemons of life. At least the half of your glass that’s filled will taste great.