Being optimistic makes it possible to feel better and live longer. In fact, studies show that positive thinking can actually improve overall health. Keep reading to find out what separates optimism from pessimism and get seven expert-approved tips to achieve an upbeat mindset in no time. And by the way: being optimistic yourself can inspire others to be more optimistic, too! Isn’t it the most wonderful feeling to go through life feeling positive, with your friends by your side?
What is optimism?
An optimistic person is the type to always see the glass as being half full rather than half empty. They recognize the good in a situation before seeing the bad. In general, being optimistic refers to having a positive outlook towards life.
Optimism is all about letting go of fears and recognizing all that the world and life has to offer. Using the tools of optimism can be a great way to lift your spirits. Even in your darkest moments, thinking this way can help you shift your focus to the future.
Of course, deciding to be more optimistic is easier said than done. The crises in our lives are still bound to impact our moods. However, taking the extra steps to be more optimistic on a daily basis will gradually make it easier to recognize the silver linings in unfortunate events.
Are optimistic people healthier?
Voltaire once wrote, “I decided to be happy because it’s good for my health.” It wasn’t until many years later that Harvard would confirm the philosopher’s suspicion: Optimism can actually improve physical well-being. Many of their studies have shown that optimists suffer less from both mental and physical ailments, like depression and cardiovascular disease. They also experience fewer problems with high blood pressure, and their life expectancy is about 15 percent higher as a result.
Additionally, research shows that optimists are generally better able to manage negative emotions and cope with stress. They’re also more solution-oriented, creative, and flexible, all qualities that can positively impact quality of life.
Our tip: Taking up a physical activity is an effective way to fight stress. Try one of these 33 types of sports to see which ones you might love!
Optimism vs. Pessimism
Pessimists have a much harder time seeing the bright side of things than optimists. For them, no inconvenience goes unnoticed and the days are generally far more difficult to get through.
In general, being a pessimist means always expecting the worst. Psychology has discovered that this is actually a defense mechanism. If you’re already expecting the worst to come to pass, then you won’t be disappointed when it does.
On the other hand, optimists tend to see difficult events as a challenge rather than an upset. For them, being able to find the positive in the worst moments is an accomplishment in and of itself. Many believe that having such a mindset will make it more likely for good things to happen. This is known as the law of attraction, and optimists often point to it as their reason for being the way they are.
But there’s also a third type of personality that doesn’t fit neatly into either of these categories: the realist. They see neither the good nor bad in the world around them, face the world as it is while forming as few judgements as possible. Realists are often constantly analyzing events and evaluating opportunities and the risks that come with them.
Most people aren’t just one of these types, but a mix of all three. It’s also entirely possible for someone who is more pessimistic to become more optimistic with the right mental training.
7 Steps to Becoming More Optimistic
Neither optimism or pessimism is an innate personality trait. Both are ways of thinking about events that can be developed through time and practice.
Use these 7 steps to begin cultivating optimism right away:
1. Make time for yourself in the morning.
How your morning starts can have a huge impact on the way your day goes. Take the time you need to avoid feeling stressed out. If you’re in a rush, delays and inconveniences will inevitably happen. Need to be at work early? Try to go to bed earlier so you can bank more time for yourself when you wake up.
Use that time to do what you love most, whether that’s meditating, having a leisurely breakfast, reading a book, or going for a run.
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2. Surround yourself with optimistic people.
It’s easier to see the good in the world if you’re surrounded by positive, confident people. Ask yourself who in your circle of friends or family is often in a good mood and has a strong history of overcoming crises. Then, try to spend more time with them and let their optimism wash over you. These relationships can dramatically improve the way you feel and your outlook on the future.
3. Keep track of your gratitude on a daily basis.
Taking the time to practice gratitude will make it easier for you to notice the good things without even trying. Every evening, spend a brief moment writing down at least three things that you appreciated about your day. Though it might feel silly at first, even the little stuff is worth including. Was your coffee the perfect temperature? Did someone hold the door open for you? These positive moments are small but mighty.
Here are some other things you can ask yourself to get your writing started:
- What did I achieve today?
- Did anyone make me smile or laugh?
- What could I have done without?
- What made me happy?
4. Formulate positive thoughts.
The way we formulate our thoughts has a huge influence on our state of mind in general. Those who use a lot of negative words, such as “never,” “not,” “bad,” “awful,” “boring,” or “annoying” will tend to be more pessimistic overall. Using a more positive vocabulary may not have any immediate impacts on your mood, but you’ll notice a shift in your general outlook over time.
Our tip: Think about how good it feels to receive a compliment. It also feels good to give them! Complimenting others is a great way to improve the mood of both yourself and someone else.
5. Share your good experiences.
Just because you’re trying to be more positive doesn’t mean that bad days aren’t allowed. Being overly optimistic can also have negative consequences, especially if you’re not giving yourself room to feel the feelings you’re naturally having.
Perfecting a positive outlook is all about finding the balance between the good and the bad in any given situation. You don’t have to lie when someone asks you how you are just to make them feel OK. Answering truthfully will give others the opportunity to help you out, and talking about your struggles can often make them feel less scary. When you start to feel better, take a moment to recognize the good things that did happen rather than dwelling on the negative.
6. Confront challenges with solutions.
Positive people see problems as challenges. They know that there’s almost always a solution that can be found. The next time you’re feeling hopeless, try to change the future by practicing confidence. Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the worst that can happen to you?
- What you can do if “the worst” does happen?
- What challenges have you faced and overcome in the past?
- How would you handle the situation if you were sure the worst case scenario wouldn’t happen?
Answering these questions may give you the courage to face the situation and find the best possible solution more easily.
7. Having a positive attitude will boost your confidence.
Pessimistic people are often most likely to make a joke or comment at their own expense. While it’s important to acknowledge your own weaknesses, being self-deprecating can worsen your self-confidence. You have a right to recognize and celebrate your strengths and doing so can improve your ability to believe in yourself.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What am I particularly good at?
- What am I better at than others?
- What am I particularly proud of?
Thinking positively can make it easier to focus on your strengths. Don’t waste your energy thinking about what you’re not good at. You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it. The best is yet to come.
Optimism: Our conclusion
- Optimism can improve mood.
- A pessimistic person is someone who focuses on the negative things in life. Optimism puts the focus on the positive.
- Focusing on the positive relationships in your life can improve your outlook on the future.
- Cultivating positive thinking increases life expectancy and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and depression.
- A positive mindset is a way of thinking and that can be developed with time and training.