What is healthy optimism

The hackneyed glass metaphor describes this notion quite well. Remember, a pessimist thinks the glass is half empty, while an optimist thinks the glass is half full? Please note: both of them are not inventing anything. They simply register the fact and form their expectations accordingly. An optimist doesn’t get upset because the glass isn’t filled to the brim. He is satisfied with at least this amount of water and sees the opportunities that it provides.

Artyom Stupak

Psychologist, expert in the development of emotional intelligence.

Healthy optimism is the ability to see prospects in personal and professional life, relationships with people. The ability not to focus on the negative, but to constantly look for opportunities to realize one’s abilities, desires and aspirations. Spend your inner emotional energy not on criticizing the world around you and dissatisfaction with the current situation, but on goals, plans and actions to change your life for the better.

An optimist does not persuade himself that there are no problems, he sees them perfectly. Just don’t consider it the end of the world. Even if things are pretty bad, he believes the future can be good and uses that as a prop.

Pyotr Galigabarov

Practicing psychologist, member of the Association for Cognitive Behavioral Psychotherapy.

Healthy optimism is the perception of the world and oneself, taking into account the cognitive distortions inherent in people and their personal patterns of behavior. In this case, a person is free to change behavior in a given situation, maintain flexibility without losing respect for himself and others.

He understands that reality is not always pink, cheerful and cheerful. He is more of a realist, believing in his own strength to endure what can be endured.

Research confirm: optimism is good for physical and mental health. People who know how to keep faith in the best, solve problems more effectively and get out of stressful situations. There is evidence that their quality of life is higher. So cultivating healthy optimism is a good strategy.

How healthy optimism differs from toxic positivity

As we found out, an optimist is just a realist who does not lose hope, who adequately perceives the situation, its risks and himself in it. But any idea can be spoiled by excessive zeal – even the desire to maintain a positive attitude.

Healthy optimism makes life easier and more joyful. But it is easy to confuse it with a toxic positive that poisons life and can lead to negative consequences for the psyche. At first glance, the difference between them is small: at the heart of the desire to see the good in everything. However, toxic positivity has critical signs that distinguish it from optimism.

Ban on emotions

Often the desire to find at least some pluses in everything leads to the fact that a person completely forbids himself to experience the so-called negative emotions: anger, sadness, fear, and so on.

Anna Miller


In a healthy way, it is necessary to live all the emotions and feelings that come. Psychologists do not have emotions with a minus sign. Every emotion and feeling is important for life, for wholeness.

The prohibition against living negative moments is similar to the choice that sounds like “I choose to live only during the day” or “I choose to only inhale – no exhale.”

Toxic positivity suggests that if you feel a conditionally negative emotion, then you are not coping. I should be happy all the time, but then I fell apart, how is it possible! Moreover, it is not so easy to cope with feelings, because this is a natural response to a particular event. Therefore, a person begins to suppress them, blame himself, be ashamed. Naturally, this only makes things worse.

Artyom Stupak notes that this can even affect health: “If we deliberately forbid ourselves to give a negative assessment of surrounding events, no matter how we see problems or pump ourselves with positive affirmations, then such a strategy is fraught with psychosomatic diseases.”

Devaluation of other people’s emotions

A person forbids himself to experience negative feelings and suffers from this. Naturally, he will not be able to calmly look at how others shamelessly cry, grieve, get angry. And therefore, a toxic positivist forbids living negative emotions and his surroundings. So if his friend gets into trouble, he will only hear “just stop getting upset, you need to think positively”, “it’s not all that bad, your problems are nothing compared to …”, “think positive”.

But this, firstly, does not help. There are vanishingly few cases when a person was told to “think about the good”, he started and everything got better. Secondly, as we have already found out, emotions must be lived.

According to scientiststhe exclusion of negative emotions from communication can worsen psycho-emotional health and contribute to the progression of depression.

