How to Become an Optimist: 19 Tips to Stay Positive
We all face challenges now and again, but it is our reaction to those challenges that determine how quickly we can overcome them.
There are typically two types of views people have towards challenges — optimistic or pessimistic.
While everyone may have a natural tendency to have one view or the other, your ability to be an optimist when challenges arise will impact your overall success and outlook on life.
Today, I will share with you why your happiness depends on being optimistic and give you 19 ways you can start being more optimistic now.
How Optimism Affects Happiness
While your physical health is very important to your quality of life and longevity, your mental health is equally important. Your mental health impacts the way you do nearly everything in your life.
Studies show that people who are optimistic are less likely to suffer from a chronic illness. They live 11-15% longer and have a greater chance of living beyond age 85.
Optimistic people have better job security, are more likely to succeed in their careers, and have greater job satisfaction. They are able to turn disappointments into motivation, which leads to increased productivity and accomplishments.
Optimistic people get sick less often and recover from illnesses faster.
The true measure of “mental fitness” is how optimistic you are about yourself and your life.
19 Ways to Help You Stay Optimistic in Any Situation
To become mentally fit, you need to learn how to control your thinking in very specific ways so that you feel terrific about yourself and your situation, no matter what happens.
So, here are 19 tips you can start using to help with positive thinking, overcoming challenges, and attracting success in your life.
1. Control Your Reactions and Responses
There are a few basic differences in the reactions of optimists and pessimists. The first difference is that the optimist sees a setback as temporary, while the pessimist sees it as permanent.
The optimist sees an unfortunate event, such as an order that falls through or a sales call that fails, as something that is limited in time, part of the process, and has no lasting impact on the future.
The pessimist, on the other hand, sees negative situations as damaging and a precursor to what is ahead in the future. They see these experiences as part of destiny.
So, when you find yourself in a difficult or disappointing situation, take a moment to really reflect on the challenge before you react. Try to visualize the next step towards improvement rather than responding to the setbacks that you have no control over.
Do not let one negative event impact the other aspects of your life and the opportunities that you face.
2. Isolate the Incident
Another difference between the optimist and the pessimist is that the optimist sees difficulty as a singular event, while the pessimist sees them as universal.
This means that when things go wrong for the optimist, they look at the event as an isolated incident largely disconnected from other things that are going on in their life.
A pessimist will take the incident and add it to a laundry list of other things going on in their life. They have a largely negative outlook on everything and tend to expand the stress they feel towards one issue onto other, unrelated areas of their life.
So, to remain positive, try to remind yourself that just because you are facing a setback in one area — whether that be a project at work falling behind or not hitting a milestone set — does not mean that the entire goal is obsolete. You may simply need to modify your plan.
A single setback may seem big at the moment, but in reality, you can quickly overcome most setbacks with the right outlook. Isolating the incident allows you to take the setback in stride and then move on from it.
3. View Setbacks as Temporary Events
For example, if something you were counting on failed to materialize and you interpreted it to yourself as being an unfortunate event but something that happens in the course of life and business, you would be reacting like an optimist.
The pessimist, on the other hand, sees disappointments as being pervasive. That is, to them they are indications of a problem or shortcoming that pervades every area of life.
If you find yourself in this situation, take a moment to remind yourself, that you are always capable of making change and nothing is set in stone. A glass half full mentality leads an optimist to believe that something better is coming, giving them something to work for.
A pessimist gives up, letting a single setback affect the other areas of their life. This can cause a negative ripple effect on your life, while the person with an optimistic outlook stays motivated in any situation and uses the power of positive thinking.
4. Don’t Take Failure Personally
It can be extremely difficult at times to see the positive side of failure. An optimist sees events as external, while pessimists interpret events as personal.
An optimist tries not to take negative situations personally or as a reflection of their self-worth. Although failure is not something anyone wants to deal with, the optimist uses it as a learning opportunity.
If the optimist is cut off in traffic, for example, instead of getting angry or upset, they will simply downgrade the importance of the event by saying something like, “Oh, well, I guess that person is just having a bad day.”
The optimist doesn’t think they were cut off because that person had malicious intentions against them. The pessimist, on the other hand, has a tendency to take everything personally. If the pessimist is cut off in traffic, they will react as though the other driver has deliberately acted to upset and frustrate them.
When faced with what might feel like a failure, analyze the role you may have played in it to see what you might do differently to improve or prevent a similar situation in the future. If circumstances were out of your control, do not take it personally. Be self-aware and take responsibility for your actions and view the actions of others as external factors out of your control.
5. Put Things Into Perspective
Looking at the bigger picture allows you to act calmly and work through any situation as the optimist did in the above example. In fact, you can even go further and turn any negative situation into a positive one. By allowing the person to cut you off, you may have helped them get to work on time or meet a deadline.
