Are you a glass-half-full type of person? If not, then this article is for you. We’re going to explore what optimism is and how to build it in 11 ways. This article should show you the light on the other side of your dark tunnel and give you some hope for living a more positive life.
So what is optimism?
At its most basic, optimism is a belief in the power of the human spirit to change for the better. It’s a hopeful vision that sees each person as uniquely capable of creating his or her own heart’s desire. It’s about seeing past limitations and seeing all people as having potential, not just yourself but others too. You can see into the future and believe that good will prevail over evil.
Optimism is an infectious, contagious force that can be transmitted in person and through media. Though you might not consciously realize it, optimism is guiding your decisions and actions every minute. In fact, think of all the times you’ve been optimistic without realizing it: You smile at people who cut you off in traffic; you’re positive about your chances for victory when playing cards; or when your team loses a game, you tell yourself that “next year will be better.
Identifying optimism factors and how to control them
1. Unconditional self-worth
People with high levels of unconditional self-worth usually don’t care much about external feedback from others. They feel strong and happy within themselves because they believe they are living up to their full potential.
People with low self-worth have the opposite beliefs. They are usually highly dependent on external feedback from others. They are constantly trying to live up to what they think others expect of them and tend to be preoccupied with their flaws and shortcomings. The result of this is low self-esteem, which can lead down a slippery path ending in depression.
Flourishing is a state of mental and emotional growth where you have a deep sense of well-being. Flourishing makes you feel good about yourself, which brings positivity into your life. People with flourishing usually have high levels of self-esteem and are more likely to be surrounded by positive people. Flourishing also happens when you maintain engagement with activities, relationships and projects that are important to you.
Flow is a state of consciousness where you perform at your best. Flow occurs when you’re fully engaged in an activity that allows you to fully express yourself. Engagement with activities that interest you and participation in meaningful relationships brings enjoyment into your life. People with high levels of flow tend to have more positive emotions, are more likely to be successful and get along better with others.
The opposite of acceptance is rejection. People who have high levels of acceptance tend to see life as a series of opportunities and challenges rather than a set of obstacles. Acceptance occurs when you feel that you are accepted by others and that the people around you care about your welfare. Rejection happens when your actions and behavior are not accepted by other people. People with high levels of self-acceptance tend to be resilient in the face of adversity, while those with low self-acceptance have lower levels of resiliency.
How to build optimism in 11 different ways
Now that we understand a little more about what’s going on at a more basic level, let’s tackle the following 11 ways of building optimism in your life.
1. Realize that everything happens for a reason
It is an accepted fact that things happen for a reason. So when bad things happen to you, remember to remind yourself that it could be a great opportunity for growth. When good things happen to you, give yourself credit and talk about them. Everything happens for a reason and these situations can make you stronger.
2. Create a vision board
A vision board is a simple tool to help you visualize the future. You can make simple changes to your home and support people who are sick or have other special needs. Start by writing on a piece of paper what you want in the future, then place it somewhere visible in your home or office where it will be noticed every day. As time goes by, your positive vision will be realized.
3. Celebrate your wins
Don’t forget to appreciate the good things in your life. Celebrate big and small victories by writing a short note to yourself. You can say thanks for a job well done, for not smoking, for giving up (sometimes this goes unnoticed), or whatever positive result you have achieved so far this week. This will create an internal reinforcement that won’t let you down again.
4. Say no to toxic people
If someone is negatively affecting your life, just stop talking to them. You don’t need people who bring you down. Drop them and be free of them. Toxic people may be influencing you, but what they are doing to you is their problem, not yours.
5. Pick up the phone and thank someone for a job well done
Before you go to sleep each night, write a short note to someone important in your life that has helped you get where you are today. Thank them for their help and support and let them know they continue to be appreciated.
6. Treat yourself with kindness
Treat yourself with kindness. Give yourself the best you deserve. If you are having a bad day, take something precious or nice for yourself (like a cup of coffee or tea or a piece of chocolate). Spend just an hour each week doing something nice to make yourself feel special. It’s about recognizing that we are all valuable and deserving of kindness from ourselves and others.
