The term ‘toxic positivity‘ had recently emerged and rung louder than ever on social media in the face of marketing campaigns during the toughest months of the pandemic, urging everyone to be happy and positive, no matter what the situation is. And now, a study officially stated that the pressure of always pursuing happiness and trying to be happy can lead to creating impossible and unattainable goals.
The study, carried out by scientists at Netherland’s Tilburg University, stated that the societal pressure to pursue happiness ironically seems to have adverse effects on people’s psychological well-being. This is especially the case in countries that score high on the World Happiness Index, and have a higher bar for happiness. “There is a strong link between the feeling of needing to be happy and the extent to which people actually experience feelings such as sadness, gloom, fatigue or anxiety,” it said.
The cross-cultural research was conducted with over 7,400 participants in 4o countries. Elaborating on the link between societal pressure to be happy and psychological well-being, the study observed, “In the Netherlands (place 5 in the 2021 WHI), the relationship between the pressure to be happy and psychological well-being for most indicators is about twice as strong as, say, Uganda or Ukraine (places 119 and 110 in the 2021 WHI).”
We asked an expert to shed light on it. Kamna Chibber, head of department, Mental Health and Departmental Sciences, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, said, “It is important to bring a focus on acceptance of situations in life. Problems and experiencing distress on account of situations is normal and it is imperative to emphasise that while the goal is to experience joy, to stay positive and optimistic, it also includes embracing difficult experiences and emotions and not constantly striving to reject or deny their presence.”
She noted that acceptance requires one to turn towards, and not turn away, from situations. “Recognise that denying, distancing do not aid in the resolution. Instead, embracing the situation and acknowledging what it does to you, your emotions and thoughts, and how it impacts you is crucial to be able to move forward.”
“At the same time to maintain a stance of positivity, recognise the impermanence of the thoughts, feelings and even situations and utilise that as a way to appreciate the good that is there and that also help in the maintenance of a state of happiness/contentment,” she concluded.