5 Steps to Being More of an Optimist

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Life is easier and generally more enjoyable if you're an optimist. Research shows that optimists enjoy many health and lifestyle benefits, including greater achievement, greater health, a sense of persistence toward goals, greater emotional health, increased longevity, and lower reactivity to stress. Because of this, optimists tend to be happier overall. Optimism is measured by your explanatory style, or how you define events. You're halfway there if you can learn to define positive events in the following three ways:

  1. Positive events occurred because of something you did.
  2. Positive events are a sign of more good things to come.
  3. Positive events are evidence that good things will happen in other areas of your life.

You're all the way there if you can also think of negative events as:

  1. not your fault 
  2. isolated occurrences that have no bearing on future events or other areas of your life

Press Play for Advice On Optimism

Hosted by Editor-in-Chief and therapist Amy Morin, LCSW, this episode of The Verywell Mind Podcast, shares how you can learn to be more optimistic and the benefits that come with being more optimistic. Click below to listen now.

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Steps to Approaching Life With More Optimism

If you find yourself expecting the worst and selling yourself short a little too much of the time, you can always increase your tendency toward optimism. The following steps can get you there.

Analyze Your Thoughts, Giving Yourself Credit

When something positive happens in your life, stop to analyze your thought process for a moment. Are you giving yourself due credit for making it happen? Think of all the strengths you possess and the ways you contributed, both directly and indirectly, to make this event occur. For example, if you aced a test, don’t just think of how great it is that you were prepared, but also think of how your intelligence and dedication played a role.

Think of How Your Strengths Can Bring Other Good Things

Think of other areas of your life that could be affected by this good event. Also, think of how the strengths you possess that caused this good thing to happen can also cause other positive events in your life. For example, what other good things can come from your intelligence, dedication, and ability to effectively prepare for tasks?

Think of Future Events That Can Also Happen

Imagine what future possibilities could be in store. Because you hold the key to your success, shouldn’t you expect to do well on future tests? Isn’t a successful career a natural result?

Minimize the Negative, When It's Realistic to Do So

When negative events occur, think of the extenuating circumstances that could have contributed to this happening. If you do poorly on an exam, for example, were you especially busy in the preceding week? Were you somewhat sleep-deprived? What outside circumstances contributed to your failure? Keep in mind that this isn’t necessarily a reflection of personal weakness. 

This doesn't mean that you should never recognize when you may need to change your behavior in the future or deny responsibility for mistakes—that's how we learn! 

The key is to focus more on the positive and don't let negative events kill your self-confidence.

Remember: Tomorrow Is Another Day

Also, remember that you’ll have endless opportunities to do better in the future. Think of your next potential success or other areas where you can excel.

Optimism Tips to Remember

  1. The key to optimism is to maximize your successes and minimize your failures.
  2. It’s beneficial to look honestly at your shortcomings, so you can work on them, but focusing on your strengths can never hurt.
  3. Keep in mind that the more you practice challenging your thought patterns, the more automatic it'll become. Don't expect major changes in thinking right away, but do expect them to become ingrained over time.
  4. Always remember that virtually any failure can be a learning experience, and an important step toward your next success!
  5. Practice positive affirmations. They really work!
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Peterson, C. (2000). The Future of Optimism. American Psychologist, 55, 44–55.

  • Peterson, Christopher; Seligman, Martin E.; Vaillant, George E.; Pessimistic Explanatory Style Is a Risk Factor for Physical Illness: A Thirty-Five-Year Longitudinal Study. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 55(1), Jul, 1988. pp. 23-27.

  • Solberg Nes, L. S., & Segerstrom, S. C. (2006). Dispositional Optimism and Coping: A Meta-Analytic Review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 10, 235–251.

By Elizabeth Scott, PhD
Elizabeth Scott, PhD is an author, workshop leader, educator, and award-winning blogger on stress management, positive psychology, relationships, and emotional wellbeing.