7. Exercise and eat well
Exercising releases endorphins, which will make you feel good about yourself. It’s an effective way to relax, as exercise is known to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine, two neurotransmitters that make you feel happier. It should be obvious that your diet has a huge effect on your moods: when you eat something healthy and nutritious, including lots of vegetables from the earth, you are giving your body what it needs to function efficiently.
8. Keep a journal
A journal is a powerful tool that helps you identify and address areas where you need to change. Writing down your thoughts will help you analyze your situation and get an objective look at what is going on inside of you. You don’t have to be perfect, just honest. A journal makes it easier for people to understand how you feel and why you do what you do.
9. Make a list of three things you are grateful for
Write down three meaningful things that you are grateful for in your life. It could be a person, an experience or an object. When you do this, your mind goes into the mode of appreciating the good in your life and will remind you to do so whenever you start having feelings of negativity. This is also a good exercise to improve self-esteem by learning how to take care of yourself and focusing on the positive changes that can happen in every aspect of your life.
10. Make a list of things you like about yourself
Make a list of things you like about yourself. It could be your smile, your sense of humor, the way you always do what you say or the fact that you believe in yourself. Many people don’t realize how many good things they have going for themselves. This exercise is excellent for improving self-esteem and reinforcing that there is more than enough goodness in yourself.
11. Be kind to yourself
Be kind to yourself. Don’t berate yourself for making mistakes, or criticize your own behavior or bad habits. This will set up a self-fulfilling prophesy in your mind where you start thinking that who you are is not good enough and what you are doing is wrong. Self-criticism never has positive results; it’s a waste of time and energy.
What are the benefits of developing optimism in your life?
In our fast-paced, stressful world, it is easy to get caught up in negative thinking. It’s important to recognize that your thoughts are only that – thoughts – and not reality. By reframing negative situations into something positive and designing a plan for success you are able to set yourself up for success.
When we think negatively we tend to focus on the pain and problems without giving ourselves credit for our successes. We fail to see the joy that’s just around the corner. Instead of allowing ourselves to feel good, we focus on what’s not working. We find ourselves wishing bad things would happen to others and not happening to us. Or we spend our days feeling sorry for ourselves and trying in vain to make ourselves feel better. When these negative states are repeated often enough they become habits, which result in a general sense of hopelessness about our lives.
Here is a list of benefits associated with cultivating optimism in your life:
1. You will be in a better mood.
Optimism gives you the ability to see problems as challenges instead of threats so you can enjoy the journey more. When you see problems as challenges, you are able to make an effort to overcome them. Optimism is often associated with enjoying life and this creates a sense of joy and positivity that makes it easier for us to face all kinds of problems.
2. Optimism encourages good decision-making.
Optimists tend to make better decisions than pessimists. They have the ability to think more positively, which results in them taking more actionable steps to take care of themselves.
3. You will be less stressed out.
Stress is a reaction that kicks in when your body perceives an imminent threat or danger. When you are positive that life is taking care of you, you are less likely to become stressed because your body doesn’t perceive any threats like danger and stressors as imminent threats.
4. You will be less negative towards others.
Negative behavior towards others on a negative scale creates an environment that makes it harder for them to achieve what they want in their lives. When you are positive and optimistic about other people, you are less likely to engage in negative behaviors that will harm them and those around them.
5. You will be more successful at work or school.
Optimism is associated with higher levels of achievement and motivation. When you are working to achieve your goals and your attitude is positive, you are more likely to be successful than if you are negative or pessimistic.
6. You will have a greater sense of well-being.
Optimism helps lead to a greater sense of well-being. When you feel good about yourself, you will be more willing to try new things that will help your life thrive.
7. You will have better relationships.
Optimistic people are more confident and outgoing than those who are negative and pessimistic. This helps their relationships thrive by making them more open to new experiences, which in turn leads to stronger relationships.
8. You will have richer and more satisfying life experiences.
When you are planning for your future or looking to the future, you will find yourself with better life experiences. You will be more open to new ideas that can lead to better and more fulfilling experiences.
9. You will see the bigger picture of life and your place in it.
Optimism is associated with a broader view of what life is actually all about. When you are positive about your life, you will see the big picture and what your role is in it. You will begin to see yourself as a person who helps shape the world around you into something better.
