post written by: Angel Chernoff

9 Ways to Become an Optimist


9 Ways to Become an Optimist

Optimist:  Person who travels on nothing
from nowhere to happiness.
–Mark Twain

Some people are more optimistic by nature, but optimism is not a fixed attribute.  It’s a choice we have control over.  Every morning, we either choose to wake up grumpy or wake up with a positive outlook.  Research has shown that, in the long run, optimistic people handle stress better, get sick less often, live longer, and are happier and more successful than their pessimistic counterparts.

The good news is that we can all develop skills to improve optimism.  Here are nine ideas to get you started:

1.  Find the opportunity in every difficulty.

‘Optimist’ is a word which here refers to a person who focuses on the positive.  For instance, if an optimist lost her left arm in a car accident, she might say in a hopeful voice, “I’m alive.  I don’t have my left arm anymore, but I do have my right one, and my life still to live.”

Optimism does not mean ignoring the problem entirely; it means understanding that setbacks are inevitable, often temporary, and that you have the skills and abilities to combat the challenges you face.  What you are dealing with may be difficult, but it is important to remain hopeful and positive about a brighter future.  Optimism will inspire a sense of hopefulness and the confidence that is required to take full advantage of the opportunities that do exist.  Remember, the most beautiful rainbows come from the sunlight after a very dark storm.  Read Full Catastrophe Living.

2.  Surround yourself with positive people.

You are only as good as the company you keep.  If you’re around gloomy people, there’s a good chance you won’t be smiling.  Make it your mission to dodge negativity.  Surround yourself with supportive friends who have positive outlooks.  As they say, if you want to soar with the eagles, you have to stop hanging out with the ducks.

Optimism is a learned habit, and it is positively contagious.  Surround yourself with people who could infect you with positivity.  In turn pass your new good mood on to a friend or stranger in words and deed – let somebody have that parking space, let that person with only a few items cut in front of you at the market.  The simple act of doing something nice for others is actually a good pick-me-up all by itself.

3.  Give love, receive love, and invest in love.

LOVE:  It’s the greatest force in the universe.  It’s a treasure that people would give anything for, yet it costs nothing to give and receive. There is an endless supply, and it can be extended to family, friends and strangers at any moment.  It increases positivity and acts like a shield against negativity.  It forgives, heals, encourages and inspires.

Give love, receive love and invest in love every day.  Because where you invest your love, you invest your life.

4.  Be realistic, and expect ups and downs.

A foundation of realism keeps things in perspective, and helps prevent things from being blown out of proportion.  Just because you’re an optimist doesn’t mean you’re not going to have bad days.  You will – that’s reality.  Life isn’t always rainbows and butterflies.

Trying to be 100% positive all the time is wanting to be an ocean in which waves only rise up and never come crashing down.  However, when we recognize that the rising and crashing waves are part of the same one ocean, we are able to let go and be at peace with the way things are.

Bottom line:  Prepare for the worst but hope for the best – the former makes you sensible, and the latter makes you an optimist.  Read Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality.

5.  Inspire yourself with a smile and positive reminders.

If you expect the worst, the worst will happen.  If you let things bother you, they will.  But if you smile, you’ll feel better.  Studies have shown that putting a cheerful smile on your face can trigger a part of your brain that actually makes you feel happier and more optimistic about the present and future.

Also, feed your optimism with positive reminders.  Write down short statements that inspire optimism.  Put them in places where you’ll see them every day, such as on your bathroom mirror, the inside of your locker, and on your computer monitor.

  • “Anything is possible.”
  • “Lead a life of positivity.”
  • “The only thing I can control is my attitude towards life.”
  • “I always have a choice.”
  • “Even the longest journey begins with a single step.”
  • “I will look at the sunny side of everything and make my optimism shine.”

Read The Happiness Project.

6.  Work on the things you can control.

Pessimism is impractical because it causes you to spend time dwelling on negative things that haven’t happened yet, while simultaneously preventing you from getting things done now.  Pessimism breeds indecision.  It’s a waste of time, and time is a limited resource that you can’t afford to take for granted.  Every minute spent worrying guarantees nothing but less time to enjoy what life has to offer.

The solution?  Acknowledge the things you can’t control and don’t become a victim.  Stop thinking about what is happening to you, and start thinking about what you can do to make it better.  Know that you almost always have a choice. Is your job a bummer?  Find a new one.  Not ready to leave because of your 401K and vacation time?  Then celebrate those reasons and remember that you chose to stay.

