Being optimistic isn’t always easy, especially in a world that often seems cruel and unforgiving. We’re hardwired to have a negativity bias since searching for problems gives us an evolutionary advantage. However, it’s possible to shift your perception through willpower and regular practice of positive thinking. Our brains have an incredible ability to adapt based on our environment and experiences.
Neuroplasticity is the human brain’s ability to reorganize itself by developing new synaptic connections throughout life. So, even a person with the most negative mindset can have a brighter outlook on life. According to research, optimism doesn’t just benefit your mental health; it can also lead to a longer, healthier life.
We’ll show you a few ways to shift your thinking, so you always see the silver lining in the dark clouds.
5 Ways to Teach Your Mind to Become Optimistic
1. Override Negative Thinking With Optimistic Thoughts.
You want to replace any negative thoughts with a positive one, even if you have to repeat this a million times. Your brain naturally looks for problems, as we stated above, but you can teach it to think differently.
For instance, if you’re worried about an upcoming exam and feel like you’ll fail, constantly reassure yourself that you will pass. You have the remarkable ability to influence your reality based on your perception.
So, if you reprogram your mind to think positively, you’ll also start to notice the shift in the outer world. It also helps avoid negative media such as news or social media, as these outlets can increase stress levels.
Remember, most chaos in life stems from our minds. So if we can quiet the mental chatter, we can experience life on a deeper, more meaningful frequency. Practicing positive affirmations such as “I love my life” or “I believe in myself, and my abilities” can help shift your thinking.
2. Keep a Gratitude Journal.
Another great way to create a more optimistic mind is to write down what you’re grateful for each day. Before you even get out of bed in the morning, pull out your journal and jot down a few blessings in your life. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant; simply being able to breathe, write, think or see is an incredible gift from the universe.
Maybe you saw a beautiful flower on the way home from work yesterday, or your spouse brought you coffee in bed. Perhaps you’re thankful for the friends and family who support you in tough times and create precious memories with you. There’s always something to have gratitude for if we pay attention to the subtle aspects of life.
Slowing down and observing the bountiful life around you will help you see things more favorable. Some studies have even found a link between gratitude journaling and lower instances of depression.
3. Practice Mindfulness to Become More Optimistic.
Being optimistic will seem difficult if you’re reliving the past or worried about the future. The only way to combat a wandering, fretful mind is to root down firmly in the present. You can do this through meditation, deep breathing, yoga, or even visualization. Imagine walking barefoot through a lush, green forest, noticing all the sights and sounds of nature.
At that moment, you’re not thinking about bills you have to pay or the argument you had with your spouse. You’re simply being, breathing in and out slowly, enjoying the gift of life without judgment. You are not trying to fix or change anything about the scenery–you’re just taking it all in as you pass by.
Now, bring that feeling into your body and mind, whether in a busy store or at your desk. Notice all the sights and sounds around you without passing judgment. To become more optimistic in life, you must learn to neutralize the thoughts in your mind, constantly passing judgment or labeling situations. It’s not easy, but you can learn how to accept whatever happens around you without feeling overwhelmed or carried away by it with practice and determination.
Studies have found that mindfulness (attention regulation and awareness toward the present moment) can reduce negativity bias and increase optimistic thinking.
4. Have a Regular Meditation Practice.
Our thoughts become harmful when we strongly dislike something or someone. To have a neutral, stable mind, we must learn to move beyond likes and dislikes so that no experience harms or excites us. You might not see the problem with liking certain things, but that breeds attachment, which causes suffering once the excitement dissipates. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy life, but you will experience a far greater bliss by going within and discovering your soul.
Countless studies have proven that people who regularly meditate tend to have a more optimistic mindset. In particular, compassion or loving-kindness meditation helps foster feelings of positivity and empathy towards oneself and others.
5. Get Your Body Moving.
Your mind and body are intricately connected, so exercise benefits your physical and mental health. A study found that highly active individuals had a more optimistic outlook on life than people who rarely or never exercised. Since working out releases feel-good hormones, it also lowers stress and improves mental wellness. You don’t have to do any strenuous workout to receive the benefits; simply walking briskly in your neighborhood or local park can make you more optimistic.
Final Thoughts On How to Be More Optimistic
Many of us find it challenging to maintain a positive outlook in our hectic lives. However, we can reclaim our mental health by becoming more mindful of our reactions and learning to slow down. Being optimistic doesn’t happen overnight, but with regular practice and a commitment to improving ourselves, we can shift our thinking patterns.
For example, regular meditators have a more positive mindset since they’ve trained their brains to see the silver lining in all situations. That doesn’t mean they’re perfect, but people who practice mindfulness experience less distress in daily life. In addition, exercising, keeping a gratitude journal, and practicing positive affirmations can alter your perspective for the better.