How to Practice Optimistic Thinking: Rewire Your Brain for Positivity

Optimistic thinking refers to having a positive outlook on life and a belief that good things will happen. An optimistic mindset has several benefits, including increased happiness, better physical health, greater resilience, and improved relationships.

An optimistic person tends to approach challenges with a can-do attitude, which can lead to more creative problem-solving and increased success.

If you’re looking to adopt a more optimistic outlook, there are several strategies you can try. One is to focus on the good things in your life rather than dwelling on the negative. Surrounding yourself with positive people and engaging in activities you enjoy can also help to boost your optimism. Additionally, practicing mindfulness and radical gratitude shift your perspective and allows you to appreciate what you have in the moment.

The impact of optimism on happiness cannot be overstated. Studies have shown that optimists are more resilient and experience less stress and anxiety compared to their pessimistic counterparts. Furthermore, a positive outlook can improve relationships and foster greater connections with others, leading to a greater sense of community and belonging. By incorporating optimistic thinking into your daily life, you can not only increase your own happiness but also have a positive impact on those around you.

Definition of Optimism, According to Psychology

According to psychology, optimism is defined as an individual’s general expectation that good things will happen in the future and that challenges will be overcome. It is a positive mental attitude and worldview characterized by hope, confidence, and a belief in one’s ability to influence positive outcomes.

Research has linked optimism to improved well-being, better physical health, and more successful outcomes in life.: [Sources: Carver C.S. & Scheier, M.F. and Seligman, M.E.P]

Optimism Requires Mindfulness

It’s pretty safe to say that most people want to have a positive outlook on life. However, getting there is often the most challenging part. From manifesting abundance into your life to making the most of the hand you’re dealt, so much goes into optimistic thinking. 

How exactly can we get there? Everything is a process, and that includes changing your mindset and sending your life in a positive direction.

There are so many lifestyle changes you can make to train your brain to be positive. While getting started can sometimes seem tough, the more you lean into the mindful practice of optimism, the easier it will eventually become. 

Having a solid understanding of how your mind operates is often the first step of the rewiring process, and once you begin to have those conversations with yourself, you can start to progress in all-new ways. 

What Is Pessimism?

While pessimism is often loosely defined as “having a negative attitude,” it’s often so much more than that. Getting to the root of pessimism and really understanding it can help lead you toward looking at all of life in a more positive light. 

Pessimism can be defined through several factors, including self-blame whenever life takes an unwanted turn, feeling that change is a bad thing, fear of the unknown, a lack of self-confidence or the idea that your goals are too lofty for you to achieve. 

At its core, pessimism is about fear, self-doubt, and the expectation that the worst situation will always be the reality. In extreme cases, pessimism can lead to low self-esteem which can be a catalyst for destructive behaviors.

When thinking about your own pessimism, it can be helpful to consider how you feel about yourself, the expectations of your behavior and how those things affect your view on the world at large. This may open up a lot of doors. 

What Is Optimism?

It might be easy to think that optimism is simply the act of living in la-la land where people slide down rainbows and ride around on the wings of cheerful butterflies all day, but real, genuine optimism is far from that.

Positive thinking is about knowing that the best-case scenario is possible for you and the entire world.  Optimism is an act of self-love.

Positivity comes from knowing your worth, feeling free in all your opportunities and possibilities, and enjoying all the treasures life offers.

Some people are born and bred with optimism in their genes, but others learn to build it for themselves and cultivate a positive environment in their own life later. No matter which path is yours, optimism is real and beneficial. It’s never too late to start being positive, either. Don’t think that you can’t change just because you’re older.

 

The Link Between Optimism and Positivity

Optimism and positivity can be a two-way street because putting good energy out into the world will naturally attract positivity back to you.

People like to be around others who light up a room, and when people are attracted to the positive energy you dish out, they’ll feel encouraged to do the same right back, and the cycle continues. 

 

Learning How to Be an Optimist

If you’re not an optimist already by nature, you don’t need to worry. Plenty of people don’t have a natural inclination to be totally upbeat all the time, but just like you can adjust to veganism or waking up early, you can curate positivity, too. 

Activities like positive self-talk, imagining the best possibilities, and focusing on gratitude are all conscious behaviors associated with learned optimism — in other words, you can intentionally sway yourself toward the bright side. 

Plenty of things take effort, and being positive is no different. It’s all about thinking intentionally.  Rather than letting your mind sink when you feel negative, practicing positive thought habits can lift your spirits and cultivate a more positive mental environment. If you are looking to jump into positivity but aren’t sure where to begin, you can try:

image activities that boost optimistic thinking

How Optimistic Thinking Impacts the Brain

Conscious positivity can have so many impacts on your overall health. Obviously, having a happier outlook on life can lower your stress levels and benefit your mental well-being.

Depression, anxiety, and stress are all things that positive thinking can help combat, and that’s just the beginning. Being positive can also boost your motivation, make you a faster learner, and increase your energy. 

