Some days it seems like everywhere you go is a hashtag spewing some “toxic positivity” slogan: #goodvibesonly. #everythinghappensforareason, #justbepositive, #yougotthis.
You know what I’m talking about, those #positivevibes that encourage you to “get over it” or “look on the bright side” and ignore your situation and your feelings. And it feels like there’s been a resurgence in the “toxic positivity” in the universe known as social media since the start of the pandemic. While there’s nothing wrong with having a positive attitude or mindset, “toxic positivity” — that act of ignoring or downplaying the negative and forcing yourself to always be positive — can actually be harmful; making people feel ashamed or guilty about their negative, but completely justified, emotional reactions.
Rather than trying to always be positive, mental health professionals behind websites like VeryWellMind.com recommend focusing on “self-care” and taking steps to improve your situation by recognizing both positive and negative feelings as one of many ways to avoid the trap of toxic positivity.
And, as expected, especially at the start of the new year, there are a ton of books to help you get started and guide you on your journey. Here are three recently released books designed to help you create a “healthier you” by encouraging acts of gratitude, self-healing, and self-care.
“The Gratitude Explorer Workbook: Guided Exercises, Meditations, and Reflections for Cultivating Gratitude in Everyday Life”
By Kristi Nelson, a network for grateful living
Published by Storey Publishing
At first glance, gratitude and toxic positivity may look similar, but the intentions and results are completely different. Gratitude is an appreciative mindset in which the individual recognizes that both good and bad things happen to people. It’s a conscious effort to be grateful for what you have while acknowledging that life isn’t always perfect.
In “The Gratitude Explorer Workbook,” published by Storey Publishing, you’ll find tools — writing assignments, guided reflections, and creative activities — that help you “be present,” “seek perspective,” and “awaken opportunity.” In the chapter on ‘being present’, the reader is asked to spend time with themselves, to breathe and explore simple things, such as their senses, and to focus on the pleasure of discovery. In the chapter on ‘seeking perspective’, the activities focus on embracing insecurity, vulnerability and imperfection, while also focusing on feeling that you are ‘good enough’.
“Awakening to the great happiness of what is yours can stop the feeling that you need more,” writes author Kristi Nelson.
The final chapter aims to help the reader focus on gratitude while opening up to new experiences and possibilities. And to maintain that motivation and gratitude, the book includes empowerment stickers and postcards with inspirational quotes you can place where you need them.
‘The Little Book of Self-Healing: 150+ Exercises for Healing Your Mind, Body and Soul’
By Nneka M. Okona
Published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
I’m always a little wary of anything that proclaims, “You have the power to heal yourself!” So I was a little skeptical when that was the first thing I saw on the back of The Little Book of Self Healing. However, author Nenka Okona doesn’t jump on the New Age train and offers the next craze that promises a better you. Okona, a freelance journalist who has written about self-care, wellness, and grief for The Washington Post, Yahoo Life, Well+Good, Headspace, Yahoo Life, and other publications, assumes that self-healing is possible, but it won’t magically happen; that it takes work and even then the ‘path of self-healing is a fluid, ever-changing one’. Even more reassuring, on the first few pages of the book, she recommends making a reading list of books alongside this one to help you on your journey and talks about the need to learn from trusted sources and the need to discern whether a source is trustworthy (dig in to see if it has expert degrees or professional qualifications).
The book is divided into three sections and focuses on exercises for the mind, body and soul – most of which are practical advice. Suggested exercises are: (for the mind) allowing yourself to be selfish, setting and holding boundaries and giving yourself a break; (for the body) practice self-soothing, take an exercise class, and create a skincare routine; (for the mind) accept what you feel without judgment; planning deliberate solo activities and participating in a prayer circle.
But don’t worry, Okona doesn’t just have practical advice. She also has some more alternative suggestions, such as balancing your chakras, drawing a daily tarot card, using crystals to balance yourself, and letting go of low-vibration events. Overall, the book offers a great mix of traditional and alternative avenues to get you started on the path to spiritual and emotional well-being.
‘Self-care for black women: 150 ways to radically accept and prioritize your mind, body and soul’
By Oludara Adeeyo
Published by Adams Media, an imprint of Simon & Schuster
In the opening chapter of “Self Care for Black Women,” author Oludara Adeeyo writes, “Throughout history, black women have been the glue in their communities. We provide physical and emotional support to families, friends, and strangers. We work together to uplift “Neighbourhoods. We teach. We nurture. We build. And while we achieve great things, we are quietly being killed for not practicing proper self-care.”
Adeeyo, a psychotherapist and clinical social worker who has spent more than seven years as a writer and editor (as an associate web editor for Cosmopolitan and editor-in-chief of XXL), continues, “you can’t afford not to make time for that world you tells and your needs don’t matter, where black women are expected to suffer in silence, and where black women are disproportionately more likely to die from things like heart disease and maternal-related illnesses, self-care is more important than ever… Find 150 self-care activities here designed specifically for black women by a black woman to cultivate and renew your sense of mental, spiritual and physical well-being.”
Putting yourself – mind, body and soul – first, and learning to do so guilt-free, is the central focus of the book, and that includes processing feelings of burnout and ways to deal with micro-aggressions, inequalities in process and navigate healthcare and societal beauty standards.
In doing so, Adeeyo reminds readers, “You create an exceptional example for yourself and others of what self-love really means. You teach yourself and the next generations the importance of their own self-care. Radical self-care is a movement that cannot be missed. you can let go. You have to join in. The world depends on it. You depend on it.”