What Is Optimism?

What Is Optimism?
Optimism is a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists tend to view hardships as learning experiences or temporary setbacks. Even the most miserable day holds the promise for them that "tomorrow will probably be better."

Optimists expect good things to happen, whereas pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes. Optimistic attitudes are linked to several benefits, including better coping skills, lower stress levels, better physical health, and higher persistence when pursuing goals.
If you always see the brighter side of things, you may experience more positive events in your life than others, find yourself less stressed, and even enjoy more significant health benefits.

Signs of Optimism
There are many key characteristics that optimists tend to share. Some signs that you tend to be optimistic:
  • You feel that good things will happen in the future.
  • You expect things to work out for the best.
  • You feel like you will succeed in the face of life's challenges.
  • You feel that the future looks bright.
  • You think that even good things can come from adverse events.
  • You see challenges or obstacles as opportunities to learn.
  • You feel gratitude for the good things in your life.
  • You are always looking for ways to make the most of opportunities.
  • You have a positive attitude about yourself and others.
  • You accept responsibility for mistakes but don't dwell on them.
  • You don't let one bad experience muddy your expectations for the future.

An example of optimism is believing that there will always be opportunities to make things better tomorrow, even if you are experiencing challenges today.


How to Practice Optimism
Understandably, if you’re an optimist, this bodes well for your future. Negative events are more likely to roll off of your back while positive events affirm your belief in yourself, your ability to make good things happen now and in the future, and in the goodness of life.
Research suggests that genetics determine about 25% of your optimism levels and environmental variables out of your control—such as your socioeconomic status—also play an important role.5 But this doesn't mean that you can't actively improve your attitude.
While you might tend to have either an optimistic or pessimistic explanatory style, there are things that you can do the help cultivate a more optimistic attitude. These include:
Become more mindful: Mindfulness is a focus on being engaged, attentive, and present in the here and now. It can be a useful technique to help you focus on what matters in the present and avoid worrying about future events and things that are outside of your control. If you are living fully in the moment, you are much less likely to ruminate over negative past experiences or worry about upcoming events. This allows you to feel more appreciative of what you have now and less consumed with regrets and anxieties.
Practice gratitude: Gratitude can be defined as an appreciation for what is important in life. One study found that participants who were assigned to write in a gratitude journal showed increased optimism and resilience.6 If you are trying to develop a more optimistic attitude, set aside a few minutes each day to jot down some of the things for which you are grateful.
Write down your positive emotions: Research has shown that something as simple as writing down positive thoughts can help improve your optimism. One study found that expressive writing focused on positive emotions was linked to decreased mental distress and improved mental well-being.

Reading next

How to Be More Positive?
Optimism and Pessimism

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