These changes make a lot of sense because feeling uplifted releases positive hormones in your brain and lowers cortisol levels. All this leads to better brain function and real, tangible changes that will make a difference in your life.

Key Traits of an Optimistic Person

Many traits separate optimistic people from non-optimists. Here are seven characteristics that are common among optimistic thinkers:

  1. Positive Outlook: An optimistic person maintains a positive outlook on life and sees challenges as opportunities for growth and improvement.
  2. Solution-focused: Optimistic individuals focus on finding solutions rather than dwelling on problems.
  3. Resilience: Optimism is linked to increased resilience and the ability to bounce back from setbacks.
  4. Gratitude: An optimistic person is grateful and appreciates all that they have.
  5. Active Listening: Optimistic individuals listen optimistically, seeking to understand and validate others’ perspectives.
  6. Empathy: Optimistic people are empathetic and see the best in others.
  7. Can-Do Attitude:  An optimistic person approaches challenges with a can-do attitude and believes that obstacles can be overcome. 

In general, optimistic people take responsibility for their own happiness, practice self-kindness and self-love, and strive to maintain a positive outlook and optimistic attitude. They practice self-compassion and compassion towards others and know how to tame their inner critic.

optimistic thinking infographic
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Examples of Optimism

Life gives us many opportunities to choose a mindset that will best serve us or one that will bring us down. 

Here are 11 examples of what an optimist would do when facing challenging situations.

  1. Look for the opportunity in a layoff instead of just feeling scared or hopeless.
  2. Approach a difficult exam with excitement and eagerness instead of fear and anxiety.
  3. Stay positive and find solutions in the face of unexpected obstacles, such as a costly problem with a home or car.
  4. Maintain a positive outlook and supportive attitude in a strained relationship.
  5. In the midst of scarcity, find joy and happiness in the simple things in life instead of only focusing on what’s lacking.
  6. Take the initiative to try new hobbies, skills, or social adventures, instead of being afraid of failure or rejection.
  7. Choose to see the best in people and situations instead of assuming the worst.
  8. Maintain a positive outlook and perspective during stressful times. 
  9. Offer encouragement and support to others, even when you’re struggling yourself. 
  10. Focus on personal growth and improvement instead of dwelling on past mistakes or failures.
  11. Embrace change—like needing to move to a new city with your spouse— and see it as an opportunity for growth instead of fearing it.

Positive Thinking Attracts More Positivity

We’ve already discussed how sending out positive energy encourages others to respond better to you and keep the cycle going, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While positive actions attract positivity from others and encourage it in those around you, it also creates an aura around you that manifests opportunities into your space. When you truly believe in yourself and know your worth, you won’t be afraid to take chances and find things you love.

The act of manifesting is really about the knowledge that positive things can and will happen to you. While this doesn’t mean you can pick and choose specific wishes, it does mean you’ll be open to all the possibilities life offers you and get ready to take on the best and brightest opportunities. 

Training Your Brain for the Sunny Side

Learning to be positive isn’t about waking up one morning and deciding to be happy from now until forever — it’s about doing the work every day to create a positive mental space for you to exist in.

Positivity is about so much more than appearing cheerful on the outside. It’s when you feel it all the way to the core of your being because you know your worth. When you do the work, optimism will start to flow.

Amazon Bestsellers We Recommend for Building Positive Thinking and Learning to Be More Optimistic

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Optimistic Thinking

What Is an Example of Being Optimistic?

An example of optimism is viewing a challenging situation as an opportunity for growth and improvement rather than dwelling on the negatives. An optimistic person might see a problematic work assignment exam as a chance to learn new skills, or a setback in their career as an opportunity to try a new direction. This positive mindset can lead to greater resilience and success.

Is Positive Thinking Optimistic?

Positive thinking and optimism are related but not synonymous. A positive thinker focuses entirely on the good in a situation, while optimists have a  positive outlook and belief that good things will happen in the future. Both can contribute to greater happiness and well-being.

What Is Pessimistic Thinking?

Pessimistic thinking is a negative outlook on life where one believes that things will turn out poorly and that difficulties cannot be overcome. This mindset can lead to feelings of hopelessness, stress, and decreased overall well-being.

What Is Toxic Positivity Called?

Toxic positivity is an excessive and unrealistic focus on positivity that invalidates negative emotions and experiences. It is often expressed through statements such as “always look on the bright side” or “think positive, ignore the negative.”

Toxic positivity can be harmful and prevent individuals from acknowledging the seriousness of what they are experiencing. It also leads to avoiding processing and addressing difficult emotions.

What Are Signs of Positive Thinking?

Signs of positive thinking include focusing on the upsides of a situation rather than the downsides, seeking solutions rather than problems, gratitude for what one has, an ability to bounce back from setbacks, and a general outlook that good things will happen in the future. These traits can lead to greater happiness, fulfillment, and success.

About the Author

Mia Barnes is a wellness writer, who loves to write about mental wellbeing and mindfulness. She finds that taking a second to breath and process can really change the course of your day. She is also the Editor in Chief at Bodymind.com.

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