Updated: Nov 24
Wars, energy crises, pandemics, climate change... In a world that is constantly faced with negative events, it can be challenging to maintain a sense of optimism. However, it is important to acknowledge that staying optimistic is possible and can have a powerful impact on our mental and emotional well-being. This article aims to explore the benefits of optimism and provide practical strategies to help us maintain it despite the difficulties we may face.
At its core, optimism is a mindset that is characterized by its hopeful and positive outlook on life. Optimistic individuals tend to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than insurmountable obstacles. This contrasts pessimism, where challenges are often seen as permanent, pervasive, and personal. Optimists believe in their ability to positively shape the future, fostering a sense of agency and empowerment. When we compare these two perspectives, we realize that how we approach problems has a significant impact on our experiences and outcomes.
Scientific research has consistently shown that cultivating optimism can have a wide range of benefits. People who maintain an optimistic outlook are likely to experience lower levels of stress (Jobin, Wrosch, & Scheier, 2014), reduced rates of depression (Schug et al., 2020), and increased overall well-being. In addition to better mental health, optimistic individuals are also more likely to exhibit greater resilience. Studies suggest that optimism can even lead to enhanced immune function (Segerstrom & Sephton, 2010), faster recovery from illness (Scheier et al., 1989), and increased lifespan (Koga et al., 2022). This empirical evidence highlights the transformative power of optimism in promoting better health and building resilience.
In the face of life's challenges, it's possible to maintain a positive outlook by implementing practical daily strategies. Here are some ways to foster optimism:
Embrace a growth mindset: View challenges as opportunities for learning and growth, and setbacks as chances to develop new skills instead of failures.
Practice gratitude: There are different actions we will explore in a future post this month. For example, you can keep a gratitude journal, where you note down three things you're thankful for each day. This is a way to increase your focus on positive events.
Surround yourself with positivity: Build a supportive and inspiring social network, and spend time in environments that promote a positive atmosphere.
Reframe negative thoughts: Challenge and change negative thought patterns for positive affirmations. For instance, instead of thinking, "I can't do this," shift to "I'll do my best, and each step is progress."
Celebrate small achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate even minor successes. Pat yourself on the back for completing tasks or making progress toward your goals.
Limit exposure to negativity: Be mindful of the media and information you consume, especially during this age of clickbait and misinformation. Balance news intake with uplifting content, reducing exposure to constant negativity.
We will continue navigating a world filled with uncertainties and adversities, but the importance of keeping optimism cannot be underestimated. As we have seen, we still can incorporate some strategies and practices into our daily lives to create a positive mindset and enhance our overall well-being. These changes in our habits may seem small, but over time, they can lead to significant shifts in our perspective. When we embrace optimism, we not only improve our mental and emotional health, but we also contribute to building a more resilient and compassionate society.
- Jobin, J., Wrosch, C., & Scheier, M. F. (2014). Associations between dispositional optimism and diurnal cortisol in a community sample: When stress is perceived as higher than normal. Health Psychology, 33(4), 382–391. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0032736
- Koga, H. K., Trudel-Fitzgerald, C., Lee, L. O., James, P., Kroenke, C., Garcia, L., Shadyab, A. H., Salmoirago-Blotcher, E., Manson, J. E., Grodstein, F., & Kubzansky, L. D. (2022). Optimism, lifestyle, and longevity in a racially diverse cohort of women. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 70(10), 2793–2804. https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.17897
- Scheier, M. F., Matthews, K. A., Owens, J. F., Magovern, G. J., Lefebvre, R. C., Abbott, R. A., & Carver, C. S. (1989). Dispositional optimism and recovery from coronary artery bypass surgery: The beneficial effects on physical and psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 57(6), 1024–1040. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1684
- Schug, C., Morawa, E., Geiser, F., Hiebel, N., Beschoner, P., Albus, C., Weidner, K., Borho, A., Lieb, M., & Erim, Y. (2020). Social Support and Optimism as Protective Factors for Mental Health among 7765 Healthcare Workers in Germany during the COVID-19 Pandemic: Results of the VOICE Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(7), 3827. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18073827
- Segerstrom, S. C., & Sephton, S. E. (2010). Optimistic Expectancies and Cell-Mediated Immunity. Psychological Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797610362061
11 Optimism Exercises & Theories (Incl. Learned Optimism), article by Madhuleena Roy Chowdbuty, BA, at PositivePsychology.com
Seven Tips To Increase Your Optimism (And Why Positivity Is Important), by BetterHelp Editorial Team at BetterHelp.com
Optimism: Definition, Examples, and Tips, article by Sarah Sperber at Berkeley Well-Being Institute website.