23 Strategies To Become More Optimistic

Jamie Birt

Updated March 28, 2022

Published June 8, 2021

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

Becoming more optimistic can help you see people, situations and tasks with a more positive outlook. People who are optimists can reduce their stress levels, improve their productivity and have more fulfilling experiences. In this article, we discuss what optimism is, why being optimistic matters and how to become more optimistic in 23 steps.

What is optimism?

Optimism is a mindset that enables people to understand and focus on the positive aspects of situations. Even during challenging circumstances, an optimistic person maintains a productive attitude and takes actionable steps. A person who's an optimist knows challenges are temporary and continues to have hope that situations can improve in the future.

Related: 40 Tips To Overcome Being Negative

Why is optimism important?

Optimism can provide a variety of benefits for your physical, mental and emotional health, such as:

  • Minimization of stress: Focusing on the positive aspects of your life and the surrounding circumstances can help reduce your stress levels.

  • Better physical health: Some studies suggest that optimists have lower risks of heart disease, stroke and other medical conditions related to your heart or blood system. Optimists may also have stronger immune systems that can more easily fight germs or diseases.

  • Reduced risk of depression or anxiety: Optimists might have lowered chance of developing some mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression.

  • Higher income: People who are optimists may have more positive social interactions in their work environment. This can help them advance their careers and increase their salaries.

  • Increased productivity: During challenging situations, optimists focus more on solutions rather than the problem itself. This can help optimists develop action-oriented plans that boost their productivity.

  • More fulfilling experiences: Optimists may have an easier time being mentally present as opposed to being distracted by stress or anxiety. An optimistic outlook can help you get more enjoyment out of your relationships, careers, hobbies and other aspects of your life.

How to be optimistic

Some people might believe that people are born with optimism. However, optimism is actually a personality trait and ability that individuals can choose to develop. If you want to become more optimistic, here are 23 steps to consider incorporating into your habits and lifestyle:

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Write every day in a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is a place where you regularly write things you feel grateful for. The things you're grateful for can be small, such as a good meal or a sunny day. They can also be larger or more complex, such as a loved one, a stable career or freedom. Consistently recognizing the things you're grateful for can help you refocus on the positives in your life and foster a more optimistic perspective.

2. Create positive mantras

Develop positive mantras, affirmations or aphorisms for yourself. An affirmation is a message you repeat to yourself throughout the day that has a positive message. You can write down your mantras and read them regularly or simply think about them.

Here are some examples of positive mantras for you to use or modify for yourself:

  • "I am learning and growing every day."

  • "I am worth more than my mistakes."

  • "My challenges help me learn and develop."

  • "This is going to be fine, eventually."

  • "My life matters."

3. Be positive around others

Strive for positive interactions with other people. Try giving people more genuine compliments or acknowledging their successes.

Some positive interactions may acknowledge negative situations but ultimately focus on the beneficial aspects. For example, if a coworker feels sad, try to comfort them and find a solution to their problem instead of only commiserating.

Related: How To Become More Open-Minded in 10 Steps

4. Find the good in challenging situations

Look for the positive aspects even when facing a challenge in your life. Optimists understand that there can be benefits to even difficult situations. For example, if you missed a deadline for a project at work, focus on what you learned from the experience, such as better productivity strategies you can use in the future.

5. Consciously think positive thoughts

Create happy thoughts for yourself. While it might feel strange to purposefully give yourself positive thoughts, doing so can help train your brain over time to naturally provide more positive messages and beliefs.

One tactic for this is to reframe your thoughts that are not as happy or hopeful. For instance, if you think "I can't do this," see if you can alter this negative thought into positive self-talk instead, such as:

  • "I may not have done this before, but I'm confident I can succeed."

  • "I might make some mistakes, but I can learn from them and keep making progress."

  • "I have bested other challenges before, so I can overcome this one too."

6. Limit your consumption of the news

Minimize how often you read, watch or listen to the news. It's important to stay informed about the world around you. However, since most news mediums discuss negative topics or subjects from a negative angle, consuming too much news can dampen your outlook on life. Consider setting a time limit for how much news you consume regularly. Choosing to only receive your news from a few reputable sources can also help you reduce the amount of news you read or watch daily.

7. Spend time with optimistic people

Interact with more people who have positive outlooks. The people around you can have a profound impact on your emotions, thoughts and perspectives. You might also find an optimistic mentor or an optimist in your network whose behaviors you observe and try to emulate.

