Optimism is a disposition or a tendency to look at the bright side of life. Nowadays, tips on how to be optimistic are everywhere. You can find them in movies, books, Facebook posts of your friends, in the magazines. We all know how to do it and how important it is, yet common knowledge doesn’t seem to be our common practice.
There are days when nothing seems to be “sunny” about our life situation. Nothing goes our way, we get stuck, exhausted and probably saddened to some degree. We might have lost our job or someone we love, we became ill, or we have an overall experience of being lost and not knowing what to do with our life.
If a tough period like this lasts longer than we expect, we start losing ourselves in the negativity of circumstances, forgetting that our situation can, and will be different in the future. When the optimism and positive thoughts begin fading away, and we start thinking that nothing good will come to us ever again. That we are doomed.
At that moment, we don’t feel like acting all cheerful and hopeful. We just want to cover ourselves with a blanket and hate the world.
That’s okay, for a while. But we need to be very careful here. What we focus on the most has the tendency to grow and straighten over time. What does this mean? If you are feeling negative for a week, month or even a year it could easily become a habit of yours. Habits then develop into personality traits and before you know the negative outlook on life becomes your “modus operandi”.
Staying optimistic through the challenges of life doesn’t come easily and naturally to most of us. That’s why it is a skill and habit we need to develop. Challenges and difficult times are exactly the ones that require from us to be courageous and keep being optimistic. Once we manage to succeed in that our confidence and self-esteem with benefit. Our anxiety levels will reduce and our capacity for resilience will deepen. We will grow as humans because we will know that we can go through anything in life if we keep looking at the bright side of it.
No matter what your life situation is there is always an available way for you to overcome obstacles to being optimistic. All you need to do is to choose one and go for it.
1. Look for Silver Lining
Going through life with the “right attitude” takes a substantial amount of practice. If the negative thoughts constantly overwhelm your mind and drag you down repeatedly, first you’ll have to learn how to deal with them in a gentle manner.
We are not always conscious of our own thoughts so paying attention to them, observing what we are telling to ourselves is a good way to start. Next time a negative thought comes to our mind, we will be able to recognize it and replace it with a better, more supportive thought.
For example, you feel insecure about your performance at work:
“Oh no, I have this meeting today, I will probably make a fool out of myself, my work wasn’t great lately. I hate my job, I hate my life.”
Some of us might have thoughts like this from time to time, and when we have them what we can do is to replace them with more supportive ones, like:
“Every day I do my job the best I can and so far I got through every meeting. I will get through this one, too”
Both inner conversations are based on your own reality. The first one stems from your reality of fear and the second from your reality of optimism and hope. You can decide which works better for you. If you choose to go along with the optimistic “inner talk” after a while, you’ll be doing it automatically. (1)
When you find yourself in a negative situation, look for the silver lining. Force yourself to find the positive side of things. There's always a bit of good in every bad situation: a lesson to be learned, new opportunity, a new perspective or just renewed appreciation of what you have and know already.
2. Surround Yourself with Optimists
After a disappointment or failure, there’s a tendency in all of us to connect to our personal misery. We start organising these “pity parties” with the intention to grieve over the fact that the world is a terrible place. We begin paying more attention to bad news just so we can confirm our deeply negative outlook on life.
That is when we must surround ourselves with optimists.
People that we surround ourselves with have a big impact on us. If we spend a lot of time with negative people, their words will make us focus more on the bad side of things. After meeting up with them, we are left with the feeling of emptiness.
On the other hand, when we connect to incredibly positive and inspiring folks their energy and enthusiasm become almost contagious to us. We rub off some of their drive and vitality so that it becomes a fuel for our own life, supporting us to get unstuck and move forward.
When you are intentionally inspired, it’s much easier to move on and prosper in life (3).
3. Engage in Random Acts of Kindness
We get so consumed with our thoughts that we tend to forget about other people.
Think of someone that you care about and try to do something nice for them. Make them smile. Help them. Surprise them with a gift.
Their happiness will fill your soul with optimism. When you see someone smile, you will realize that not everything is so dark. It’ll make you feel helpful and more excited about life.
You could do so many little things every day. Open the door for your elderly neighbour, give someone a compliment, pay coffee for the person next in line. It can be so simple and easy. When this becomes your way of living, possibilities for optimism will be almost endless. (4)
4. Spend your Day Mindfully
Morning has a big impact on how the rest of your day will go. Mindful morning allows you to design the first moments of your time awake and ensure that your day starts off nicely. Make sure that your alarm sound is a song you love. Leave enough time to commute peacefully to work. Eat something that you like for breakfast. Enjoy your food.
Go through your day slowly, step by step. Enjoy the hot water while you shower. Stop to notice everything that you do and what surrounds you. Be aware of the moment. That will take your mind off worrying so much about your past or future.
Your life will pass you by if you stay living in your head. Tony Robbins, a world-famous coach often says “Stay in your head, you’re dead”. Stop thinking about a different time or moment. What matters is now. Enjoy the sun, enjoy being you, enjoy your life. (5)
5. Complete Incompletions
When we are going through a rough period, and just keep sinking deeper in despair, we develop a negative way of approaching our tasks. We base or conclusions on previous experience so if we failed, we will go ahead and assume that we will fail again.
When this occurs, take another direction. Choose a task and complete it. Do something that you always wanted to do. Cross off one project from your to-do list.
It will remind you that you actually can do things right and it'll give you a feeling of accomplishment. Also, it takes your mind off the disappointment and teaches you how to change gears to keep yourself going towards a positive direction. (6)
6. Be Grateful
This is the key to optimism. Focusing on what we don’t have and all the bad things that happened to us, it is most likely the reason why we sometimes become pessimistic.
There is something so powerful about being grateful. It immediately nourishes our soul.
So, here’s a tip that has proved to be highly effective for creating a long-term optimistic mindset. Before you go to sleep, stop thinking about what you have to do tomorrow or stop replaying situations in which you made a mistake or failed to achieve what you wanted.
Instead, when you lay in the bed, think about all the specific nice things that happened to you that day. Even the smallest ones. After you list them, feel truly thankful for them. Say thank you for having a secure life, for having so many people that love you, for having a job, for being healthy, for anything that you have.
Say thank you for all the blessings you already received and the ones that all yet to come. (7)
Optimism Takes Effort
Stay grateful, force your mind into positive thoughts, reflect on your surrounding and be in a company of enthusiastic people. That’s how you’ll be able to overcome the obstacles to optimism.
Stay devoted to this powerful practice and see how your life expands and the growth that comes out of it.
Optimism all the way.
(Read this next: How Do I Know If I Am Truly Ambitious?)