19 Ways To Be More Optimistic

30 Jun

This adapted post originally appears in The Huffington Post.

19 Ways to be More Optimistic

Have you ever wondered how some people always seem to see the sunny side of things? How missed flights can turn into adventures, bad directions can deliver them to exciting new locales, lost opportunities lead them to new learning, and unexpected changes in plans leave them feeling more spontaneous than flustered? How does that work, exactly?

Perhaps it’s like Henry David Thoreau once said:

“It’s not what you look at that matters,
it’s what you see.” ~ H.D. Thoreau

The same people tend to see the glass as half full.

Photo from Selin Jessa

Many things in life are open to interpretation. Luckily, we each have 100% control of our own attitude about something, regardless of how much or little control we have over that something itself. With that in mind, here are a few tips to make the bright side shine a little more often in any situation.

Count your blessings Make a written (or mental) list of things you are thankful for, from very small to very big and anywhere in between.  To really boost your spirits, set a number (like 100) and then just keep jotting everything down til you reach it.  It’s amazing what the mind remembers when focused!

Notice little unexpected things Pay special attention to things you don’t normally “see,” like the expression on kids’ faces when they’re playing, the sound birds are making in the background, or a little breeze.

Your mind maps your path; keep it sunny! Photo by Amy Neumann

Be grateful for the good  Being thankful for what we already have is a tried and true way to feel better.  Sometimes we get caught up thinking of what else is out there, when we have so many big and small things to be grateful for at any given moment.

Help someone else Helping others takes the focus off our own ego and needs, and helps channel our energy into creating a better world for others.  Studies show that helping others has multiple surprising benefits to our health and well-being.  Here are 10 online tools to get you started finding a great volunteer opportunity.

Decide to be happy today  This one is easy.  Change your lense.  Make a conscious decision to see the positive, to be kind to others, to be grateful, and to be nice to yourself.

Smile at a stranger (and make two people happy) Smiling is another time-tested way to feel more optimistic.  Even if you “fake it til you make it,” and smile when you don’t *really* feel like it, your brain thinks you feel better.  People who see others smiling also feel more positive .  Win, win!

Turn a perceived negative into a positive Also know as “finding the silver lining.”  Trip cancelled?  Now there’s time to do that home project you’ve been wanting to do. Raining on picnic day?  Find a creative picnic spot indoors, preferably with candles.  Challenge yourself by filling in this blank:  “One good thing about this situation is __________.”

Read positive news  Proactively look for positive stories and news sources that highlight all the good in the world, like these 15 uplifting, positive sites.

Read uplifting quotes and stories  Social media is great for this.  Facebook and Pinterest are full of fun pictures; Twitter has a never-ending stream of positive #quotes.  Download an uplifting eBook, or borrow one from the library.

Set a small goal, then do it Try something easy, quick, and ideally a bit fun.  Even small chores work.  Make a little list, check them off as you do them, and feel the accomplishment endorphins kick in!

Hang out with positive people  Being around optimistic people helps you see what they see.  Like negativity, positivity feeds on itself, creating more positivity and bolstering that worldview.  Surround yourself with optimism!

Remember that ultimately, almost everything is a choice You can choose your viewpoint, what you focus on, you reaction to a situation, your attitude toward people and events, and almost anything else.  While bigger changes may require more planning and deliberation, they also are choices; you control your destiny.

Laugh The best medicine!  Get a little comedy in your diet.  Here are 8 ways laughter helps with a positive and optimistic outlook.

Move Exercise can be structured, but it’s also great to just grab a quick walk.  Anything to get the blood flowing and more air into the lungs works.  Many people report feeling inspired and even more creative while exercising.

Absorb nature Getting out and about in nature – or even focusing more deeply on everyday things you see outdoors – helps remind us that we’re all in this journey together.  Seeing the amazing intricacies in even the tiniest creatures can help refocus appreciation.

“There are always flowers for those who wish to see them.” ~ Henri Matisse 

Remember simple things  Friends, family, free activities.  Sometimes simpler is better.  The things money can’t buy are often what we remember best.  In addition to doing them, reminiscing through pictures, scrapbooks, or journals keeps happy memories on tap.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault

Dive into a passion Let your creative inner child out to play.  Somewhere in your mind is that artist, adventurer, writer, dreamer, explorer, poet, sports star, singer, comic, teacher, actor, do-it-yourselfer.  Find out what they have in mind and give it a whirl!

Write down dreams and goals, and how you think achieving them feels Visualizing positive outcomes conjures up positive feelings, almost as well as actually achieving the goals.  Your mind feels the win, creating a feeling of optimism and hope.  Things like vision boards, writing down concrete goals, and keeping a journal can also contribute to this visionary process and sense of optimism.

“For myself, I am an optimist – it does not seem much use being anything else.” ~ Winston Churchill

Rainy day, or best puddle ever? Photo courtesy of Amy Neumann

Amy Neumann is a social entrepreneur, writer, speaker and consultant on social good marketing. Check out her Charity Ideas Blog and follow her on Twitter @CharityIdeas.

One Response to “19 Ways To Be More Optimistic”

  1. hkatz July 2, 2012 at 3:23 am #

    Wonderful post. I once did the ‘count your blessings’ exercise to 100 when I was feeling low, and it worked, helping to put things into perspective. I also agree with the other suggestions; they all work.

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