10. You will have more confidence in yourself and others.
A person with a positive outlook can enjoy their strengths, no matter how small and insignificant they think they might be, to make them stronger and much more effective than if they had given up on themselves.
11. You will feel more empowered.
Optimists can take action to change their circumstances and they will apply themselves to change what they can do to make things better. This kind of attitude has the ability to set them free from the shackles of stress, worry and fear.
12. You will have the ability to be a catalyst for good in the world.
Our words and actions have a profound impact on those around us. Optimists are able to influence those around them by helping others feel good about themselves and encouraging them to act in ways that will lead to a better life not only for themselves but for everyone.
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Here’s how to figure that out (The pessimist test)
Firstly lets define pessimism, here is the quote from an article on a college website on optimism and pessimism.
“Pessimism means seeing the glass half empty.” “Optimism means seeing the glass half full.”
So how to determine if you are an optimistic or a pessimistic person? The following are signs of which you are more likely to be.
A pessimist is someone who sees all the bad in life. They see everything in their lives as a whole negative thing and take it as that and cannot see anything positive about their lives.
Here’s some questions to ask yourself to figure out if you are an optimist or pessimist:
- Do you always see the negative side of things?
- Do you believe people are not trustworthy or don’t want to help you when they can?
- Do you believe that everyone is lying or trying to deceive you?
- Do feel like most people are against you and don’t want to help you out?
- Are you always worried about your future, thinking it will never be good enough?
- Do you believe in life after death or in an afterlife?
- Do you believe in karma or do you think you are lucky?
- Do you believe there is no hope for your life to get better?
- Do you believe that God doesn’t exist and that everything happens by chance?
- Do you feel like nothing good ever happens to you?
- Do you feel like life is against you, that life is unfair?
If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then you are more likely a pessimist and need to work on being more of an optimist. That’s not to say that being a pessimist means there is something wrong with you or that any meaning in your life should be considered negative.
So you maybe a pessimist, what can you do next?
Pessimism is not a permanent thing, it’s a state that you can change. Optimism is a choice you make to see the brighter side of life. Here are some tips to help you become an optimist:
- Stop focusing on yourself, be more humble.
- Stop complaining about your life or your current situation, there are people out there who have it worse than you do.
- The only person that you can control in life is yourself. Don’t base your decisions on what other people think or how they will react to you.
- Live for the moment, appreciate the little things in life, don’t focus on what has happened before or what might happen next.
- Be thankful for others and their good deeds and be grateful for everything that happens in your life every day, even if it may seem insignificant to you now, it can lead to good things later on in life.
- Stop being negative, be more positive and think about all the good things that can happen in your life rather than constantly dwelling on the negative consequences.
- Rethink everything, take a blank sheet of paper and write down all you are grateful for in life. Think about how you have been lucky to have had these people or thing in your life so far and write them down on the first page of your list. Then draw a line through them and go on to the next one.
- Look at your life now, everything that has happened to you up until now and think about all the lessons and events you have gained from them. Think about how you have grown from each one of them and look back on where you would be without each of these experiences.
- Remember that the glass is half full, it does not mean there is nothing wrong with it or the people in it, there is always more to look forward to.
- Everything in your mindset, control that and you are in control of your own happiness.
Why do people become pessimistic in some moments of their life?
While there are a lot of things that can cause someone to have a changed outlook on life and the things we think about, there are some specific things that can cause us to be more negative in our outlook. Here are a few of them:
- You may feel like you have no control over anything in your life. When we feel powerless in life we tend to feel like it isn’t worth doing anything positive or taking care of ourselves.
- You may have experienced some traumatic event in your life. When we are faced with a difficult or tragic situation in our lives, our outlook on everything changes. We see everything in the world as negative and if it’s going to happen to us, why bother trying to have hope for anything good?
- Your view on life can be changed by the people we surround ourselves with. If your friends and family think negatively about life too, you will most likely end up thinking this way.
The key to being optimistic is to learn to detach yourself from the situation you are in and think about your future goals instead. Look at things that are possible for you, look at things that have happened in the past and how they have all led up to this moment.
What are some books I can read which will help with building optimism?
1. The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg
The Power of Habit is great to read if you want to understand how your brain works and how to make changes in the way you think and feel. The most important point of this book is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s never too late to change!
