Happiness, Optimism, or Positivity?

Some say that we should be happier, and we should be. Others say that it helps to be optimistic, again no questions from me, we should try to as much as possible. But where does positivity fit into things and which of the three is possibly better for us?


The state of being happy, an emotional state. Making the best of what you have rather than having the best there is. A feeling of contentment. Happiness is different for each of us, it is for me the final outcome, the fruit of our labour if you like. We cannot be happy all of the time but being as happy as we can is the best that we can hope for when times get tough. Or is it?

In her book, 'The Myths of Happiness', Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses the many factors involved in happiness. The overarching message is one that we already know, what makes one person happy may not make another person happy and it is doing more of what makes you happy that is of greatest benefit for us.

However, if you have unresolved challenges, you may need to get them sorted before you can become truly happy.


"Forever the optimist", always looking for the best in everything. It is said that optimists see the glass half full rather than half empty. Nevertheless, the glass remains with less than its total capacity. What about if we saw it as a glass that once emptied, could be refilled, because that is what it is.

Optimists, similar to those who explore happiness, are looking for the good in everything. Seldom do you hear an optimist say "Lucky we didn't die", most will say "What did I learn?"

Being optimistic may change your thoughts about a situation but it won't provide you with total control. Optimism could be viewed as hoping for the best whereas it might be better to prepare for the worst so that you increase the chances of a better outcome.

Conversely, preparing for the worst involves negative thinking, looking at what could go wrong rather than what could go right. Could this make you only look for negative things?


Positivity, similar to the above two states, goes further to involve doing things that makes us happy, steering our thoughts, and controlling or changing our emotions. Barbara Fredrickson examined positivity and found it doesn't just change the content of our minds, it also widens the span of possibilities. In her book, 'Positivity', Barbara shows us that science indicates that positivity doesn't just reflect success and health, similar to happiness and optimism, positivity also produces success and health.

Barbara lists ten forms of positivity; joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love. Doing any or all of these things in a meaningful way will help us greatly.

Positivity, in short, is doing what makes us happy and feeling the joy that it brings.

No matter what state you choose, happiness, optimism, or positivity, it should always be a positive one. Positivity may not be for you despite science suggesting otherwise, just trying to be happy may be enough to change you.

The challenge is though, your brain (and your mind) can tell the difference between what is genuine and what is not. A recent study found that insincere positivity puts us at risk of having a heart attack in the same way that anger does.

'Fake it until you make it' might help initially, then it is up to you to 'Make it, to make it'.

Let's talk!