Toxic positivity can be attributed to “insincere” positivity, which is detrimental to our mental well-being. As Dr. Zuckerman states, it is “the assumption, either by one’s self or others, that despite a person’s emotional pain or difficult situation, they should only have a positive mindset.” Optimism can be considered an “attractive behaviour in people that makes them seem more well-adapted,” said Dr. Preston, who specializes in empathy, altruism, and the way emotions affect behaviour. 

This topic is especially integral to discuss during the ongoing pandemic. In one survey, 40.9% of respondents reported at least one adverse mental or behavioural health condition, including symptoms of an anxiety disorder or depressive disorder. During a time where people are more susceptible to developing a mental health condition, we must not be persuaded by forms of toxic positivity in our aspirations of recovery. 

Social media is flooded with toxic positivity that intends to lift people’s spirits. We are embraced by suggestions such as, “pursue a hobby” or “you have so much time—make use of it.” These notions are valuable ways for people to be engaged in their community and stay connected with themselves and their passions during the pandemic. However, “putting one foot in front of the other is an accomplishment for many during this global pandemic,” as Dr. Karoll states. 

To refrain from a mindset that is often regulated by toxic positivity, individuals must realize that this pandemic naturally causes interferences in their schedules and lives, thus amounting to stress at times. It is equally important to full-heartedly experience emotions, and then take measures to support oneself. One way to do this is by connecting with mental health resources. As per a UCLA study, writing things down can “be putting feelings into words [and] reduce[s] the intensity of emotions such as sadness, anger, and pain.”

Our word choices and thought patterns can greatly affect our approach toward supporting others. Instead of saying, “it could be worse,” say, “what are some positive things that you could surround yourself with?”. When these steps are acknowledged in a person’s path to rehabilitation, without the hindrance of toxic positivity, they can truly digest their experiences and grow.

Moving forward as a generation, it is necessary for us to acknowledge traits of toxic positivity.

We must hold compassion for those who exhibit forms of toxic positivity and with the right amount of advocacy and learning, they can diverge away from this. We as a society must also acquaint ourselves with the tools we need to properly address these issues. We should encourage people to express and feel their emotions without feeling the burden of having to suppress them. We must create an environment that encourages feeling comfortable with the idea of being sad until one is able to reach happiness.