We all know that one person who is always looking on the bright side of things, and although their constant cheeriness can be a bit annoying, we can't help but to envy their positive attitude. Luckily, we too can have a better outlook on life by picking up on habits that help you become more optimistic. It's easy to resign yourself to be a pessimist forever, but contrary to popular belief, your general attitude isn't fixed, and with a little work, you may find yourself seeing the world with a glass-half-full attitude.
"Optimism is definitely not a static characteristic," says psychologist Dorian Crawford, PsyD, LMHC, over email. "People can naturally be more optimistic than others, but circumstances in the past are what often contribute to having an optimist outlook to a greater or lesser degree. However, if a person has experienced challenges that have been overcome through hard work, the help of others or thoughtful problem solving, their outlook may be more optimistic."
Why would someone want to be an optimist? According to Harvard Health, optimists have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, a higher chance of overcoming illness, and a longer, happier lifespan. A happier attitude and a healthier body? Sounds like a win-win.
If you're trying to look on the brighter side of life, try adopting these six habits that can help turn you from an eternal pessimist to a more positive optimist.
1. Be Grateful
Studies show that people who write down what they're grateful for even just weekly report feeling more optimistic and happier about their overall life, according to Harvard Health. "Being grateful for the positive in your life will help you to recognize the positive even when things are not going well," says Dr. Joffrey Suprina, PHD, Dean and Associate Professor of the College of Behavioral Sciences at Argosy University, over email.
Usually, we think of smiling as the result of happiness, but it turns out that forcing a smile can actually have it's own mood-boosting effects. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that participants who were forced to smile reported less stress and a more positive affect. "Face a mirror, smile, and stretch your arms up and out as if in celebration, and you will feel uplifted and more positive in that moment," says Suprina. "Doing so throughout the day can help promote positive change."
3. Date A Postive Thinker
A study from the University of Oregon found that both optimists and their partners report more relationship satisfaction that couples who are free of any optimistic thinkers. This effect was a result of feeling more support from their partner, thus taking on the positive outlook of their significant other.
Helping someone out not only makes you feel good in the moment, but it also helps you feel positive long-term. Volunteering helps encourage self-esteem and foster good relationships, which can all lead to happier thinking.
5. Practice Positive Self-Talk
"Using negative internal language, like 'I am never going to finish!' or 'Things will never get better,' are sure-fire ways to kill optimism," says Crawford. "Reframe those statements into, 'I might be tired at the end, but it is going to feel great to finish this!' or 'Good or bad, things come to an end. This is but a moment, and without struggle, I can’t truly appreciate success.'"
"Cultivating optimism requires you have to have a clearer vision for what is possible," says Crawford. "Some great strategies for this are mindfulness techniques, exercise, meditation, visualization of success, and relaxation practice." A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that meditation increases daily positive feelings, making it a powerful technique to reach more frequent optimistic thoughts.
Changing your attitude doesn't happen overnight, but the more work you put into changing your habits, the easier it'll be to start thinking positive thoughts naturally.
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