Optimists not only see the glass half full, they also tend to enjoy longer lives, have fewer diseases, and even make more money.
A comprehensive review conducted by researchers in Italy on optimism and its effects on health enumerates the different ways optimism has been correlated with everything from coping mechanisms and risk perception to quality of life and adaptation of purpose.
The Week adds that on top of taking a toll on health, cynicism and pessimism can also lessen wealth, with optimists earning higher incomes than their less sunny counterparts. All in all, optimists do a lot better in work, school, sports, and even relationships.
As a (former) pessimist, I can’t deny the good deal of jealousy I felt reading up on the many benefits ascribed to living optimistically. I regarded my pessimism as a good defence mechanism: if I never expected much from the world, then I won’t get as disappointed than others whenever things don’t work out.
But after studying books and people I knew who were optimists, I realized that optimism doesn’t mean being blind to the world’s realities and the many ways things can go wrong at all. It simply meant having the knack for seeing the positive side in any situation, which can help a person deal with change. After all, challenges and disappointments are inevitable for both pessimists and optimists alike, but the difference is that a pinch of positivity makes people learn from mistakes instead of feeling defeated by them.
The bright side of all this is that optimism can be learned, and if half of all people in America consider themselves optimists, then I certainly can get myself on that side of the pie, too. If you’re on this journey as well, here are eight daily habits I’ve learned that can do wonders in making you an optimist.
Seek the good response
This might take a bit of work at first, but you have to understand that events in themselves aren’t usually the ones making us unhappy – it’s our interpretation and reactions to them that do. And while you can’t change the events or circumstances you are served, you can control how you respond.
Challenge negative thoughts
Do your best to notice your negativity, which can color your day in powerful ways. The next time you catch yourself thinking about something negatively, psychologist Dr. Amy Przeworski recommends writing that thought down. Ask yourself whether there’s any evidence for it to be true, and what you can do about it if it is. Try writing down arguments against these negative thoughts as well. By putting it on paper, you make your bad thoughts less daunting than they are up in the clouds, and therefore easier to conquer.
Focus on solutions, not problems
Spend as little time as possible dwelling on problems and placing blame, and jump right into how best to address the situation. Things aren’t always fair – pessimists know this best – but it doesn’t mean you’re stuck there forever. By switching to solution-based thinking, you set up your mind for forward movement, hope, and positivity.
Surround yourself with like-minded people
As I’ve learned in the past few years, optimism is a learned habit and can be very contagious. Surround yourself with people who look at the world positively, and try to avoid people who complain a lot and drive you back to your pessimistic ways when you’re just starting out on your journey.
Find a role model
Think of a person you know – a friend, coworker, or even a celebrity – who has a positive outlook on life. When faced with a difficult situation, ask yourself what that person would do in your place, and find a way to channel their optimism into your life and thoughts.
Be generous in words and actions both to others and to yourself. No one is perfect, so practice being kind and forgiving. You’ll be surprised at how much room you suddenly have to see the positives in people and situations, including yourself.
Give yourself pats on the back
Before going to sleep, spend a few minutes reviewing what went right during your day – what you enjoyed, felt validating, made you feel hopeful about the future. Even small things can do you a world of good upon further reflection, and can help you enjoy better sleep. In the beginning, you might find that nothing good happened in your day, and that’s okay. Congratulate yourself instead on getting through it, and try again tomorrow.
Smile, even if you have to fake it
One powerful thing you can do in the face of paralyzing pessimistic thoughts is to smile. Not only does this invite others to share their happiness with you, but smiling also alleviates stress levels even when you’re faking it. So smile until life rewards you with more things to smile about – and step this up by laughing with others. As explained in a previous blog post here on Project Happiness laughter is even more contagious than smiling and can bring even more light into life.
When trying to form optimistic habits, you have nothing to lose and a world to gain. Try these small daily habits and see how far you’ll go!
About Antonette Delman
Antonette Delman got her university degree on accountancy and business management feeling sure of where she was going and what she wanted in life - until she wasn’t. This prompted a spiritual journey that’s led her to learn and write more about mindfulness, spirituality, and living life one day at a time. These days, she still practices her profession as a licensed accountant on top of writing lifestyle articles focusing on living a life well-lived. When she’s not working with words or numbers, Antonette loves doing yoga, hiking, and bonding with her dog.