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Toxic Positivity: Navigating Holiday Cheer

“We cannot selectively numb emotions, when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb the positive emotions.” 

What makes the holiday season challenging for most people is the idea that we should want to spend time with family and that we should be happy about it. If this is not the case, we can be critical of ourselves.


Phases like 'Tis the season to be jolly and the silly season, can put pressure on us to be overly cheerful even if we don't feel like it.


Toxic positivity refers to the excessive and unrealistic expectation of being positive all the time, even in situations where it may not be appropriate or healthy. During the holiday season, there can be a lot of pressure to be cheerful and happy, but it's important to navigate this good cheer in a way that is authentic and mindful of our own emotions and boundaries.



Toxic positivity is the idea that we should always maintain a positive outlook, even when we’re struggling or it feels like the world is burning around us.


The reality is that life is hard, there are bad things that happen in the world, and each of us will experience loss, pain, and challenges in our lives. That heaviness should be acknowledged, not brightsided.

When bad things happen in our lives or the world, it’s important to be able to acknowledge those for what they are. When there’s a natural disaster, a violent tragedy, or another racial injustice, it’s inappropriate to pretend that those problems aren’t happening or to minimise how harmful they are. 



Some examples of toxic positivity


Toxic positivity is anything that tries to hide the grief behind a fake smile. A few phrases and ideas that are examples of toxic positivity include:

  • “Good vibes only”

  • “Look on the bright side”

  • “It could always be worse”

  • “Just be grateful for what you do have”

  • “Don’t be so negative”

  • “There’s a silver lining”

  • “Just focus on the positive”

  • “Just be optimistic”

  • “God only gives you what you can handle”

  • “Don’t worry; be happy”


Some of the above phases can be helpful and can get us through some negative situations but it can be harmful if they mean that we ignore the reality of our situations and live in denial.



Here are some tips for navigating holiday cheer without falling into toxic positivity:


1. Acknowledge your feelings: It's okay to not feel happy and cheerful all the time, especially during the holiday season. Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel your emotions, whether they are positive or negative. Suppressing or denying your true feelings can lead to emotional exhaustion and burnout.


2. Set realistic expectations: The holiday season often comes with high expectations, but it's important to set realistic ones for yourself. Understand that not every moment will be perfect, and it's okay to have ups and downs. Embrace the imperfections and focus on what truly matters to you.


3. Practice self-care: Take time for yourself and prioritise self-care during the holiday season. Engage in activities that bring you joy and help you relax. This can include things like reading a book, taking a walk, or practicing mindfulness and meditation. Taking care of your well-being is essential to healthily navigating holiday cheer.


4. Surround yourself with supportive people: Spend time with loved ones who understand and respect your emotions. Surrounding yourself with supportive people can help create a safe space where you can express your true feelings without judgment. Avoid toxic individuals who dismiss or invalidate your emotions.


5. Practice gratitude without dismissing negative emotions: Gratitude is an important practice, especially during the holiday season. However, it's crucial to acknowledge that gratitude doesn't mean dismissing or ignoring negative emotions. You can appreciate the positive aspects of your life while still allowing yourself to feel and process any negative emotions you may be experiencing.


6. Set boundaries: It's important to set boundaries during the holiday season to protect your mental and emotional well-being. This may include saying no to certain events or activities that feel overwhelming, taking breaks when needed, and communicating your needs to others. Remember that it's okay to prioritise your well-being.


7. Seek professional help if needed: If you find yourself struggling with toxic positivity or navigating holiday cheer becomes overwhelming, don't hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist or counselor can provide guidance and support in managing your emotions and healthily navigating the holiday season.


Remember, it's okay to not feel cheerful all the time, even during the holiday season. Embrace your authentic emotions, practice self-care, and set boundaries to navigate holiday cheer in a way that feels genuine and healthy for you.



Finally, I read the book on attachment theory, Attached by Amir Levine a few years ago and I found an audio version on YouTube and I wanted to share it with you. Listen to it here!



I am looking forward to three weeks' holiday to rest and reset for the new year.

I hope that you are taking some time off work too.


Wishing you all the best for the holiday season

 Lots of hugs until next time.


Faith xoxo


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