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By Steve McCann

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the world around us an extremely negative place. 255 million people have lost their jobs, more than 4 million people have died, and 40% of Canadians say they’re suffering a mental health crisis. Understandably, people the world over are looking for an outlet of positivity, and in the process, are getting shortchanged by what experts refer to as “toxic positivity”.

That toxic positivity has turned into a multibillion-dollar business. Doormats, baby onesies, embroidery patches, journals – all splattered with catchy positive energy phrases. You can even spend 20 bucks on “positive energy spray”. People buy this stuff.

Then there’s social media. Instagram influencers and YouTube stars are making a killing with their positivity posts. One influencer shares “tips to change your life” with her nearly 1.5 million subscribers. Another Instagram starlet is selling “therapy” sessions for $25 per session.

What do the actual experts say? Brett Ford, assistant psychology professor at the University of Toronto says there’s value to experiencing negative emotions. Suppressing stress, anger, sadness, and loneliness is unhealthy. Trying to convince yourself everything is fine is the equivalent of painting over rust. It can even prolong suffering and make things worse.

That’s not to say you should do away with positivity and be a downer. There’s value to a glass half empty, and a glass half full at the same time. It’s OK to feel sad about sad things, or being frustrated and angry at the things that tick you off. It’s worthwhile to see the potential and opportunity in difficult situations.

As for those annoying, flashy catchphrases coined by the toxic positivity movement? Try these on, instead:

· “That must be really hard.”

· “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”

· “That really sucks, is there anything I can do to support you?”

See the difference? Be the difference.


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