Happiness is an Inside Job

Optimism. Now, I'm not here to quote random famous people or give a motivational talk to anyone reading this. At least that's not my intention, but I wanted to talk about how important it is to be optimistic. All throughout life, you're told to be optimistic. To be positive. That positive thinking is key. And you think to yourself, "Okay, well that's great and all but I have other things to worry about," and that's it. It
almost becomes meaningless and none of it really affects you. People have always underestimated the power of positive thinking. The impact it has in your work, health, and life in general is a lot more significant than you think.

Don't believe me?

Okay, let me walk you through a scenario of what negative thinking does to your brain. Imagine you're walking through a forest and all of a sudden you see a tiger in front of you. So when it appears in front of you, your brain records this as a negative emotion, which in this case would be fear. And just a side note, it’s a proven fact that negative emotions program your brain to do a specific action in response to it. So now when the tiger comes in front of you, your response is to RUN. The rest of the world doesn’t matter at this point. You’re main focus is on that tiger and the fear it created and how you can get away from it. Basically what I’m trying to show here is, negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts. Within the moment of running away from the tiger, you may have had the option of climbing a tree, picking up a rock, grabbing a stick, or whatever it may have been- but your brain ignored it all because it seems irrelevant when there’s a tiger standing in front of you. Of course it’s a very practical instinct if you’re trying to get out of the situation alive, but when you compare it to the situations we’re faced with today, we don’t have to worry about running into tigers while taking a walk. But what we do have to worry about is that our brain is still programmed to respond to negative emotions the same way it responded to the tiger- by shutting out the outside world and limiting the options you see around you. Here’s another example! When you’re in a fight with someone, your anger and emotion might take over you to the point where you just can’t think about anything else. Or when you’re completely stressed out about everything you have to get done today, you have a really hard time to actually start anything because you’re stuck on how long your to-do list is. Or when you feel bad about not keeping up with your workouts or eating right, all you think about is how lazy and unmotivated you’ve become and how little willpower you have. The list just goes on. And in each case, you brain closes off from the outside world and focuses only on the negative emotions such as fear, anger, and stress- just like it did with the tiger.

First, let me describe two extreme sides when it comes to people's attitudes. There are some people out there who are annoyingly happy at any given time, you know the type. Something bad happens in your life and they send you those cheery notes with empty words about how everything happens for a reason. They fill the air with baseless claims about everything being for the best. It’s as if nothing bad has ever happened to these people and the only way they know how to include themselves in other people’s tragedy is by quoting greeting cards. You look at them like, “there’s no possible way they live in candy houses in enchanted forests.” But then again, maybe they do. Then you have those people who live from crisis to crisis. You know a lot of those too. Everything is always wrong in their life. If they get a new job that pays more, they’re complaining how crazy their boss is. They’re about to graduate, and they’re worried sick about not finding a job after. Even if they won the lottery, they’d be worried about the taxes. They are constantly trying to find bad in a situation that would normally be considered good. Life just always seems like a struggle for them. They’re the kind of people who are constantly thinking of the witch that lives inside their candy house and no matter what, her goal is to bake them.
Optimism is in the middle of these spectrums. Now, being optimistic doesn’t always mean you’re cheery and smiling 24/7. It’s when a person always has a positive mindset, or “looks on the bright side” of things. People like this are usually criticized for avoiding reality, but that’s wrong because being optimistic doesn’t mean you pretend life is always wonderful, it means you face reality. It’s genuine and not forced. Being positive isn’t always about how you look on the outside, I mean yeah couple smiles throughout the day can’t be bad for you but your voice doesn’t have to cheery and high-pitched. Your face doesn’t have to always be tensed together like a clown. It’s more about the mindset and what’s going on in your head. Do you work against yourself? Do you put yourself down? Or do you tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if you fail this time around because you’ll work twice as hard next time? That’s the sort of mentality that makes an optimistic. You accept the fact that there will be bad days, but also good days. It’s a right balance. When you’re grounded in reality, you know where you are and how far you need to go.

Let me start with why I think optimism is so critical if we want to live a happy, healthy life. There was a point in my life years back when I realized we really are what we believe and the stories we tell about our lives. This discovery wasn’t just some theoretical psychobabble, I was actually watching it happen to myself and the people around me. Thoughts do become actions. The ones who constantly told themselves they’d never find true love, have stayed single. The people who always complained about their financial issues just seemed to dig themselves in a bigger debt. On the other hand, the people who truly believed that they were strong eventually acted that way in heartbreaking situations. The people who believed that money wasn’t going to be a problem always seemed to have it. The people who believed that they were made to create stuff were doing just that. Everyone was working on ideas they had in their minds and in some way, became what they had always believed about themselves. The brain is a powerful thing and from psychology to neuroscience, there is a lot of evidence to the fact that we are what we think. Maybe the first step is accepting this as reality. And the reality of reality is, we’re making it up every day as we go along by what we think.

  1. Going back to what I mentioned before, thoughts become actions. So focusing on your thoughts is key- no more negativity. Once you really understand this concept, you start noticing how negative other people around you are and how they say things in a negative context. And I’m not saying you should go around correcting them, I don’t think they’d like that BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t show them the more positive version of whatever they say. 
  2. Know what your past doesn’t define your future. Just because something bad has happened to you before, it doesn’t mean everything else you do in life will turn out bad for you. Again, thoughts become actions. If you constantly tell yourself things turn out bad for you… Well, guess what’s going to happen? So don’t make a bad start turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy for a bad ending.
  3. This one has been very important for me, but getting rid of negative people in your life. I can’t stress how important that is because when you have negative people constantly hanging around you, it becomes you after a while. You can say “oh I won’t let that affect me” but it will in some way, sooner or later. So finding people that feed you positivity is very important.
  4. Laugh. Like I said before, no need to tense up your face like a clown but there is no reason to not have a good laugh every day.

Basically, do what makes you happy. Let that be the reason you smile and give off positivity to others. Life won’t always go smooth and happy but it’s the way you look at it that changes everything.



  1. Very true! Optimism isn't at all what people think it is. This gave a good perspective

  2. Happiness can be found inside ourselves!