When negative events happen, put them into perspective. See the big picture and do not get caught up in the details.
Remember that the inevitable setbacks that you face are temporary, specific, and external. View a negative situation as a single event that is not connected to other potential events and that is often caused largely by external factors over which you can have little control.
Refuse to see an event as being in any way permanent, pervasive, or indicative of personal incompetence or inability. You may not be able to control events, but you can control the way you react to them. The earlier you learn this, the happier you will be in life.
6. Remain Calm and Objective
When you are truly an optimist, you have the ability to be both objective and unemotional when caught up in the inevitable storms of daily life. You can continue to talk to yourself in a positive and optimistic way no matter what is happening in your life.
This allows you to keep your mind calm, clear, and completely under control despite the external circumstances. Because you are more relaxed and aware, you are much more capable of interpreting events more efficiently.
So, when an optimist is met with a challenge or area of stress, they are much better equipped to stay positive and overcome it. They are able to stay in complete control, act proactively, and not let external forces cloud their judgment.
On the other hand, a pessimist may get caught up in their emotions, leading them to get angry, upset, and distracted. This causes them to handle problems poorly, think irrationally, and make things harder than they really have to be by acting reactively instead of proactively.
If you feel overwhelmed or like your blood is boiling, practice being calm in these situations. Although easier said than done, staying calm and thinking positively can change your life.
7. Keep a Gratitude Journal
Making regular entries in a gratitude journal helps you focus on the positive things that are occurring in your life. Feeling grateful makes you a happier, more optimistic person.
Research studies involving people keeping gratitude journals show they are more optimistic, feel better about their lives, exercise more, and make fewer visits to a doctor.
Increase your positive thinking by making a habit of writing down three to five things you are grateful for each day. You will become more self-aware and see your perspective change so that you are focusing on the positive aspects of your life instead of dwelling on the negative or things out of your control.
8. Focus on Your Accomplishments
When you have important responsibilities to work and family, stress can tempt you to become overwhelmed by your long to-do list. You may reach the end of the day and wonder how you have gotten closer to your goals.
A pessimistic person tends to think more about the things they have not accomplished. They focus more on their mistakes as well.
However, an optimistic person sees the value in each incremental step made toward a goal. They stay positive, maintain their self-esteem, and focus on what they have accomplished.
So, instead of stressing over what you have not completed on your to-do list, make a mental or written list each night of the things you did accomplish. Your attitude will become more positive, which will motivate you to accomplish more instead of feeling burdened.
9. Give Yourself Personal Time
It is important to take a break from your daily responsibilities and duties. Overworking yourself leads to poor physical and mental health and a negative attitude, making it harder for you to be optimistic.
Schedule regular time in your week to do things that refresh you. Having quiet solitude gives you time to reflect, destress, and gain perspective.
Regular exercise improves your mood, lowers your stress level, reduces rates of depression and anxiety, and increases self-confidence. Take a daily walk, join a local sports team, or work out three to five days a week.
Devote time to a hobby, read uplifting books, or schedule time with close friends or family members. Giving yourself personal time on a regular basis leads to greater optimism and happiness.
10. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Positive attitudes are contagious. Identify the people in your life that you look up to for their optimism and spend more time with them.
Observe the things they say, what they do, and what they choose not to do or say. You will notice patterns that you can adopt that will help you be more positive as well.
A life coach can be a positive source of motivation. They can help you build the skills needed for greater self-confidence, self-awareness, and optimism.
Equally important is to identify people who have a negative influence on you. If you can avoid these individuals or cut off ties, do so. If you cannot, such as a coworker or family member, find ways to minimize their influence on you. You can also learn to advocate for yourself as you become more optimistic.
11. Remove Negative Influences
Similar to minimizing your contact with negative people, get rid of things that bring you down as well.
For many people, this can include watching the news, spending time on social media, listening to music that is not uplifting or working in a negative environment. Notice how you feel when you do these and other things that are part of your daily or weekly routine. If you feel overburdened, negative, stressed, angry, deflated, self-conscious, or any other negative emotions, that is a clue to replace these activities with positive ones.
Stay positive by filling your environment with pleasant, uplifting, and nurturing things. Decorate your home, room, or office with cheerful colors, comfortable furniture, and plants. Listen to music with positive lyrics. Fill your time with productive activities, such as being creative, helping others, and learning new skills.
12. Doubt Your Doubts Before You Doubt Yourself
Negative thoughts bring us down. When we entertain negative thoughts, we can convince ourselves we will fail even if there is no evidence to support it.
Pessimistic thinkers are full of doubts and unwilling to make changes or take risks that could improve their lives. Optimistic thinkers are full of hope and focus on the possibilities life can bring them.
