Thinking in an optimistic and constructive way is a life-skill that will improve anybody’s life. Optimism is a habit, as is pessimism, and we can actually train ourselves on how to be optimistic. By changing our way of thinking through small tweaks of self-talk and outlook, we can gradually change our mood, motivation level and become more optimistic. The benefits will be quick and broad in their effect, from robustness in the face of adversity to a better appreciation of the smaller things in our everyday lives. Here are ten easy ways to take the first steps to a sunnier, more optimistic life…
How To Be Optimistic
1/ Meditate daily
Meditation doesn’t have to be lengthy and arduous. You can use a short session of, say, ten to twenty minutes to clear your mind, lower stress hormones and set your mood for the day. First thing in the morning is the absolute ideal time for this as you can ensure a good starting point for the rest of your day, feeling in control and positive.
2/ Put your mind on a “diet” of positive input
Everything you read, see and hear, every person you interact with and every thought you allow to surface in your mind has an effect on your view of the world, of yourself and of the people around you. If you feel that your outlook is less than positive, take care of what input you allow and on what thoughts you dwell. You may feel it’s important to keep up with the news and current affairs but be careful that this is only in small, necessary doses from quality sources. Many news websites use sensationalism to feed you only bad news of a negative nature and, on a long-term basis, this will affect your morale.
You can also cast a glance at the people you associate with. Do you feel better or worse after talking to them? Do they raise your motivation or drain your energy? Seek out people who have a positive energy and who boost your optimism and positivity. And it’s not just a selfish pursuit as the effect can act as a feedback loop. As you become a reflection of their cheerfulness, you help increase their optimism in turn.
3/ Challenge yourself
When faced with a difficult issue, whether it be personal or professional, challenge yourself to find the positive effects of it, or think how you can turn it into a better situation for yourself and others involved. Most day-to-day problems are essentially of a trivial nature but, with the wrong approach and mindset, they can affect your feelings and your mood. Train yourself to instantly search for other options, seeing these situations as ways to learn and grow.
4/ Go for a walk
Walking has been shown to calm the mind and encourage positivity. The alternating actions of the arms and legs, the light aerobic activity, the fresh air and the sensory input of changing scenery as you move have all been shown to have beneficial and soothing effects on the mind.
In a study on 12 patients with depression, participants walked on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day for 10 days. At the end of the program, all participants reported a significant reduction in their symptoms of depression. The conclusion was that aerobic exercise can produce substantial improvements in mood. It seems that a brisk walk, preferably amongst greenery or by water, can be one of the best antidotes to a pessimistic outlook.
5/ Flash forward
It’s perhaps a cliché but often, when you are immersed in a problem, especially of an emotional nature, it can help to imagine yourself in a few weeks, months or years time. How important will this seem? Will you have a more intellectual and less emotional reaction to the circumstances of the problem? Very often an issue in which you find yourself immersed or overwhelmed will become a minor detail that is quickly forgotten. Just knowing this can lift a weight off your shoulders and increase your positivity.
6/ Attitude of Gratitude
The attitude of gratitude is a fantastic and sure-fire path to incredible optimism. In fact, possibly the most important step in how to be optimistic. It entails dwelling exclusively on the things for which you can be grateful in your life or in the world in general. At first, it may be difficult, especially if you’ve been in the habit for a long time of grumbling or noticing only the negative things. But with minimal effort, you will find endless lists of wonderful things for which you are grateful.
Start by concentrating on small things such as a glass of cool water on a hot day, a comfortable chair or a good cup of tea or coffee. Or maybe an enjoyable meal (however modest), a ray of sunlight or moonlight, a smile or a helping hand from a stranger, a funny-shaped cloud or a refreshing rainstorm. If you’re lucky enough to have a comfortable home, family, friends, enough money in the bank to pay your bills and reasonable health then you have an enormous amount for which to express gratitude.
We can always take the negative and spin it to our advantage and nurture the feeling of complete thankfulness, any moment of any day. The habit to build is one of moving our attention from things that frustrate or upset us, or things that we feel we lack, to things that are truly a welcome gift in our lives, however small they may be.
7/ Come into the now
Pessimism is more often than not cultivated through dwelling on disappointments of the past or fears for the future. If you are stricter with your mind, you can catch it doing this many times during the day. When you notice your mind wandering into these darker thoughts of the past and the future, firmly bring your attention into the present moment. Concentrate on your breath or the sensation of your clothes on your skin. Listen to the sounds around you and notice every detail of your surroundings to bring yourself squarely into the now and out of your thoughts.
The more you do this, the easier it becomes, and you will be able to increase the amount of time spent in the here and now where positivity thrives. This is known as mindfulness and is an incredible stress-buster that cultivates optimism and clarity of thought. If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness, you can find a list here of the 3 best online mindfulness courses.
8/ Keep a journal
Keeping a daily journal can have invaluable benefits – some claim that is as good as seeing a therapist! The idea is that you have a chance to vent your thoughts and feelings, both negative and positive, and then close the book and walk away with a clear head. Writing can definitely be therapeutic and it’s a good idea to vent your negativity but then end with a positive note of how to go forward from there.
9/ Be kind
There is no better feeling than that of helping others. Acts of kindness have been shown to affect people’s psychology in many positive ways, lifting depression, easing anxiety and generally increasing happiness. There are endless ways and opportunities for helping others, from giving donations to charity and volunteering, to simply being a good friend or neighbor.
10/ Slow down
Many of us feel that we never have enough time for everything in our lives. We go faster and faster, this causes stress that leads to negative thinking. It may sound counter-intuitive but the best thing to do is to slow down. There won’t be more or fewer minutes in the day but you will actually be present to experience them. And in this way, you will feel calmer and in control, and you will have the sense of having much more time. By doing everything in your life just slightly slower, you will be living a more mindful and conscious life. You will notice others around you and have more opportunities for kindness, and in so doing your optimism and positivity will soar.
These ten tips, applied regularly and consistently, will gradually bring you a more optimistic mindset. The ripples will infiltrate into all areas of your life, pouring sunshine into those dark corners and helping your days to be filled with positivity, happiness and optimism.
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