2. The Success Principles, Jack Canfield
The Success Principles is a really motivating book that really makes you look at all the things that have already happened in your life as a good thing. This is all about building hope for the future and believing that much of your life can change for the better.
3. How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie
If you want to learn more about how to get along with people in your life, this is a great book that explains why you should be positive and optimistic about everything. It will also explain how sometimes you have to go out of your way just to help someone else out and the surprising consequences it can lead to for you!
4. The Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz
This is a book you can read in a couple of hours or listen to which will really help you get in tune with your own inner voice and become more optimistic. You will learn to be more confident with yourself and learn how you can make a difference in the world around you by practising these four agreements.
5. How People Change, John C. Norcross
If you want to learn more about how you can better yourself and your outlook on life, this is the book for you! With a lot of inspirational quotes, you will learn a lot about how people change and how we are all able to grow.
6. The Art of Happiness, The Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler
This book is written by the Dalai Lama and he really explains everything in a way that can help us get through even the hardest times in our lives. He is all about having better relationships with others, accepting the things you cannot change and always finding that something to be grateful for.
7. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Dale Carnegie
This book is all about worrying about things that can’t be changed and how you should focus more on living in the present and enjoying life more. If you are always concentrated on everything that could go wrong, you will never appreciate what is already going right.
8. Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
Emotional Intelligence really helps you to understand human behavior and how to handle the things others say or do. It’s a very helpful book if you are in a bad situation with someone who insults or disrespects you and what you stand for. It also explains how being kind to others can actually be better for your health and happiness too!
What are some podcasts you can listen to aid in your optimism development?
1. Happier with Gretchen Rubin
This is a podcast about your mindset and offers some great tips on how you can live a happier life. The best part is that it’s hosted by someone who has actually changed her mind and found happiness in the things she once thought she would never be happy.
2. Finding Mastery by Ryan Holiday
This podcast is hosted by a guy who once studied philosophy but was able to completely change his life and find happiness through learning how others had done the same thing for themselves. He thinks that part of being optimistic is finding mastery in what you do and loving it.
3. Happy Hour with Alison Armstrong and Chris Forbes
This podcast is all about changing your mindset, giving you that inspiration to get through the week, and just being truly happy with yourself. It also wants to change your life and make you feel better about the things you do each day.
4. The Moth
The Moth is a very inspiring podcast that will make you laugh and want to find a way to be more optimistic for yourself each day. You will learn about stories in the world, hear people’s true stories and live the best moments of your life each week!
5. The School of Greatness Podcast
This podcast is hosted by a guy who wasn’t the greatest and was able to change his life around. He is all about finding that inner greatness within yourself, pushing through obstacles and not letting anyone get in your way. He also wants to show others that you can become the best version of yourself!
Let’s finish with some quotes about optimism:
- “It’s better to be a pessimist and be pleasantly surprised than it is to be an optimist and be let down.” – Leslie Than
- “Optimism is not a bed of roses. It’s more like strawberry fields, where you can get into trouble, but it’s also a place where your dreams can grow.”- Michael Korda
- “You are what you think about all day long.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “Being positive is a great way to maintain a positive outlook and it will help you overcome many of your challenges in life. It can make your life more enjoyable and help you become more powerful.” – Jennifer Adorante
- “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.” -Dale Carnegie
- “Optimism is not based on wishful thinking, but on the belief that all things are possible.” – Norman Vincent Peale
- “I attribute my success to this; I never gave or took any excuse.” – George Washington Carver
- “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” – Corrie Ten Boom
- “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.” – William James
- “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” – William A. Ward
Being optimistic is a state of mind that you will find yourself in when you get the goals and accomplishments you deserve. Instead of being a victim and looking at your life through negative eyes, it’s about seeing the good in everything. It’s about making sure that no matter what happens, your attitude stays positive and focused to achieve all your goals.
If you want to be optimistic, focus on living the way you want to live instead of focusing on things that are out of your control. Work hard, make sure you have goals and accomplish them, and most importantly be grateful for what you do have in your life. Sometimes all we need is to be a little more optimistic about our lives and we can find a way to achieve all the things we want!
At some point during the week, try to catch yourself complaining about something. Instead of complaining about it, focus on a solution that will help you to get what you want without thinking negatively.