Life can be hard sometimes and it can be easy to be weighed down and overwhelmed. I have had people ask me how I stay positive and happy when things are hard. I've even had people say that I am too positive, that it must be fake. The truth is, I have struggled with severe depression and PTSD for just over ten years and have, therefore learnt strategies that help me cope with life and its ups and downs. So let's talk about positivity, negativity, toxic positivity and all the emotions that come along with them.
"How do you always seem so happy?"
I get asked this a lot. How can I have fun when I feel pretty awful? The truth is, having fun/smiling and feeling bad either physically or mentally don't have to be mutually exclusive. The saying "fake it til you make it" used to always annoy me but I am now a pretty strong believer in it. I find if I put on a smile and act happy (as much as possible) even when I may not be totally feeling it I can be pretty sure I will forget I'm putting it on soon enough. There's no other magic secret unfortunately, and it can often be easier said than done but even if I try and it doesn't quite work, I have lost nothing.
Toxic positivity vs being positive
Take yourself back to a time when you have confided in someone and told them you are feeling overwhelmed or upset and they have said something along the lines of "just don't think about it" or "let it go" or "you're thinking too negatively"... There's nothing worse right? No quicker way to make you feel completely invalidated for the way you are feeling. That's what I think of when I hear the words toxic positivity. You don't have to move on or forget about whatever is causing you to feel a certain way, that's not what being positive is all about in my opinion. Being positive is letting the light shine through even when you are surrounded by darkness. You don't have to forget you're in darkness or even move away from it if that is too hard, but do let yourself see the light every now and then.
You don't have to be happy all the time, that would be almost impossible, just as much as it would be impossible to be sad all the time.
Ol' mate Albus Dumbledore once said, "Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if only one remembers to turn on the light."
Over the past ten years I have had multiple mental health admissions and a few physical health challenges and if I have learnt anything it is that you can't just magic away your feelings, whether they are helpful or unhelpful (n.b. there is no such thing as good or bad feelings and emotions!!!). This doesn't mean, however, that you can't have a great time even when everything seems pretty dim. During my last hospital admission, for at least the first week, I probably cried 40 times a day. But the bits in between those 40 times of absolute despair were filled with cackling laughter and happiness. If you had seen me during those times you would have thought that I was unaffected by my illness, which certainly wasn't the case!
You are more than what has happened (or is happening) to you. Remember that feelings and emotions are not mutually exclusive from one another and let yourself see the light sometimes, without guilt.
Life is tough, but so are you!