When you have negative thoughts, fears, or doubts, challenge those thoughts by asking yourself why you are having them. Are they based on any real evidence?
If not, turn the thought into a positive one. Ask yourself “what if” something positive happened instead of negative and make that your thought process instead.
An excellent way to maintain a more positive outlook is to read motivational quotes daily. Subscribe to social media channels that provide daily uplifting content, read motivational books, listen to motivational podcasts, or get a calendar or planner that includes motivational quotes to cultivate optimism.
13. Find Solutions
Every problem already has a solution waiting to be found.
Problems are a natural part of life. There is no escaping them, and you should not expect to. Having problems to solve is how we grow as individuals.
When a problem arises, instead of complaining about it or ignoring it, brainstorm solutions.
Make efforts to solve the problem and move on. Optimists tend to be problem solvers. When you solve problems and negative situations instead of dwell on them, you eliminate the negative energy that comes with them so that you are freer to have an optimistic outlook.
14. Forgive Yourself
We all make mistakes. Just as having problems to solve is a natural part of progressing through life, so is making mistakes. The best way to handle a mistake is to learn from it and avoid future mishaps.
Past mistakes are just that, in the past. But if you dwell on them, you cannot move on from the negative emotions and thoughts. This leads to pessimistic thinking.
Instead, learn from your mistakes and use them to make yourself a better person from the knowledge you’ve gained.
Make a conscious effort to move on and understand that your past does not define who you are, the choices you make in the present moment are a better indication of who you are as a person.
15. Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
Being physically fit and healthy leads to positive mental health and self-esteem.
Part of the reason for this is the neurotransmitters that are released into your body when you exercise. They not only improve your mood, but they also help you sleep better, improve learning and attention, boost your memory and brain activity, and block pain.
Eat healthy foods to fuel your body and brain with the nutrients you need to function at your best.
Adopt a healthy lifestyle further by eliminating harmful habits, such as smoking, excessive drinking, and insufficient sleep.
16. Serve Others
Service to others helps us forget our problems or at least put them into perspective.
When you are trying to help someone, you automatically try to be more optimistic and help them have a more positive outlook. As you encourage others, you will naturally cultivate optimism in yourself.
Service helps you feel better about yourself as well. It can help you have more realistic thinking patterns and improve your self-confidence. The positive energy you share with others will follow the law of compensation and spill over into creating positive energy in your own life.
17. Ask Why This Is Happening for You, Not to You
When you are faced with a difficult situation, you might do what many people do and ask why it is happening to you. However, you will learn how to be an optimist by asking why it is happening for you instead.
Changing this wording will help you change your perspective and see the blessings and benefits that can come out of challenging times instead of feeling like a victim.
It helps you feel in control, have an optimistic outlook, and change your thinking to focus on the opportunities and improvements the challenge can create.
18. Focus on What You Can Control
There are some things, however, that are out of our control. A sudden illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, or natural disaster are not caused by us, yet they affect us.
Part of the power of realistic thinking is knowing what you can and cannot control and then focusing on what you can control.
Listing and putting your positive energy into the things you can control will help you feel less overwhelmed. For instance, you can control the steps you will take to find a new job, find a life coach or counselor that can help you go through the grieving process, and follow your physician’s orders to relieve your symptoms.
One thing you can always control is how you react to negative situations and the way in which you think about them. Practice how to be an optimist by taking time to reflect instead of reacting. Make a conscious effort to choose positive thinking over negative thinking.
You may have heard the saying laughter is the best medicine, and there is a lot of truth to that.
Humor is healing, both to our mental health and physical health. Laughing causes us to take in more oxygen, which relaxes us. It has a positive effect on how your heart functions, rids your body of cortisol, which is a stress hormone and activates the reward system in your brain.
Studies show that laughter also reduces pain, anxiety, and agitation. It improves how your brain works to make it easier to gain the skills to learn how to be an optimist. It has also been shown to improve the symptoms of medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and schizophrenia.
Add humor into your daily life. This can start with a simple smile as well as include watching comical videos and movies, reading funny books, listening to humorous dialogues, and telling tasteful jokes.
Find humor in stressful moments as well. Without offending anyone or being disrespectful, laughing about a mishap or amid a stressful moment can put yourself and others at ease and help you have a positive outlook so you can work on the solution.
You Can Become More Optimistic
Now that you have these strategies on how to be optimistic to guide you, you can begin to put these ideas to work in your everyday life.
To further improve your ability to think positively, and be an optimist in every aspect of your life, use my personal development plan template. With this template, you can identify your areas of opportunity and improve your successes, while also learning to think ahead and evaluate your goals effectively.
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About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.