Why Your Brain is Wired for Pessimism—and What You Can Do to Fix It

We’ve evolved to expect the worst. Dr. Martin Seligman, a psychologist, explains why—and what you can do to get some optimism back.


BY CLAY SKIPPER


Ever had someone tell you to just cheer up? Did it drive you crazy? Well, turns out that someone telling you to “be happy” isn’t just annoying—it’s also wildly unhelpful.

“‘Happy’ is a pretty useless word,” says Dr. Martin Seligman, psychologist and former President of the American Psychological Association. “If you tell someone to be happy, it doesn’t tell [him or her] what to do.”


Seligman compares being happy to falling asleep: it’s not something you can actively do—in the way you can get stronger by lifting more weights. It just k