In a world that is cluttered with a lot of negative noise, it’s important for an individual to be optimistic. Even though we cannot control 100% of the events that happen around us, we can still influence our reaction to everything. If you know how to positively react to something, then you will be happier in life. It’s as simple as that.
It might not surprise you, but I really believe the world would be a better place if people were more optimistic, rather than living a life filled with pessimism. In fact, being optimistic and having a bit of positivity are very important factors of happiness.
That’s why I decided to write about optimism, while covering examples of how you can try to be more optimistic. By the time you’re finished reading this, you’ll know what optimism is, and some examples of how optimism can help you improve your life!
- What is optimism exactly?
- What if I’m not an optimist?
- What are some examples of optimism?
- What are the benefits of being an optimistic person?
- Actionable methods to become an optimist
- Closing words
A significant part of your happiness is a result of your personal outlook. Being aware of your own emotions and mindset is a vital step towards happiness. This is covered in-depth in the section Internal Happiness in the biggest guide on how to be happy available online.
What is optimism exactly?
Optimism is simply defined as being positively hopeful and having confidence in the future success of events. Optimism and positivity are both fundamental factors of happiness.
This may sound simple in theory, but in reality, optimism is a trait that is difficult to possess and maintain. The few people that do know how to be an optimist are able to achieve things that could be considered impossible in the eyes of others.
This is because pessimists see the negatives and think about why something will not work, while optimists focus on the positives or the “what if’s” of how something could work.
What if I’m not an optimist?
Do not fret if you aren’t an optimist! Being an optimist is not completely defined by your genes or your upbringing. Instead, being an optimist is something you can train and actually turn into a habit. The fact that you’re reading this right now is a sign that you want to improve, so we’re off to a good start!
Just like other skills, becoming an optimist is something that takes work and gets easier when you have examples to follow and recognize. That’s why this articles focuses on examples of optimism, that you can recognize in your daily life in order to improve your positive self.
What are some examples of optimism?
Like I’ve mentioned before, optimism is looking at the positives of probable events. It basically means seeing the positives and the opportunities of certain scenarios, no matter what the odds might say.
Here are examples (some personal) that will show you how optimism can help you steer your life in a better, happier direction.
Optimism example 1: Getting your only debit card blocked in a foreign country
This example actually happened to a close friend of mine. Two weeks back, he embarked on a solo backpacking journey around the world. Being a beginner, he made a bunch of mistakes, like not bringing a backup method for paying money.
So when he used a shady ATM, his card got stuck inside the machine. Yikes. What made it worse is that it was a Sunday so the bank was closed and unable to help.
So what did he do?
He freaked out for a moment, as he was in a foreign country without any money. He even thought of going back home but then wisely decided to tackle his problem like an optimist
He thought of solutions instead of problems.
He soon found that cryptocurrency (he’s a crypto fan) could easily be exchanged for the local currency. So he looked for people online to help him out and within a few hours, he exchanged some of his crypto for the local currency.
While a pessimist would’ve given up and blamed the world (anybody but himself) for not having a backup plan, the optimist in him focused on solutions and eventually found one.
Optimism example 2: Stuck in traffic
In today’s world, it almost seems like everyone and their mom is getting a new car. As a result, being stuck in traffic is a common part of our lives. And while many people dread being stuck in traffic, optimistic people will find a way to still enjoy it a little.
For instance, I always keep a book in the car just in case I’m stuck in traffic. In addition, if I’m only going to be stuck for 5 or 10 minutes, I’ll usually give my girlfriend a call, or crank up the volume on one of my favorite music albums.
You see, this way you’ll be able to shift your focus from something negative to something that’s positive. And that’s exactly what an optimist would do.
What if you’re late for work due to traffic, and your boss will flip?
Send a picture of the traffic and he probably won’t even be mad at you. Busy traffic and accidents are so common nowadays, that your boss will likely understand.
In short, while most people would fear getting stuck in traffic, an optimistic person would look at it as an opportunity to learn something new, talk to his/her partner and focus on something positive instead!
It’s probably not hard to see how this can have a great effect on your happiness, right?
Having the ability to change your own perception of the outside world can make a significant difference
Optimism example 3: Losing your job
A lot of us have experience with it: losing your job and being laid off.
For some people, this can lead to depression and sometimes initiates a mid-life crisis. While losing your job undeniably sucks, an optimistic person would look at this as an opportunity to find a much more fitting job rather than a complete setback.
I think by now you should be able to recognize how much better the approach of an optimistic person is compared to that of a pessimist.
In a similar situation, an optimist will always have a better experience in dealing with the issues at hand. Sure, the challenges and amount of stress might be theoretically the same, but it’s easier to work on a solution when you actually have a positive mindset.
And that is the biggest advantage of being an optimist. An optimist has the ability to focus on the positive aspects of a situation, no matter what the circumstances.
What are the benefits of being an optimistic person?
Every day, we are faced with challenges and uncertainties that we couldn’t have predicted. And while these things are often out of our control, we can still control how we react and feel in such scenarios.
This is where optimism has many benefits. I’ll share some benefits of how a bit of optimism and positivity can change the way you react in the face of adversity.
A positive mindset triggers creativity to deal with challenges
When most people set a goal in life, they don’t account for the problems that might surface along the way. When these problems come up, a pessimist will see the problem as a hurdle that can’t be overcome. On the other hand, an optimistic person will be more committed to finding a solution.
This finding was confirmed in a fun study by Barbara Frederickson. The study found that a positive mindset can be triggered, and more importantly, that a positive mindset initiates more creativity and an urge to “play ball”. Basically, when you have a positive mindset, you’re better able to deal with the challenges that life throws at you.