Related: How To Bring Positivity To a Negative Work Environment

8. Do activities you enjoy

Spend time on hobbies or interests that naturally boost your mood or make you laugh. Pursuing activities you enjoy can help you reduce stress levels. When you feel more joyful, it can become easier to look at situations from a positive point of view.

9. Give yourself positive feedback

Incorporate positive feedback for yourself into your thoughts. Congratulate yourself on your achievements, however routine or unimportant they might seem. You may find it helpful to think of yourself as having an inner coach continually cheering you on and helping you grow.

10. Take action against the negative

Make actionable plans when facing challenging situations. Some people might think that optimists only perceive the good in all situations. However, optimistic people do recognize difficulties. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of a situation, optimists make plans to alter, improve or overcome those challenges.

11. Practice mindfulness

Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily life. Mindfulness is the ability to be fully conscious of your situation or surroundings at any moment. Some people practice mindfulness through meditation sessions, journal writing or yoga classes.

You can also try mindfulness during your everyday tasks. Take a few moments to relax, close your eyes and listen to your breathing. Observe any feelings, thoughts or physical sensations without judging them. Learning to acknowledge your emotions and then move on can help you let go of negative feelings or thoughts.

Related: What Is Self-Awareness: Tips on Being More Mindful at Work

12. Debate any negative thoughts

Argue with your negative thoughts or emotions. When you have a negative thought you aren't able to move on from, write arguments in support of and against that negative thought. For example, if you think "This task is too difficult," write that thought down along with evidence that both reinforces or negates that thought. Recording these arguments for and against negative thoughts can help you approach situations with greater objectivity.

13. Learn to accept compliments

If someone offers you positive feedback, allow yourself to feel good about the compliment. Some people may find it difficult to accept praise. However, learning to receive compliments can help you cultivate more positive emotions toward yourself.

14. Acknowledge things beyond your control

Notice and accept that you may not be able to change everything. When you acknowledge some things are beyond your control, you can learn to move on and focus on the aspects of your life or within the world that you can influence.

Related: Adaptive Skills: Definition and Examples

15. Increase your chances of success

Improve your ability to succeed by minimizing your personal obstacles. For example, if you find yourself frequently distracted by the internet, you could download a productivity app that limits your time on the web. Optimists are more likely to make progress on various tasks, projects or personal goals. Increasing your own ability to succeed can help you achieve more and feel more positive about your accomplishments.

16. Practice self-care

Make time to care for your basic needs. Having a positive outlook becomes easier when you are healthy, rested and nourished. Drink enough water, eat nutritious foods, spend time with loved ones and other activities that support your basic needs.

17. Fantasize about a positive future

Imagine a positive future for yourself. Think about your hopes for tomorrow, next week or even years from now. Visualizing your future through an optimistic perspective can improve your mood, help you set goals and give you a greater sense of purpose in your daily actions. Consider writing down your visions for your future. You might also visualize your idea of the future as if watching a brief movie inside your mind.

18. Make progress on your goals

Strive for consistent progress toward your long-term goals. Separate your larger ambitions into smaller tasks so that you can notice and celebrate each milestone. For example, if you want to learn a new language, set smaller objectives related to that bigger goal, such as learning to say numbers or have a basic conversation. Write down the progress you make on a daily or another regular basis so you have a record of your improvements.

Related: Lifelong Learning: What It Is, Benefits and Habits

19. Create a new bedtime routine

Before going to sleep, think about what went well during your day. Consider your personal accomplishments, both minor and major, as well as parts of the day you enjoyed. Ending your day with positive emotions and thoughts might help you sleep better and wake up in a happier mood.

20. Do something new

Have an unfamiliar experience, learn new information or practice a new skill. Optimists are often interested in trying new things and exploring unfamiliar concepts, skills or experiences. Getting out of your comfort zone may help you feel more excited about distinct possibilities in your life.

21. Minimize negative predictions

Try to cultivate positive expectations for the future. Some people may have lower expectations for the future based on negative experiences in their past. However, negative experiences in the past may have little to no effect on your future. Approaching experiences with a positive and objective outlook can help you create a more successful future outcome.

22. Begin your day with positive expectations

Start your day by thinking about what you hope to accomplish. Review both what you want to accomplish that day and what you hope to accomplish long term. Beginning your day with positive visualizations may improve your mood and help you achieve more.

23. Question yourself

If you have a negative thought or feeling, ask yourself questions about that negativity. This internal dialogue may help you cultivate more optimistic feelings, even during challenging situations. Some questions you might ask include:

  • "What could be one thing that I learn from this situation?"

  • "What is one good aspect of this situation?"

  • "What about these circumstances could I turn into an opportunity?"

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