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Studies have shown that optimists are happier, healthier, and more relaxed and resilient. They are better at coping with stress, achieving their goals, and persevering during challenging times.
They even have a longer lifespan and more successful relationships. If you’d like to reap the benefits that an optimistic outlook brings, here are seven ways you can be more positive and optimistic.
1. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts and Assumptions
If you’d like to become more positive and optimistic, you should start by challenging your negative thoughts and assumptions.
According to positive psychologist Bridget Grenville-Cleave, “Research has found that optimists and pessimists have different explanatory styles. Optimists attribute the cause of negative events and experiences to external, specific and transient factors, whereas pessimists do the opposite; they attribute their cause to internal, global and permanent factors.”
For example, if a coworker frowned during your presentation at a staff meeting, a pessimist might think, “That person doesn’t like me or value what I have to say.” While an optimist might think, “That person must just be having a bad day.”
Negative situations don’t have to be permanent, and negative interactions are not always personal. We can’t assume that we are the center of someone else’s universe and form judgments without any facts. So, the next time you find yourself assuming the worst about a person or situation, try thinking of evidence that counters your negative belief. As you brainstorm alternative optimistic explanations for an event or interaction, you may find that there is more evidence to support a positive judgment.
2. Look for the Good in People
It’s easy to be cynical about people if we focus on their bad habits and dwell on the worst things that they have ever done. But, we wouldn’t want to be defined by our negative qualities or lowest moments. We should give others that same courtesy.
Abdu’l-Baha, one of the central figures of the Baha’i Faith, asked us to “be silent concerning the faults of others, to pray for them, and to help them, through kindness, to correct their faults. To look always at the good and not at the bad. If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten.”
As we practice looking for the good in people, we train our mind to think more positively and improve our perceptions of other people.
3. Be Thankful for the Good Things That Happen Every Day
In addition to noticing the good qualities in other people, we need to also notice and be grateful for the good moments that happen every day.
Negativity and pessimism prevent us from enjoying the present moment and appreciating what is important in life. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude puts us in a more positive mood and optimistic mindset to enjoy life’s blessings.
4. Surround Yourself With Positive People
It will be hard to create a more optimistic outlook if everyone around you is a pessimist. The Baha’i writings say, just like “diseases in the world of bodies are extremely contagious, so, in the same way, qualities of spirit and heart are extremely contagious.”
Today, scientists use the term “emotional contagion” to refer to this rapid spread of emotions and behaviors. A 2016 article in the U.S. News and World Report even stated that “emotions can be transmitted more easily than colds or flus – faster than the blink of an eye!” You become like the people you hang around the most, so you may want to choose friends that have the mindset and qualities that you would like to develop.
5. Accept What You Can and Can’t Control
Many of you may have heard this line from the Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Often, we waste our time ruminating about the past and what we can’t control instead of channeling our energy into creating positive changes. For example, you can’t control not getting the job offer that you wanted, but you can control your efforts that will increase your chances of getting hired at a better company.
It’s also important to not confuse optimism with a denial of serious issues or harsh realities. As Karol Ward, a licensed psychotherapist, said in an interview with NBC News BETTER, “You may be optimistic about finding a more lucrative job or loving relationship, but if you do not address the issues that are keeping you from those goals, you will not be able to create what you want.
A combination of optimism and realistic thinking help people navigate through life. Realistic thinking does not mean never seeing the bright side of life; not at all. It is simply a way of supporting your optimism with the action steps so that you can create a positive future as opposed to being stuck in fantasy.”
6. Focus on What You Want
In order to create a positive future, we need to have faith, be clear about what we want, and joyfully focus on and visualize what we want to attract into our lives.
Baha’is believe, as stated in “Star of the West,” that there are “two distinct phases of optimism. One is based on the assumption of conditions, which the objective mind has first conceived and pictured, as it were, on the walls of the subjective mind. By holding this thought or picture without wavering, we may possibly bring things to pass. We may brighten our own paths by happy, cheerful thoughts, and help uplift others who are in negative states of mind. But this effort must be diligently continued, for all depends upon our own power to hold the pictures formed.”
7. Have Faith That Everything Will Work Out for the Best
The second kind of optimism “is wholly based on the spiritual mind. It comes by a calm and absolute trust in the power of God to bring to pass all things for our highest good, whatever the seeming may be. Circumstances and environments cannot destroy it.
Our good may often come through severe tests and trials, so that it may not appear as such on the face of it, but by faith in the power and promises of God to do all things, the silver lining of every cloud is made visible, and one is enabled to obey His command, given through Bahá’u’lláh [the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith], to ‘Cheer up thy heart with delight, that thou mayst be fitted to meet Me and become a mirror of My beauty.’”
Becoming an optimistic and positive person will definitely uplift you. Remember, that an important part of optimism is believing that you can make positive changes in this world and having faith that everything will work out for the best.