An optimist is more likely to take the first step, no matter how big the climb seems
A pessimist sees the negatives or the difficulty in every opportunity whereas an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
– Winston Churchill
Most pessimists give up before even trying something big, because they focus too much on the negatives and how something can go wrong.
From experience, I’ve learned that the hardest and most critical part of reaching just about any goal is actually starting. Taking that first step is often the hardest thing to do.
Thinking about all the possible negativity will keep a pessimist from starting at all. It’s rather sad actually because most people are too busy trying to convince themselves to start.
In the meantime, an optimist has already started by now and is putting in the work it takes.
Sure, he’ll eventually face the same challenges a pessimist would, but facing these challenges is much easier when you’re already moving forward!
Actionable methods to become an optimist
Even when you consider yourself to be a pessimist, there are still great methods to train your mind to be more optimistic. As I already said, you’re not born a pessimist, and with effort, you can develop the skill of positive if you put in the effort.
1. Be a source of positivity for others
On your pathway to become more optimistic, you will encounter a lot of people that are dealing with similar issues like you. I want you to consider the possibility of being a source of positivity for these people.
You see, humans tend to unknowingly copy the behavior of others, and as some of you might know: emotions can be contagious!
If your partner or close friend is sad or angry then there is a possibility that you will feel that emotion as well. The same works for positivity, laughter, and happiness.
Your happiness can actually radiate to other people. Your smile has the power to bring a smile to someone else’s face! How can you put this to practice?
- Smile to a stranger
- Try to laugh when you’re around others. Laughter is one of the best remedies for sadness.
- Do something nice for somebody else, a.k.a. a random act of kindness
- Make a compliment to somebody else and notice how it affects their happiness
But wait. Why would you want to focus on the happiness of others while you’re interested in having a positive mindset yourself right now?
It’s easy: Spreading positivity to others will make you feel more positive as well. Teach by doing, and you’ll learn something for yourself as well.
2. Be grateful for what you already have
You’ve probably heard this one before, but I’m still going to include this as a method to become more optimistic. Practicing gratitude can have a great effect on your mental health, as shown by numerous studies. I’ve covered the topic of being grateful and how it influences your happiness in this in-depth article.
How can you practice gratitude?
- Thank your family for everything they’ve done for you
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Remember the happy memories of your life and be grateful for those memories
- Think about and focus on the positive things you have going on in your life
I find that remembering good memories helps me maintain a happy mind. Thinking back about that time that I laughed my ass off about something silly brings a smile to my face. This is something I try to do daily, whenever I find a moment to stand still and think about my life.
One of the most well-known studies on gratitude was conducted in 2003 by Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough. They conducted a study in which they surveyed 192 participants – split into 3 groups – that were subjected to different situations. They were all asked to rate how they felt via a combination of 30 factors at the end of each day on a scale from 1 to 5. The answers were used to calculate a subjective well-being rating.
Of the 3 groups, one was asked specifically to find gratitude by means of this instruction:
“There are many things in our lives, both large and small, that we might be grateful about. Think back over the past week and write down on the lines below up to five things in your life that you are grateful or thankful for.”
The study shows that people who are encouraged to think of things they’re grateful for are approximately 10% happier than those who are not.
A 10% increase in happiness as a result of practicing gratitude is very big in my opinion.
- That’s why people are so serious about practicing gratitude.
- That’s why gratitude journals are so trendy these days.
- It’s why I am writing this article today about how practicing gratitude can help you achieve a positive mindset! 🙂
3. Surround yourself with positive people
In a world filled with negativity, it is obviously quite common for someone to be surrounded by negativity. In fact, spending time with negative people who continually focus on the negative side of a situation is the quickest way to become a negative pessimist too.
There’s an old saying that supports this:
“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with”.
If you hang out with pessimists, it’s likely that you’ll slowly turn into one yourself.
It luckily works the other way around too. Surround yourself with optimists, and you’ll slowly embrace that mindset yourself as well!
My actionable advice to you?
Unfriend people who add nothing but negativity to your life! Pay attention to only your true friends, who mean something to you and have a positive influence on your happiness! Friends have a great effect on your happiness, so focusing on positivity while with your friends is even more powerful in becoming happier yourself.
4. Focus on your own success and don’t compare
Let me share something very simple, yet extremely important:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
This is such an important thing to know, especially now that everybody is constantly trying to impress the world of what an amazing life they have (looking at you, Facebook).
Some people compare what they have to what others have and then decide to feel down about not being able to keep up. Why can’t I be successful? Why can’t I go on that nice holiday? Why wasn’t I invited to that party?
Those are all toxic and negative mindsets, that will get you nothing but misery.
It’s simple, most of us are quick to envy somebody else’s accomplishments, but in the process neglect what we’ve already accomplished ourselves. The grass is always greener, right?
How about you appreciate what you have going for yourself a little more? Screw the rest of the world! You should be positive about what you already have, instead of what others have that you don’t. Stop comparing yourself to others, and you’ll soon find yourself with a more positive mindset!
If you find this hard, then I really advise you to experiment with blocking social media. Try to remove Facebook and Instagram for a week, and see how that influences your state of mind.
Optimism is a simple yet powerful trait that can make a huge impact on how we live our lives. If you learn to embrace optimism, you’ll likely live a richer, more productive and happier life. If that’s not enough motivation to get started on this optimistic path, then I don’t know what is!
Did I miss a tip that helped you embrace optimism in the past? Do you want to share your own experience, or an anecdote on how you decided to stay optimistic? I’d love to hear all about it in the comments below!
Founder of Tracking Happiness and lives in the Netherlands. Ran 5 marathons, with one of them in under 4 hours (3:59:58 to be exact). Data junkie and happiness tracker for over 7 years.