Positive thinking brings with it a whole host of benefits, such as better wellbeing and better sleep. To start reaping these benefits, check out these 11 ways to become an optimist.
While many of us believe our happiness – or lack thereof – is based on external things, we’re often the ones holding ourselves back. Many of us go through our days feeding ourselves negative messages we may not even be aware of, convincing ourselves we’re “not good enough”, “not clever enough” or “not attractive enough”. To start thinking more positively, you need to change these messages. Try to look out for negative thoughts that pop into your head and replace them with positive messages. Write down these positive mantras and repeat them on a daily basis.
Most of us are happy to acknowledge other people’s successes and accomplishments; however, when it comes to our own, we frequently play them down or ignore them entirely. To start thinking more positively about yourself, you need to regularly remind yourself of what you have – and can – achieve. Stop listening to your inner critic, reflect on your past achievements, and start to really appreciate your success and what you have to offer.
If you want to become an optimist, it can help to find yourself a positive role model. Whether it is a colleague, close friend or even a celebrity, think of the most unflappable, cheerful person you can. For the next few weeks, do an experiment and try to take a walk in their shoes. Whenever negativity starts creeping in or you find yourself in a difficult situation, think: “what would (insert name of chosen optimist) do?” Answer honestly, then try to follow suit.
It’s important to remember that it isn’t events themselves that make us unhappy, it is our interpretation and reaction to them, and while you can’t always change events, you can change your response. When negative situations occur, try to reframe them by focusing on the positives or what you can learn from the situation. Maybe you have gained inner strength and resilience, grown closer to a friend through sharing your heartbreak or learned something about yourself. Try your best to focus on what you have learned and gained from your experience rather on than what you have lost.
When things don’t go right in life, optimists tend to view each incident as an isolated event, while pessimists often look out for patterns of bad luck and think “if it happened once, it’ll happen again”. However, it is important not to try to predict the future based on what has happened before. Remember that a plan or relationship failing doesn’t make you a failure and just because something disappointing has happened once (or more) it doesn’t mean it will happen again.
Spending time with negative people who continually see the bad in every situation is a sure-fire way to ensure you continue to feel negative too. To help you stay feeling optimistic, you need to surround yourself with positive people who help you to appreciate the good in situations and in life in general. This also applies to other influence in your life such as music, literature and movies – surround yourself with positive influences and see the effect it has on your state of mind.
When something negative happens, it never fails to escape our attention. The alarm clock doesn’t go off or your car doesn’t start, leaving you in a foul mood for the rest of the day. However, how often do you stop and notice all those times your alarm clock did go off or your car did start? To change your focus and thinking, make a conscious effort to start reflecting on all the things that go right and that you have to be happy about by keeping a gratitude journal each morning or night, listing all the things you have to be grateful for that day.
Often our negative thoughts are based on little more than our own fears, doubts and low self-esteem. To help you overcome them, you need to constantly challenge your negative thoughts. Next time you start to feel negative, write down what your feelings are then write down your arguments for and against these thoughts. Ask yourself what’s the evidence that these thoughts are true? What’s the evidence that they are not? You could even try purposely acting the opposite of how you feel and seeing what happens. You may find that your negative predictions don’t come true after all.
Pessimists tend to focus on problems while optimists look for solutions. While it is tempting to dwell on your problems or disappointments, remember that this will not change your situation. The situation may not feel great and it may not seem fair, but what has happened has happened, whether you like it or not. Rather than reflecting on what could have been, let go of regrets and negative thoughts, get proactive and start planning where you can go from here.
Optimism isn’t something that comes naturally to all of us, and you may find that it takes time to change your mindset. In the meantime, try putting the action before the feeling and faking a more positive outlook. Studies have found that it is possible to trick yourself into feeling happier by going through the physical motions. So, rather than going with your natural instinct, try smiling and laughing more and speaking in a more positive tone. Acting the way you want to feel will help you on your way to becoming an optimist.
What is gone is gone, and how you deal with the aftermath is the most important thing. There is no point apportioning blame, either on yourself or others. You have the power to change a situation and move on. It is so easy to say ‘I should have done things differently’ with the benefit of hindsight. However, if bad things have happened, look at tomorrow as exactly what it is — a new day — in which good things can happen, if you let them.