Marina Reshetnikova

Psychologist, consultant of the digital medical service “Doctor Nearby”.

The interlocutor, setting a person to positive, skips the first and most important stage of complicity – compassion, sharing complex feelings. From this one gets the feeling that a person is not understood, they refuse to accept his problems. The result is sadness and anger.

Problem denial

Banning emotions is only half the battle. It is much more effective, in terms of toxic positivity, not to acknowledge the whole problem.

The intention here is well described by the English expression fake it till you make it – “imitate it until it becomes a reality.” It seems that if you pretend that everything is fine, then sooner or later it will really happen. And in case of minor difficulties, it can even work. But with more serious troubles, most likely, everything will only get worse.

Julia Chaplygina

Clinical psychologist, neuropsychologist.

A person is not honest with himself or with others. He does not admit that it is difficult for him now, that he cannot cope. The same property does not allow to see the situation in its true light. As a result, all mental energy is wasted on maintaining the image of a “never discouraged person”, instead of going to solve the problem.

Unwillingness to notice the difficulty, to understand it leads to the fact that a person does not look for solutions, does not look for weaknesses and strengths. That is, in fact, does not take responsibility, shifting it to a certain set of circumstances, which should change everything for the better. He just needs to believe in the best. And this brings us to the next point.

mystical thinking

Healthy optimism means that a person faces problems and looks for ways to cope with them. That is, he takes responsibility for the outcome of events, which requires a certain courage. He knows that just hoping for the best is not enough, you also need to act.

Toxic positivity goes well with shifting responsibility. The Universe, higher powers or the Moon in Capricorn should come to the rescue. However, retrograde Mercury or evil envious people are usually to blame for failures. You have to think only good things about yourself.

Artyom Stupak


Toxic positive is built on a blind faith in the best without any objective reasons for this. People with such an attitude tend to get carried away with esoteric books, in which the main idea runs like a red thread – what you radiate is what you receive. After reading such opuses, a person even in obviously negative situations tries to find something positive. At a minimum, he convinces himself and others that it was “a useful and necessary experience from the Universe.”

That’s just from problems, as we remember, does not relieve.

Break from reality

In an effort to see only the positive, the toxic positivist is more likely to believe in illusions.

As Artyom Stupak notes, healthy optimism is built on the psychological and emotional maturity of the individual, on an objective perception of reality. Those who are constantly on the positive, as a rule, do not want to see life as it is. They are not able to assess the situation from different angles, see all the pros and cons, and on this basis make an informed decision. Seeing only what you like is a sign of a childish, teenage consciousness.

What to do to stay optimistic without toxicity

It is generally accepted that optimism or pessimism is such an innate characteristic of a person. But it is not so. Our perception of the world is influenced by many factors. For example, habits.

Anna Miller


There is such a thing as habitual emotions. A person tends to live those feelings to which a habit has been developed. For example, in the family it was customary to experience dissatisfaction for any reason. The child, becoming an adult, unconsciously repeats this pattern.

Being an optimist can and should be learned. And for this it is worth training to see not only the bad, but also the good. To do this, Julia Chaplygina offers an exercise: every evening, remember and write down 10 good things that happened to you today. The worse the day, the more important it is to complete this task. As the expert notes, our brain is aimed at first of all noticing the bad. It’s a survival mechanism. We pay for it with a bad mood. Intentionally remembering the good, we help the brain to reconfigure into an optimistic mode.

In order not to slide into a toxic positive, when you are ready not to look, but to invent good things, Artyom Stupak advises you to find logical arguments and facts that confirm your positive attitude towards the situation, prospects and opportunities. If you are prone to strong emotions, it may be worth delaying the assessments. Do not block feelings, but let them subside.

And, of course, one positive attitude is not enough. It is important to be able to take responsibility for your life and use the strength and support that optimism gives you for accomplishments. To believe in the best and hope that you will be rewarded for this alone is not enough.