Over the last decades, as Americans have grown sadder and lonelier by a whole host of measures, our employers have become obsessed with cheering us up. Google and many other companies have 'chief happiness officers,' and an army of researchers churns out advice on how to be happier and why we should strive to be so.
Of course, being happy is a fine goal (if also a problematic one - there are a lot of competing definitions of happiness), but according to a fascinating and timely new report in the Washington Post, the pursuit of happiness, if taken too far, can actually turn into harmful 'toxic positivity.'
It's a warning that's particularly resonant at a time when so many of us are trying desperately to cheer ourselves (and our teams up) in the midst of a pandemic but instead just sinking deeper into malaise despite our efforts. Maybe you're not chasing happiness wrong. Maybe the chase itself is contributing to your misery.
Yes, 'toxic happiness' is a thing.
Traditionally we think of toxic people as the moaners, complainers, manipulators, and drama queens that can add so much negativity to our days. These folks are definitely a serious problem, but WaPo's Allyson Chiu speaks to a number of experts who remind readers that it can be harmful to shove positivity in someone's face too.
"It's a problem when people are forced to seem or be positive in situations where it's not natural or when there's a problem that legitimately needs to be addressed that can't be addressed if you don't deal with the fact that there is distress or need," University of Michigan Ann Arbor psychologist Stephanie Preston tells Chiu.
Not only can unwarranted positivity prevent us from addressing the underlying causes of our unhappiness, it can also make us feel guilty about failing to feel cheerful. This is especially true when we put pressure on ourselves to feel upbeat.
Read the full article at Inc.