Photo courtesy of Sophia Novela

An example of toxic positivity.


The Couch examines a topic relevant to mental health and human relationships– a breakdown of some common challenge to our mental health.


       During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were quarantined inside their homes for over a year. Regardless, life and school had to go on. Many teachers during this time had tried to maintain a positive attitude, constantly saying things through their screens like  “Everything is going to work out.” Lisa Comerford, Psychology Teacher, began to notice that despite the positive air, there was a noticeable exhaustion among the students. They never interacted even through the chat log. However, instead of repeating the same mantra as the others, she took a different approach.

       “Ok, I know things are tough as of now. Why don’t we take a few minutes to just vent and complain and get all our negativity out?”

       The chat lit up immediately with the frustrations of the pandemic. About losing time with their friends about being cooped up in their rooms.

       The class said it was one of the best ever, afterwards.

       Everyone likes being happy, I think no one is denying that. People look forward to being able to go home and relax and enjoy something other than work. Positivity and optimism are often seen as good things to have. However, like with all things, positivity can be taken too far. 

       According to Psychology Today, “toxic positivity” is a term used to describe the concept that being positive and ONLY positive in terms of emotion and focus is the right way to live your life, rejecting anything that may invoke negative emotions.

       It’s unknown when Toxic Positivity was first recognized and documented. It appears to be a relatively new term. When Jason Sachlis, Social Studies Teacher, was asked about the concept, he stated, “I would imagine for the majority of our community this will seem like either a new concept or at least a new label on a familiar concept.”

       When asked about the topic of Toxic Positivity, Comerford explained Toxic Positivity like this: “My understanding is that it is a sort of environment in which everything is just always ok and we have to act like everything is ok and see the positive side of everything, even if things are not going well or people are unhappy, we just kind of power through and say ‘it’s all gonna be ok’ and just not giving any respect or concentration or attention to the fact that people may be suffering or may be struggling.”

       According to, signs of Toxic Positivity include a feeling of guilt over experiencing negative emotions, often leading to you bottling them up inside, a blatant denial of problems you might be facing, and dismissive attitude towards others who are experiencing painful emotions. To others around you it can come across as you having a distinct lack of empathy for their situation, or just shaming or chastising others for their painful experiences.

       During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people on social media constantly put people down due to being scared of the virus and it hurting their family members, possibly out of a denial of anything being wrong. In an article about toxic positivity in the Star Tribune by Kevin Burger, he recounts the story of a college student who was assaulted and constantly encountered the positive attitude when trying to cope with what happened, despite being noticeably distraught.

       A healthy mindset would be to allow yourself the ability to feel the emotions even if they are rather uncomfortable to sit with. Many mental health experts advise talking to someone about the emotions you feel is a wonderful way to cope with emotions that are uncomfortable, as shown when Comerford had asked the students to simply vent about what they disliked about virtual schooling. Negative emotions are part of being humans, even if they are painful, and without them, the saccharine feel of being happy can become sickening.