7.  Count your blessings.

There is so much good, so much beauty, so much love in your life.  You have so much right now to be thankful for, you just need to pause long enough to appreciate it.  Do so.  This will help frame a better attitude and take your mind off of the negatives.

Start a feel-good journal.  Buy a blank journal and fill it with things that make you smile, like a photo of your pet, or a compliment a friend gave you.  Use it to track your accomplishments and celebrate your victories.  Stick only positive things in your journal and open it up whenever you’re feeling down.

8.  Appreciate that nothing in life is permanent.

Research has shown that optimists and pessimists attribute the reasons for success and failure differently.  Pessimists tend to attribute negative events to permanent, personal, and pervasive factors.  Optimists tend to attribute negative events to non-personal, non-permanent, and non-pervasive factors.  ‘Permanent’ are factors that will be with you throughout life; ‘personal’ are factors that relate to us as individuals; and ‘pervasive’ are factors that affect our ability in other parts of our life.

Bottom line:  Nothing is permanent.  However good or bad a situation is now, it will change.

9.  Focus on the present.

People often obsess themselves with the past and the future.  But life is happening right now.  You can’t learn something or remember something that’s happening now if your mind is stuck in another time.

It takes about eight seconds of intense focus to process a new piece of information into your long-term memory.  So don’t let your life and your mind slip away.  Instead of dwelling on the past or worrying about the future, practice being and living in the present moment.  Remember, right now is the only moment guaranteed to you.  Right now is life.  Don’t miss it.

Photo by: Martin

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42 Comments

  • I love this! Life becomes so much better when we’re happier and positive, but many people don’t know where to start. #2 can be difficult for many people - surely I’m not the only one who knows overly negative people whom you just can’t eliminate from your life…

  • Fantastic, as always. Thank you for all you do. Xo

  • Be more optimistic! :) Great message for people in all walks of life.

  • I’m counting my blessings. Everyday I have something to be thankful for. I’M ALIVE!

  • I can always count on you guys to make me smile :)

    Thank you.

  • Thank you for reminding us of all the important things in life.
    Being an optimist also seems to mean more chances of finding and keeping happiness, all the more reason why we should always look at the bright side of things. :)

  • Nice - now we need a follow up “How to Deal With a Pessimist.”

    I’m an optimist. I have one “Debbie Downer” who calls regularly, but just wants to complain. I try to change the subject, yet it always returns to her complaining. Also, she has made plans with me several times, then stood me up. The last time we made plans, I told her, “Ok, but if you don’t show, I won’t make plans to do this again.” Then she didn’t show, plus she didn’t call or email any kind of apology for two weeks. Then she tried to make plans again. When I reminded her of the previous call, she said, “But, you’ll go with me, won’t you?” Optimistically, I want to believe she’ll change, but realistically, I don’t see that happening.

  • I love the tips. But what if its hard to implement? One negative person in my life is changing me from optimist to a pessimist. It’s tough to deal with.

  • My husband has stage four cancer and we get asked several times a week how we can remain so hopeful. Because of our faith and our optimism, we’ve been able to turn a bad situation into one of inspiration (not to pat myself on the back or anything, it’s been hard work). I live by the equation c + a = L. Circumstances plus attitude equals life. I’m in total control of A and that’s what determines my L. (smile)

  • Really wonderful. I love reading your sensible words of wisdom. Things I know I should know, but sometimes forget to remember……….. ;-)

  • I love this site… because every article strikes me a bit of positivity, thank you very much and bless you :)

  • Love the practical tips beyond simply “Just be positive.” Optimism is truly a skill that can be developed.

  • I love this article about how to become an Optimist!!! I try to teach the same lessons to my blog followers and believe that everyone should live their life to the very fullest. Living with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a muscle-deteriorating disease that slowly weakens my muscles over time, has actually made me stronger and more optimistic overall. I actually have a blog about optimism called The Optimist’s Guide to Life with over 20,000 visitors in a year and a half!! Many of these lessons that you share are ones that I and my guest writers share on my blog too.

    Marc and Angel, please send me an email; I want to discuss cross-promoting our blogs and possibly guest blogging for each other! I believe that if we combine our efforts, fans, and ideas we can truly help make the world a better place, one smile at a time! :) I look forward to your email!!!

  • Thank you for articulating my general outlook and habits.

  • I am going to use this today “Right now is Life! Dont waste it!”

  • YES! YES! YES!

    This is how I try and live my life.

