What is Optimism and How Can It Help You?
Optimism is a mindset. It’s a way of viewing the world. With an optimistic perspective, you can focus on the positive, expect good outcomes, and believe in your ability to make positive things happen.
Why is Optimism Important?
Optimism is good for you. Optimistic people tend to be:
- More successful.
- Healthier, including having stronger immunity and better cardiovascular health.
- More likely to have strong relationships.
- More resistant to stress.
- More likely to live longer lives.
- Less likely to experience depression, as optimism is a protective factor for depression.
Ways to Train Your Brain to Be More Optimistic
- Focus on the good. Instead of dwelling on what’s going wrong, try consciously naming what’s going well.
- Practice gratitude. Regularly and purposefully think of specific things you’re thankful for. Writing what you’re grateful for in a gratitude journal is a great way to remind yourself of the good in your life.
- Look for benefits in the bad. Bad things happen in life. When they do, try to look for any positives that may come from them. Can you learn something from what went wrong?
- Accept imperfection. Knowing that things will not always be perfect can help you be more realistic and feel less negative when you experience obstacles and challenges.
- Be adaptable and flexible. If things don’t go as you planned or envisioned, be flexible and open-minded about alternatives.
- Avoid dwelling on your problems. Try to stop ruminating, which means continuously thinking the same negative or dark thoughts. Instead, take action to address the problems or readjust your thinking to let the thoughts go so that you can move forward.
- Surround yourself with positive people. If “doom and gloom” attitudes are getting you down, try connecting with people who have an optimistic perspective. It can be contagious.
- Avoid generalizing. If you have a bad experience, don’t associate it with or apply the negative feelings to other experiences. For instance, if you have a bad grade in a class, that doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
- Limit your consumption of news. A constant stream of negative news from the media can bring you down.
Optimism is a Choice
Is the glass half full or half empty? Optimists see it as half full, while pessimists may see it as half empty. Humans may have a tendency towards optimistic or pessimistic thinking, but optimism can be learned.
How to Choose Optimism
- Choose to consciously visualize your best, optimistic self every day to retrain your brain.
- Choose the mindset that things will usually go right rather than wrong.
- If things do go wrong—and they will sometimes—choose to accept them, adjust your expectations, and move forward.
If your outlook is negative, try cognitive restructuring to change your thinking patterns:
- Challenge your negative thoughts: Ask yourself what proof you have for the negative thought and also look for evidence of the positive and consider more optimistic alternatives.
- Ask if you’re underestimating your ability to cope with the negative event or thought.
- Identify situations that trigger negative thoughts. Try to prepare yourself for handling the situations differently by practicing replacing the negative with positive or alternative thoughts.
Optimism can help you feel more confident, hopeful, and in control. The good news is that you can improve and grow your sense of optimism. Strengthen your optimism for a more positive outlook and happy life.