For the past few years, we’ve been told to look on the bright side. Especially as real estate agents, positivity often comes with the job. But can too much positivity turn toxic?

In the real estate industry, we tend to favor positivity. If this means ignoring a pandemic — then that’s what we do. If this means not noticing the smoke-filled skies or the crunchy brown heat-baked, dry lawn, that’s what we do.

The pandemic isn’t a problem for those who aren’t sick or don’t know anyone who has died from COVID-19. Hospitals that are at capacity are not a problem for people who do not need hospitalization.

It’s always a good time to buy or sell real estate. And as real estate professionals, we have to keep a positive attitude to be successful in sales and in life.

Positivity is supposed to make problems vanish without discussion or thought. We dismiss anything that’s negative so we can focus only on what we find to be positive. The people who don’t share our positivity should be ignored. We do our best to avoid them so that we can surround ourselves with people who see the empty cup as one that’s overflowing.

A negative person will state a fact: “The drought has killed the grass.” A positive person will just change the subject.

While we all go about our days in a positive way, it’s important to remember that the pandemic has taken lives. The holidays will be hard for those who are used to celebrating them with family members who died this past year.

While real estate agents are having the best year ever, there are people who aren’t. There may even be real estate agents who are having a rough time. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be the only agent in an office who isn’t having the most terrific year.

There are people who have been experiencing a special kind of hell for the past two years. Their lives have changed in ways that are not welcome or positive.

According to research from Boston University, “depression among adults in the United States tripled in the early 2020 months of the global coronavirus pandemic, jumping from 8.5 percent before the pandemic to a staggering 27.8 percent.”

Subsequent research from Boston University School of Public Health shows that the elevated rate of depression has continued in 2021, and has worsened, climbing to 32.8 percent and affecting one in every three American adults.

So, it’s possible that some real estate professionals are suffering from depression. It could even be someone in your office. Yes, even someone who’s having the “best year ever.” People who are not happy might not be depressed; they may be experiencing trauma or sadness because of the pandemic. Human beings have a range of emotions, and happiness is just one of them.

See these people, hear them, and be there for them; join the conversation if you can.

On a personal note: I suffer from seasonal affective disorder, which can lead to serious depression. Being positive doesn’t help at all. What does work? I have a multispectrum light, and if I sit under it for about 20 minutes each morning, I feel better all day. I did not believe it would make a difference, but it does.

My dad also suffered from seasonal affective disorder, but he always saw depression or any kind of mental illness as a sign of weakness. He did his best to stay positive while he was depressed, and he was depressed every December for most of his long life. He never understood why positive thoughts wouldn’t make the sadness go away.

In short, positivity can be taken to a level where it becomes toxic. Toxic positivity happens when we dismiss negative emotions and respond with reassurances rather than empathy. The person is somehow blamed for how they feel.

As The Washington Post reported in August of 2020, given the rise in mental health problems, “adding toxic positivity to the mix may only exacerbate the rising tide of negative emotions by preventing people from working through the serious issues they’re experiencing in a healthy way, experts say.”

And yet, we see it everywhere. Like in Facebook groups, which seem to be the headquarters for toxic positivity. From “think positive” to “no bad days,” the internet is full of uplifting quotes and phrases that are meant to inspire positivity in a helpful way. Everything happens for a reason. Everything will “work out.”

It’s as if there isn’t room for a whole range of human emotions. There’s only room for happiness and joy. No one, no matter what they tell you, is happy all the time. That just isn’t a thing.

No one chooses depression. Depression isn’t a choice any more than cancer is. Both are life-threatening, and both can be diagnosed and treated. Neither should be ignored, and neither will go away if we think happy thoughts.

We are sharing a trauma that’s having an impact on all of, us even if we don’t pause to acknowledge it. For some people, the holidays just make it worse. Not everyone has or wants a life that looks like the holidays in the movies.

Sadness — just like happiness — is an honest human emotion, and it’s only human to be sad sometimes, even during the holidays. If sadness persists or worsens or interferes with selling real estate, please consult a doctor or a mental health professional. And if you see or know someone struggling, connect them to professional help.

Teresa Boardman is a Realtor and broker/owner of Boardman Realty in St. Paul. She is also the founder of

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