Mental Health and Wellness: How hard is it to develop a POSITIVE outlook?

I'm often amazed by the sheer volume of negativity that seems to permeate our modern world.

It seems like we spend an extraordinary amount of time looking at tragedy and failure with an array of magnifying glasses... while such things as success and joy are relegated to "a footnote on page 74."


Now, I'm not suggesting that people should adopt a Pollyanna-ish eternally happy-bubbly attitude towards everything, I'm just considering the fact that we will never have "a better world" for as long as so many keep turning over every stone they find, in search of bad news.

The sad thing is... most people don't seem to care.


People especially don't care about things that might require them to engage in the process of creating their own happiness. We reach for quick shots of dopamine typically based in the negative. Joy is almost frowned upon, as a state of being... and there are those who'd insist that someone openly joyful is probably "faking it" and "not in touch with reality."

To wit, I am sitting here writing an article about having a positive outlook... and chances are it might get read 20-30 times... but if I were instead writing an article about "Parsley contains lead and will probably KILL you!" it would probably be read twenty thousand times.

I find it a little disturbing.

Actually... more than a little disturbing.

So much of our existence these days seems designed around profiting/benefiting from the demise and failures of others, rather than their successes. We endlessly obsess over things that result in worry and anxiety, while overlooking the things that make us happy. We tear down, rather than building up.

My wife and I spend a lot of time involved in — and writing for — the self-development and spirituality "industry." In that field, the negativity often takes the form of an endless glorification of people's "wounds" and "suffering," while those who seem to dance through life unscathed and unwounded are dismissed as "deceiving themselves" or "not having looked hard enough at their issues."


Somehow, it's almost like there's a thinly veiled subtext that life isn't "real" unless it's a miserable hell hole that perpetually beats the living daylights out of you. And yet? The entire industry is based around the notion of seeking and creating happiness!

Odd, no?

Developing and maintaining a positive outlook is remarkably difficult... because even though we're told that's what we're supposed to be striving for, the road is often paved with judgments largely designed to make someone who's actually happy feel like they have somehow "cheated" or "failed" to be real.

And sometimes we actually judge happy people negatively.

Think about it. How many times have you been part of a situation where someone said/thought "Here comes Barbara — she's always so annoyingly perky and happy. I can't STAND her!"


I remember some years back, watching a TED talk by Martin Seligman — regarded by many as the "father" of the positive psychology movement — in which he pointed out that the psychology industry has done a fine job of helping people out of depression... BUT simply being in a state called "not depressed" is not the same thing as being "happy," and we're doing a lousy job — as healers; as a society — at teaching people how to actually be happy.

And it's true. Society has virtually no support system that encourages staying in "happiness."

So often, life revolves not around striving to better ourselves... but around looking at something totally awful and patting ourselves on our collective backs because our own lives are better than "totally awful."


Similarly, our "energetic direction" often flows backwards: I meet so many people who are not seeking happiness, but instead are avoiding UN-happiness.

What a sadly low level aspiration!

I'll wrap this up with an afterthought about "happiness." Happiness is seldom sustainable, but I chose to use that phrase because most people are familiar with it. "Contentment" is perhaps a more sustainable state of being, in the long run. Contentment can often be reached out of a gratitude and mindfulness practice... when we stop focusing on the negative aspects of every situation ("fault finding") and instead find gratitude in the positive, contentment tends to show up quite readily.

Why not try it? You might like it!

Thanks for reading, and have a great remainder of your week!

How about YOU? Are you in pursuit of happiness? DO you feel content? Or do you find yourself spending a lot of time worrying about the negative things happening to you, and in the broader world? Do you have a gratitude practice? Comments, feedback and other interaction is invited and welcomed! Because — after all — SOCIAL content is about interacting, right? Leave a comment — share your experiences — be part of the conversation!


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Created at 20210202 22:42 PST



Happiness is hard to monitise


Parsley contains lead and will probably KILL you!"

Wooohoo - my next post !

...often takes the form of an endless glorification of people's "wounds" and "suffering,"

You've been reading too many post on here , haven't you? lol

while those who seem to dance through life unscathed and unwounded are dismissed as "deceiving themselves" or "not having looked hard enough at their issues.

I think it's worse than that, tbh - You're actually HATED for it.
I know this. lol. (mostly by the types you mention above - the self pitying 'poor me', black holes).

And sometimes we actually judge happy people negatively.

Mmmmm...I think you may be correct, sir!...What I wonder is that when you're called 'toxic', (hurt to my bones I tell ya!), does that mean they see 'happy and funny' as toxic? - If so, then what the hell does that make them, to even see it those terms?

Seriously though - I Do think there is far to much emphasis on 'happiness' - as though reaching it ,is a goal unto itself, rather than the accidental state that you find yourself by the choosing wisely in other area of your life.
It's not an end goal, it's an emotional state.
Make decisions in life that are more prone to put you in that place.


Your line "Here comes Barbara — she's always so annoyingly perky and happy. I can't STAND her!" reminded me of this old comic (the very first Peanuts):


Ah, back before he morphed into the constantly depressed kid who everyone considered a loser.

Anyway, I like your essay. Negative thoughts are both more attractive and easier, aren't they? I have done zazen for years. At the temple where I learned it we would often share afterwards, and it was always interesting that as we discussed watching thoughts come and go, the most common were negative thoughts. Even monks who had done zazen all their lives reported the same. I mean I suppose there is a reason why most of the lists of various things that we study in Buddhism are geared towards moving from negative thoughts and actions. I guess negativity is just a human bad habit, eh?

Keep up the good writing!