As the holiday season draws near, we begin to see houses streaming with decorations of pumpkins and ghosts, then soon after Christmas lights and reindeers. The external pressure to get into the holiday cheer and dress up in a costume or engage in various social activities has us constantly wanting to adhere to the “Good Vibes Only” mantra we often hear. However, it is not realistic to be happy 100% of the time.
Toxic positivity refers to the concept that we should always remain optimistic in life. It rejects negative emotions of sadness and anger, and instills that we should push forward with feelings of joy and cheer, which can cause us to feel a lot worse.
The holiday season is wrapped around traditions and events with loved ones, or in many cases highlights the absence of them. Not everyone has the means to be around family and friends, especially in the face of the pandemic. They may still be uncomfortable with large gatherings, could be struggling financially and can’t travel, or may be missing a loved one that’s not here. Whatever the reason is, if you are surrounded by constant happiness, it may be hard to deal with your own negative feelings. So, what should I do?
Validate emotions. What are you feeling? Name those emotions even if grief and fear are coinciding with happiness and joy. It is necessary to maintain a balance in order to address these feelings through healthy coping mechanisms. A good idea can be to write them down in a journal, or speak them out loud.
Learn about yourself. What are you comfortable with? Set healthy boundaries with yourself and your loved ones about what is okay and not okay. Create a social plan and be mindful about who you want to spend your time with. Always remember that it is okay to take a break for yourself as well.
“When we show up fully, with awareness and acceptance, even the worst demons usually back down. Simply”
– Dr. Susan David, Psychologist from Harvard Medical School
When approaching the holidays, give yourself space and time to process a situation before taking action. Make clear statements in a calm and direct way and know your limits when thinking if you should dress up for halloween, cook a favorite dish on a busy schedule, or be present at that one holiday party. Remember that it really is okay to not be okay all the time, and enjoy the holiday season at your own pace.
Campbell-Sills, L., Barlow, D. H., Brown, T. A., & Hofmann, S. G. (2006). Effects of suppression and acceptance on emotional responses of individuals with anxiety and mood disorders. Behavior Research and Therapy, 44(9), 1251–1263.
Cherry, K. (2022, September 28). What is toxic positivity? Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-toxic-positivity-5093958
David, S. A. (2017). Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. Penguin Life.
Waller, A., & Vincze, M. (n.d.). Toxic positivity – too much holiday cheer. Clear Path – Your Roadmap to Health & Wealth. other, Transamerica Institute. Retrieved from https://www.wypr.org/show/clearpath-your-roadmap-to-health-wealth/2021-12-14/toxic-positivity too-much-holiday-cheer.
About the Author: Ashley Carreon currently works as a Behavior Therapist in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology, Physiology, and Behavior and a minor in Psychology from University of California, Davis. Ashley is interested in understanding intersectionality in mental health, and is planning to pursue a Master’s degree.