Demystifying “Toxic Positivity”: The Science of Empowering Thoughts

Demystifying “Toxic Positivity”: The Science of Empowering Thoughts

As a motivational speaker and mindset coach, I’ve spent years empowering individuals and teams to reach their highest potential. But let’s set the record straight—I don’t preach toxic positivity. Instead, my approach is rooted in neuroscience, metaphysics, and practical application.


What I Do Differently

Unlike those who shout “just be positive” and exit, I delve into the complex web of human emotions, brain chemistry, and how thoughts manifest into physical and emotional states.


The Neurochemistry of Thought

Our thoughts trigger chemical reactions in our brains. Positive, empowering thoughts lead to the production of serotonin, often termed the “happy chemical.” Serotonin is critical in regulating mood, emotion, and sleep, among other functions. Low levels of serotonin are commonly linked to depression, anxiety, and neurodevelopmental disorders like ADHD and autism.


The Power of Positive Affirmations

In a 2018 study I conducted with neuroscientist Dr. Marina Chirco, we used neurofeedback to understand the impact of affirmations on the brain. Our subject, Amy Thomason, was prepared with neurofeedback nodes on her scalp to monitor brain activity.

When Amy vocalized negative thoughts, we observed heightened activity in the amygdala, the brain’s “fear center.” In contrast, positive affirmations activated her prefrontal cortex—the area linked to planning, decision-making, and moderating social behavior. This is the part of the brain that lights up when we envision our dreams, hopes, and positive future scenarios.


How This Relates to Mental Health

The more we can activate our prefrontal cortex while inhibiting the amygdala, the more we can naturally increase serotonin levels. For individuals with low serotonin, especially those with ADHD, autism, or other neurodevelopmental disorders, this is a game-changer.


Let’s Break the Culture

We’re conditioned to think that talking about how bad things are will somehow make us feel better. This is a cultural fallacy that only perpetuates negative cycles, leading to deteriorating mental health.


Final Thoughts

The next time someone dismisses the importance of mindset as “toxic positivity,” remember this: mindset isn’t about ignoring the negative. It’s about focusing on what we can control and change, scientifically enhancing our mood, and empowering ourselves to face life’s challenges head-on.

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