While some people appear to be more positive than others, it doesn’t mean that you cannot train yourself to approach life more optimistically. Practicing optimism often means creating practices around optimistic thinking. By focusing on your thoughts and mental patterns, you can begin to retrain yourself to think more positively and optimistically and learn new patterns of thought. Spend less time engaging negative thoughts and instead, replace them with positive or more helpful thoughts. Over time, you can train yourself to approach situations more positively and optimistically.
1. Give Thanks
Thoughts of gratitude increase serotonin and decrease cortisol while also improving motivation and overall happiness. Start by writing down at least three things you’re grateful for each day.
This practice may evolve into a more regular awareness of things you’re grateful for, about which you can write in a notebook that you carry with you. The more often you focus on gratitude, the more optimistic your brain will become.
2. Pay It Forward
Acts of kindness boost the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine. Even something as simple as giving someone a smile or a compliment can leave you both feeling a burst of happiness.
Challenge yourself to do at least one kind thing for someone else each day, such as sending a thank-you email, buying a stranger’s cup of coffee or donating to the cause of your choice. You’ll reap more benefits than just good karma.
3. Laugh Out Loud
Laughter really is the best medicine. Belly laughs induce serotonin production, calming the amygdala (the brain’s stress center). Spend time with funny friends, put on one of your favorite comedies or even try laughter yoga. Regardless of how you get your laughs, just make sure you’re getting them often.
4. Mind Your Words
Catch yourself when you start to complain. This is challenging, especially if complaining is a common habit you’ve cultivated. But remember your mom’s sage advice: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” So choose your words carefully. You may be surprised how quickly cutting out complaining turns your outlook around.
5. Get Sweaty
Exercise elevates endorphins, serotonin and other pleasurable brain chemicals while simultaneously reducing cortisol. For best results, increase your heart rate for at least 20 minutes each day.
If it’s hard to find time to hit the gym, there are many exercise videos you can follow online. There are even routines you can do while standing next to your desk. The main objective is to break a sweat, and do it daily.
Who’s in? Let me know how your outlook — and your life — changes after putting these practices into place. I’m optimistic that you’ll see a big difference.
6. TURN OFF THE NEWS
Five minutes of the morning news is enough to send anyone’s mood in a downward spiral.
“The news and current state of media and politics can make it very hard for people to be optimistic. The reality is that the moment you turn on the news or read the paper, you are likely to be barraged with negativity and a bleak outlook on the world,” says Iyer. “This, however, is an imbalanced view on the world, so I suggest that people try to limit their consumption of the news.
7. WRITE IN A JOURNAL FOR A FEW MINUTES EACH DAY
Researchers define gratitude as the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself, or a general state of thankfulness — no doubt a mental state that fosters an optimistic outlook. But it can be easier said than done to remain grateful throughout day to-day stressors .
8. ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU CAN — AND CANNOT — CONTROL
“While some people may be unable to deal with uncertainty, positive individuals are able to adapt and thrive. Accept what you can and cannot control in the situation,” says Hershenson. “For example, if you lose your job you cannot control the fact that you were fired or laid off. You can control whether you take steps to find a new job as well as whether you take care of yourself with proper nutrition and sleep.”
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to help combat the tendency to ruminate over daily stressors, which is a breeding ground for negativity.
9. Stop comparing yourself to others.
Unhappy people tend to compare themselves to others while happy people don’t engage in any comparisons with others, whether favorable or unfavorable. If you catch yourself saying, “I wish I was more like her” or, “If only I had his job,” it’s time to stop these comparisons. Whether the comparisons are positive or negative, they are not improving your life.
- When you catch yourself in a comparison, focus on something more positive. For example, instead of thinking, “I wish I had a house more like theirs” think to yourself, “I know I can have a house like this if I continue to work hard and save money.”
10. Practice gratitude.
Gratitude is a way to give thanks for what you have. Instead of focusing on what you lack, focus on what you have or what you appreciate. People who consistently practice gratitude tend to have higher levels of optimism and happiness, act with generosity and compassion, and experience more positive emotions. Get in the habit of finding things every day that you are grateful for.
You can write in a gratitude journal or notice things throughout your day that you can be thankful for.
Try waking up and going to bed each day by naming three things that you are grateful for.