  • Thank you for another great post! This is something that I’ve been working on lately. Seems I can always count on you all to take things out of the theoretical and make positive growth practical. Thank you!

  • This post is perfect for me today :-) Thanks again - Post-It notes are going up!

  • Complaining accomplishes two things: It makes it easier to do nothing about the problem. And it drives people away from you.
    In #4: “..recognize that the rising and crashing waves are part of the same one ocean.”
    Great metaphor!

  • I just wanted to say that your blog has made a really big impact in my life for the last few years.
    And if you guys ever come to Stockholm, my home is open to you :)

    Thank you

    Niklas

  • I’ve found the biggest thing for me is recognizing the impermanence of things. It not only reminds me that whatever problems I’m having at the moment will pass, but also reminds me that my breaths are limited and I shouldn’t waste them complaining.

    Remembering my mortality makes me more of an optimist because I remember I haven’t got the time to be pessimistic.

  • Thank you!

  • Things we all should know by know but forget easily. Thanks for the reminder.

  • I have not begun to read Full Catastrophe Living, but it is a recent purchase. I am looking forward to the read this summer.

  • Stacy of Umpqua
    May 30th, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Great post. I absolutely love the idea of a “feel good journal.” This article definitely deserves a bookmark in my faves list.

    ~Stacy

  • Yeah it sounds like I am an optimist since I do most of these things…………yeah that doesn’t come as a shock to me………my favourtie saying is “Lifes too short to be miserable”

  • Past is a memory and future is a dream. Life is happening right now! Very true indeed.

  • Marc and Angel. I would like to thank both of you for sharing your insights and principles in life. I have been reading your webjournal for several months now and I must say that you have helped me reflect on things that really do matter in life, happiness, and love.

    Cheers!

  • What a great post and actionable list! Even taking just one teeny step at a time will make a difference, especially training yourself to look for the good.

    In regards to inspiring myself, I also keep a folder of gratitude that folks have expressed to me both as a person and blogger. I refer to that whenever I am feeling down, or thinking that what I do doesn’t matter.

    That is also a reminder to make sure I let people know they’ve made a difference in my life, to encourage others. :-)

  • I think being realistic and expecting ups and downs is a biggie here. It’s easy to feel good and be optimistic when everything’s going along great; but to find peace and some happiness when things are going to sh*t…that’s really the challenge and that’s really where you find peace and happiness. I think anyway.

  • Nice one Angel. It’s so important to remember that optimism is a choice. These are great ways to get there.

  • They forgot one thing. You have to believe you deserve to be happy and that you are worth it and believe you do deserve good things. If you can’t receive the gifts of what being an optimist can bring to your life (more love, deeper relationships, attraction - physical & material, happiness) then you will never be a true optimist. You must believe you deserve good things to happen in your life. Well in my opinion anyway.

  • True counting your blessings helps you be optimsitic because what we choose to focus on expands. Loving these lists.

  • This is just what I needed. Thank you so much for you tips, I really enjoy receiving them in my inbox

  • @ jenn Your equation c+a=l seems to be great… what ever works for u is worth doing. When the going is tough the tough gets going.

    @marc n angel Again a great post , pls keep up the good work it is surely impacting many of us positively. thanxs. -vinod

  • It’s so true, a smile really does work! Whenever I feel sad I smile to myself and count my blessings. This lifts my spirits and helps me move on.

  • This is so true. Just being more mindful and not allowing negative people control of your moods is the way to live.

    Sometimes avoiding negative people is more lonely but I would much rather be lonely than negative.

    The world is a wonderful place and the more I see of it the more I internalize it. Thanks for the great post.

  • Thankyou so much . Its UNBELIEVABLE .This is the most lovely site I’ve ever found . It’s just like a dream . I’m gonna tell my dreams I want more like this . I think I’ll stop thinking so much and do more doing to sort out this rut. And keep away from extreme moaners and complainers because I end up thinking and saying the same things as them and moaning to nice people about the moaners ! I will say nice things to myself and others and do nice things.We’re all responsible for our thoughts and actions and happiness . And I’m taking responsibility for mine. I want to live and I want to be happy- so I will x x

  • Loved this article. I’m one heck of a pessimist who has been trying to look at the positive side of life. The fun is whenever I adopt a positive attitude, that is when things go wrong. When I am pessimistic about something, it either turns that I am right or it things instead happen differently.

    I am still hopeful that I can change.

  • thank you. this article has had a profound influence on me.

  • Thanks!!!

  • Yet another perfect post. Thank you for this.

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