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Studies show that optimists live longer, achieve more, and enjoy greater happiness and health. Even if you tend to see the glass as half empty, you can tap into these advantages.
Psychologists believe that about 50% of your optimist quotient is determined at birth. That leaves the remaining 50% that you can work on. Train yourself to become more hopeful. You can complete most of these steps instantly, and a few require a little more time.
Instant Changes for
Becoming More Optimistic
- Wear a smile. Your facial muscles communicate with your brain. Putting on a smile will make you look and feel more cheerful.
- Create a distraction. When you find yourself dwelling on the size of your thighs or how slowly traffic is moving, switch your attention to something more entertaining. Sing show tunes or remember romantic moments with your spouse.
- Study your dog. Most dogs will keep returning to the spot on the sidewalk where they found a burger wrapper last June. Let your best friend inspire you to hold on to your dreams.
- Count your blessings. Gratitude reinforces optimism. Wake up each morning thinking about what you’re thankful for. Write a gratitude list and post it near your desk where you can see it all day.
- Challenge your assumptions. Transform your self-talk by arguing the opposing side when you start to criticize yourself. Remember to run a reality check because unpleasant events tend to make a stronger impression than positive ones. The day your hot water heater broke stands out more than all the years it worked fine.
- Build on your strengths. Studies also show that using your core strengths will cause you to view your future more favorably. If your friends rave about your watercolors, enter a group exhibition. Apply your aptitude with numbers to tutoring children in math.
- Focus on solutions. Put your energy into overcoming challenges rather than catastrophizing about how much can go wrong. Needing a new car transmission will seem less overwhelming when you take your first steps to find a mechanic and adjust your budget to cover the bills.
- Exercise daily. Physical activity is good for your mind as well as your body. A vigorous workout will brighten your outlook. Play competitive sports or sign up for a dance class.
- Practice mindfulness. Trying to make yourself happier tends to backfire, but there is a better way. Engage fully with whatever you’re doing. As you increase your awareness and act from your heart, even tedious tasks become more meaningful and rewarding.
Longer-Term Changes for Becoming More Optimistic
- Marry an optimist. Hope is contagious. An idealistic spouse sets a good example and encourages harmony. If neither of you is optimistic, you and your partner can work on becoming more optimistic together and find friends who will be good role models.
- Adjust your explanatory style. When optimists receive disappointing news, they usually view it as temporary and attribute it to external causes. Lighten up if you’re taking the weather personally and remember the rain will end. It’s good to hold yourself accountable for a behavior you can change, but avoid beating yourself up.
- Plan ahead. Feeling in control also helps to boost optimism. Clarify your goals and strategies to makes it easier to anticipate obstacles and persevere. As your successes add up, the process will become more automatic.
Wear rose-colored glasses and walk on the sunny side of the street. Being more optimistic is likely to extend your life and help you to enjoy those extra years more.