What is optimism? Plus how to be optimistic (with benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 October 2022

Published 3 January 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Confidence, hope and peace of mind are feelings associated with optimism. Optimists often choose to see the brighter side of life amidst difficulties and are happier and healthier. If you want to reduce your stress level and be more productive, then it's important to learn how to be optimistic. In this article, we explain what optimism is, how to be optimistic and the various benefits of being optimistic.

What is optimism?

To answer the question 'what is optimism?', it's the attitude that reflects a positive disposition, hope or belief that the eventual outcome of a specific event or situation may be favourable and desirable. It's the thinking and mindset that makes you believe that good things are bound to happen in the future and that negative or bad situations are rare occurrences. Optimists often tend to see the good in everything and expect the best of every situation. Optimism is an attractive virtue that keeps you away from depression and anxiety. You can choose to be either an optimist or a pessimist.

Related: How to be self-motivated (with steps, tips and an example)

How to be optimistic

Learning optimism is a clear indication that you can also unlearn pessimism. Here are important tips on how to be optimistic:

1. Spend time with optimistic people

This is a very fundamental step. Remember that people around you can affect your lifestyle either negatively or positively. Deliberately selecting the people you call friends can go a long way in making you optimistic. Learn to spend time with optimistic people or identify with an optimistic mentor. By doing this, you can consciously or unconsciously become optimistic.

2. Think positively

Positive thoughts can help improve your response to situations. The state of your thoughts can be either positive or negative, depending on your approach to challenges. Work on your thought patterns by changing your unhappy thoughts to hopeful thoughts. For example, 'I may not have paid my tuition fees, but I know I can graduate from university.' For you to successfully think positively, you can also challenge negative thoughts. Negative thoughts can come from your fears, doubts and low self-esteem. You can also challenge negative thoughts by confiding in a friend or a life coach.

Related: Positive body language and gestures that put people at ease

3. Moderate your consumption of the news

Sometimes, it's easy to expose ourselves to unpleasant news, not knowing it can instil fear and doubt in us. To remain optimistic and maintain a sound mind, it's essential to stay away from the news, especially the negative ones. You can put a limit on your news intake and listen, watch or read news from a reputable source to prevent you from checking out other news sources.

4. Create positive mantras

A positive mantra is a phrase or sentence that expresses a person's basic beliefs. They're usually positive messages, and you can write them down on portable books. You can also decide to paste yours on the walls of your room where you can easily see it and read them out to yourself. Constant repetition of these positive messages can have a beneficial impact on your mind. Examples of positive mantras are:

  • 'I am relevant.'

  • 'My past does not define my future.'

  • 'Everything about me is attractive.'

  • 'Things can only get better.'

Related: 36 inspirational quotes on work happiness for productivity

5. Practise mindfulness

You can practise mindfulness through yoga classes, listening to sounds, writing journals and meditations. Practising mindfulness involves being aware of your environment or situations at any time. Here are some easy steps for practising mindfulness:

  1. Find a quiet place.

  2. Set a time limit of five to ten minutes for a start.

  3. Sit in any posture you find the most comfortable.

  4. Inhale and exhale gently.

  5. Notice when your mind begins to wander, and don't judge yourself over the contents of your wandering mind.

  6. Start again if you wish.

Related: The benefits of practising mindfulness techniques: a guide

6. Get a role model

Getting a role model who is an optimist can help you become optimistic. Build a close relationship with your role model and observe their reaction to situations. By doing this, you learn how to respond to challenges. With time, optimism can become a normal lifestyle for you and having someone you look up to can facilitate this process.

Related: Benefits of mentoring for mentors, mentees and organisations

7. Focus on your success and stay happy

You can practise optimism by focusing on becoming more successful and staying happy. Optimism comes with a level of determination. To focus on your success, you can put your distractions aside and work hard. For example, you can choose to take extra classes to acquire more skills for your business and earn more income. This can make you more successful and happy. Practising self-care too can help keep you happy. You can also engage in activities you enjoy to stay happy.

8. Let go of your past

Past experiences can contribute to your pessimistic nature. Certain past experiences like broken relationships and family challenges may make you lose hope. The moment you decide to focus on your future and let go of your past, you become more confident and hopeful. Always remember that there is no time to think of what you could have done differently in the past. Focus on your present, be optimistic and be happy.

9. Keep a gratitude diary

A gratitude diary is a book where you can write all the things you're grateful for. This is a deliberate step you take to build a sound mind. Often, it's easy to focus on the things that went wrong in a day, forgetting about the good occurrences. Learn to write every day in your gratitude diary the little or big things you're grateful for. Keeping a gratitude diary can also distract you from other undesirable events going on around you.

Related: How to Practice Gratitude While Working Remotely

10. Fantasise about a positive future

Nothing is wrong with fantasising about the kind of future you desire to have. Imagining your future can make you work towards achieving it. Your set goals look real to you when you imagine them. You can go ahead to design a full picture of the future you consider having. Also, write them down as it serves to help you achieve your goals faster.

11. Cognitive restructuring

Cognitive restructuring helps you challenge negative and limiting thoughts. You can have an optimistic thought pattern by following the following steps:

  • Find out the situations triggering your negative thoughts.

  • Pay close attention to yourself to know how you're feeling.

  • Find out the negative thoughts cluttering your mind in response to the situation.

  • Look at the evidence that can support your negative thoughts or otherwise.

  • Then pay close attention to your objective facts and replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

12. Give yourself positive feedback

As you practise all these tips on becoming optimistic, give yourself positive feedback with sincerity. A friend can also help to assess your performance. Celebrate yourself and display this newfound trait of yours if your performance is satisfactory.

Related: Positive feedback: why it's important and how to give it

What are the benefits of practicing optimism?

The different benefits of optimism make it an attractive virtue for everyone to have. Below are some of the benefits:

Less stress

Optimism saves you from both physical and mental stress. It helps you to be more hopeful and positive. A hopeful feeling or person keeps seeing the positive aspect of any challenge, freeing them from stress.

Increased productivity

An optimist works towards solving a problem instead of getting overwhelmed. They spend time creating a better version of themselves and do not allow any challenging situation to depress or distress them. They challenge themselves to be productive.

Related: Productivity vs efficiency: The guide

Higher-income

If an optimist can challenge themself to be productive, then earning a higher income is not far-fetched from them. Optimists also have chances to relate better with colleagues and officials in their workplaces. This may lead to increased visibility and a higher income.

Reduced risk of anxiety and depression

Anxiety and depression are common among people who had unpleasant experiences. An optimist without so much hesitation can overcome the pain of an unpleasant past, unlike a pessimist who might struggle to overcome pain. Dwelling on such issues may cause you a lot more pain, affecting your mental health.

Related: How to stop overthinking and increase productivity at work

More fulfilling experiences

Optimism allows you to deal with your challenges and continue living life without losing your unique personality. Hanging out with friends, going for vacations and doing other things you love can make you stay happy and hopeful that better things are on the way. This is a positive feedback loop.

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