Did you know that positive thinking can be harmful? Well, it can be, especially when it is toxic. Toxic positivity can impede your recovery progress and make you susceptible to relapse. 

Positive thinking and feeling positive are good traits for your overall well-being. However, positivity begins to turn toxic when it becomes an obsession. Being obsessively positive is an unhealthy coping mechanism that may mask your reality. 

What Is Toxic Positivity? 

Toxic positivity is being obsessed with the thought that you should be happy and positive across all areas and situations in your life. It is having a positive outlook or spin on everything occurring, even if a person, situation, or environment may be harmful to your mental, emotional, or physical health. 

Toxic positivity encourages you to avoid having any negative thoughts or emotions. It’s the mindset that only positive thinking is the solution to your problems. 

Examples of Toxic Positivity Statements

Some examples of toxic positivity include: 

  • “Everything is fine. Things always have a way of working themselves out.”
  • “There’s always a silver lining.”
  • “Things could be worse.”
  • “Positive vibes only.”
  • “Everything happens for a reason.”

Many of us have said these statements multiple times in our lives — to ourselves and others. However, these statements are unconsciously dismissing how we truly feel. 


Why Is Toxic Positivity Dangerous in Recovery?

Toxic positivity can hinder your recovery progress. Recovery is a lifelong journey, and toxic positivity can keep you from processing what you are truly feeling. It can also prevent you from seeking the help and support you need from others. 

Unhealthy Coping Mechanism 

One major reason toxic positivity is dangerous to someone in recovery is that it replaces one unhealthy coping mechanism with another. Many addictions can be attributed to the avoidance of memories, emotions, or trauma that people may not want to face. Instead of using a substance to mask these feelings, optimism and happiness are now used to hide negative feelings. 

Being honest with yourself may seem difficult, especially if you are in the early stages of recovery. However, as you continue to develop and refine healthy coping strategies, the process of having and releasing negative thoughts and feelings will become easier. 

Leads to Isolation 

If those in recovery are consistently exposed to toxic positivity from others, they may not continue to seek the help needed to manage their own sobriety. If you are in recovery and believe a statement of toxic positivity from another person about your recovery, you may start to believe that you can heal yourself if you’re strong enough. 

Feeling that you can tackle recovery on your own may lead to you not attending peer support group meetings or not seeking additional help from medical professionals for anxiety or depression. 

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Toxic Positivity Warning Signs

Some common warning signs that you are feeling the effects of toxic positivity include: 

  • Masking or hiding how you are really feeling with yourself or others
  • Feeling shame or guilt for having negative thoughts
  • Having an “it’s fine” or “it is what it is” attitude or approach to people or circumstances that have hurt you
  • The only emotions you show to those in your support community are happiness and optimism

Preventing Toxic Positivity

At times, recovery can be difficult. You will want to be and remain positive when challenges or obstacles arise. Being positive and happy are productive feelings, and there are ways that you can be positive without being toxic. 

A few techniques you can use to prevent toxic positivity include: 

#1 Be Honest About Your Feelings

Instead of ignoring feelings of negativity or grief, allow yourself the freedom to process your true feelings. The goal is to accept how you feel, process those feelings, and do the work needed to feel better or place yourself in a better situation.

#2 Support Yourself and Others 

Rather than simply saying, “Things will turn out okay,” or “Only positive vibes,” look for tangible ways to find support for yourself or offer support to others. 

#3 It’s Okay to Pivot

When something is not working out in your life or pursuing something that may not be in your best interest, it is okay to move in a different direction that may better suit your interests. 

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Overcoming Toxic Positivity

In recovery, more than likely, you will experience toxic positivity. However, with help from medical professionals and support peer groups, you will learn to recognize toxic positivity and how it may affect you and your recovery process. You will also develop healthy coping skills to combat toxic positivity and cultivate ways to be positive to yourself and others without being toxic. 

Toxic positivity consists of being consumed by optimistic thoughts in all areas of your life. This is dangerous for those in recovery as toxic positivity is an unhealthy coping mechanism. Toxic positivity can also cause those in recovery to become isolated if they feel guilt or shame because of their negative thoughts. Being positive and happy are productive feelings. To keep your positivity from becoming toxic, always remember to be honest with yourself and others, learn to offer support in tangible ways, and know it’s okay if something does not work out. If you need more information on dealing with toxic positivity while in recovery, or if you need help being honest with yourself and developing healthy coping strategies, please give Hawaii Island Recovery a call today. You can reach us at (866) 390-5070. We specialize in helping those recovering from addiction realize their potential to experience the abundance of life. 

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