How to Think Like an Optimist and Stay Positive

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Can you learn how to think positive? You have probably heard a thing or two about the benefits of positive thinking. Research suggests that positive thinkers have better stress coping skills, stronger immunity, and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. While it is not a health panacea, taking an optimistic view rather than ruminating on negative thoughts can benefit your overall mental well-being.


So what can you do to become a more positive thinker? A few common strategies involve learning how to identify negative thoughts and replacing these thoughts with more positive ones. While it might take some time, eventually you may find that thinking positively starts to come more naturally.

Here are four things you can do to think positive.

Avoid Negative Self-Talk

Self-talk involves the things you mentally tell yourself. Think of this as the inner voice inside your mind that analyzes how you perform and interact with the world around you. If your self-talk centers on negative thoughts, your self-esteem can suffer.

So what can you do to combat these negative self-talk patterns? One way to break the pattern is to start noticing when you have these thoughts and then actively work to change them.

When you start thinking critical thoughts about yourself, take a moment to pause and assess.

Paying attention to your self-talk is a great place to start when trying to think more positively. If you notice that you tend to engage in negative self-talk, you can start looking for ways to change your thought patterns and reframe your interpretations of your own behaviors.

Stress management expert Elizabeth Scott advises people to start by noticing their thought patterns and then focus on changing these into more positive ones. When you catch yourself engaging in a negative thought, mentally telling yourself to "Stop" can help break the pattern.

Try Humor

It can be tough to stay optimistic when there is little humor or lightheartedness in your life. Even when you are facing challenges, it is important to remain open to laughter and fun.

Sometimes, simply recognizing the potential humor in a situation can lessen your stress and brighten your outlook. Seeking out sources of humor such as watching a funny sitcom or reading jokes online can help you think more positive thoughts.

Cultivate Optimism

Learning to think positively is like strengthening a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger it will become. Researchers believe that your explanatory style, or how you explain events, is linked to whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

Optimists tend to have a positive explanatory style. If you attribute good things that happen to your skill and effort, then you are probably an optimist.

Pessimists, on the other hand, usually have a negative attributional style. If you credit these good events to outside forces, then you likely have a more pessimistic way of thinking.

The same principles hold true for how you explain negative events. Optimists tend to view bad or unfortunate events as isolated incidents that are outside of their control while pessimists see such things as more common and often blame themselves.

By taking a moment to analyze the event and ensure that you are giving yourself the credit you are due for the good things and not blaming yourself for things outside of your control, you can start to become more optimistic.

Keep Practicing

There is no on-off switch for positive thinking. Even if you are a natural-born optimist, thinking positively when faced with challenging situations can be difficult. Like any goal, the key is to stick with it for the long-term. Even if you find yourself dwelling on negative thoughts, you can look for ways to minimize negative self-talk and cultivate a more optimistic outlook.

Finally, do not be afraid to enlist the help of friends and family.

When you start engaging in negative thinking, call a friend or family member who you can count on to offer positive encouragement and feedback.

Remember that to think positively, you need to nurture yourself. Investing energy in things you enjoy and surrounding yourself with optimistic people are just two ways that you can encourage positive thinking in your life.

A Word From Verywell

Learning how to think positive is not a quick fix, and it is something that may take some time to master. Analyzing your own thinking habits and finding new ways to incorporate a more positive outlook into your life can be a great start toward adopting a more positive thinking approach.

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  1. Gillham JE, Shatté AJ, Reivich KJ, Seligman MEP. Optimism, pessimism, and explanatory style. In: Chang EC, ed. Optimism & Pessimism: Implications for Theory, Research, and Practice , (pp. Vol 395. Washington, DC, US: American Psychological Association, xxi; 2001:53-75. doi:10.1037/10385-003

Additional Reading
  • Boehm, J.K., & Kubzansky, L.D. The Heart's Content: The Association Between Positive Psychological Well-Being and Cardiovascular Health. Psychological Bulletin, 2012;138(4):655-91. doi:10.1037/a0027448.

  • Naseem, Z., & Khalid, R. Positive Thinking in Coping With Stress and Health Outcomes: Literature Review. Journal of Research and Reflections in Education, 2010;4(1):42-61.

  • Scheier, M.F., & Carver, C.S. (1993). On the Power of Positive Thinking: The Benefits of Being Optimistic. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 1993;2(1):26-30.