Cultivating a positive mindset can improve a teenager's mental health. A positive mindset focuses on traits like gratitude, optimism and hopefulness. A positive attitude can help a teenager navigate anxiety and bouts of sadness.
At the same time, there is a version of positivity that is not healthy. Toxic positivity is a mindset where one rejects or denies the negative parts of life, including stress and other negative emotions and experiences. A study from Jonn Hopkins University shows the positive benefits of healthy positivity. And the negative effects of toxic positivity can take a real toll on a teen's mental health.
Here are a few examples of toxic positivity:
Teenager: "I'm having a really bad day." Toxic Response: "Don't complain. You have so much to be thankful so you shouldn't ever feel this way!"
Teenager: "I'm really struggling with my brother. I don't feel like he respects my privacy and is always annoying me. Toxic Response: "Your brother is blood. You have to get along no matter what."
Teenager: School sucks!" Toxic Response: "You have no reason to complain. You attend some of the best schools around."
Ways to Avoid Toxic Positivity
So how exactly do we help our teen avoid toxic positivity while not dwelling on the negative? Below are some suggestions that can help.
1. Happiness Includes Healthy Negative Emotions
It's really not possible (or healthy) to pursue feelings of happiness with no corresponding negative emotions. A teen's day is filled with opportunities to feel concerned, sad, remorse and other healthy negative emotions.
Focusing solely on happiness creates unrealistic expectations that the teenager cannot attain. This can create a cycle where the teen feels worse about themselves when they cannot attain the perfect level of bliss.
This is not to glamorize unhealthy negative emotions. Teen anxiety, teen depression, etc. can be real issues that need to be explored and addressed. The point is that some healthy negative emotions are natural and even necessary for a balanced teenage life.
2. Empathy vs. Invalidation
Teenagers are allergic to toxic positivity because they feel it invalidates their experience. When parents or teachers respond to genuine complaints without responding with empathy, validating the teens experience, and only responding with the positive spin, this can contribute to the teen feeling dismissed and ignored.
Providing empathy and validating the teen's experience is not agreeing with everything the teenager feels but trying to understand their perspective. Empathy is reached by talking with the teenager and seeking to explore their point of view.
Instead of only responding with positivity, open up a dialogue to understand what they are really going through. Then the positivity will have more meaning.
3. Practice Healthy Positivity
The best way to avoid toxic positivity is to practice healthy positivity. Healthy positivity is all about staying flexible and open to good experiences while acknowledging difficult emotions or experiences.
Encourage your teen not to shut out the negative but to be more mindful of the positive. Here are a few ways you can encourage your teen to practice healthy positivity:
Keep a gratitude journal
Ask them to highlight at least one positive of their school day
Encourage your teen to see difficult experiences from more than one angle
Teach your teen to use positive self-affirmations to counter some of their automatic negative thinking
Katy Teen & Family Counseling: Providing Teen Therapy & Family Counseling in Katy, Tx & Houston
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have 50+ years of combined experience in providing teen counseling and family therapy. Our teen therapists can help your teen and family restore the hope and happiness you deserve in life.
If you are ready to start the road towards restoring hope and happiness, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling, PLLC.
Meet with one of our teen therapists
Take that first steps on your path of restoring hope and happiness in your life
Other Teen Therapy, Family Counseling, & Young Adult Therapy Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At our Katy, Tx location of Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we have experienced therapists that can help. In addition to teen therapy, young adult counseling, and family therapy, we also provide marriage counseling and couples therapy.
Below are other services we provide at Katy Teen & Family Counseling:
Board Certified Neurofeedback
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
About the Author
Quique Autrey is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC). Quique specializes in teen therapy, young adult counseling, couples therapy, and marriage counseling. Quique has helped others overcome challenges that include trauma, PTSD, depression, anxiety, social anxiety, panic attacks, ADHD, and more.
Quique views each individual through that lens and provides therapy for the family system which includes teen therapy, young adult counseling, family counseling, marriage counseling & couples therapy.
Quique also has a passion for helping teens, young adults, and adults who may be on the Autism Spectrum. He has a talent for connecting with and helping people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
If you're ready to start your healing journey in teen therapy, you can call us at 346-202-4662 or email us at email@example.com.