Want to Be More Positive? Here Are 7 Things Optimistic People Do Differently

Want to Be More Positive? Here Are 7 Things Optimistic People Do Differently

Positivity requires experiencing all of your emotions—and knowing when to say “no.”

When we start anything new—from trying a different workout routine to learning another language—creating rituals helps improve our skills. But when it comes to less concrete, and more emotional and mental aspirations, like improving our mindset and being more positive, we tend to defeat ourselves before even beginning.

But, like anything else, optimism is a habit that can be strengthened by developing healthy practices in our daily routine, according to David A. Yadush, a licensed clinical professional counselor and the clinical operations manager at BetterHelp.

To help us start seeing life through a happier, more positive lens, we can gain inspiration from the ways in which optimistic people think, live, and make decisions—especially during difficult times. “People with optimistic outlooks believe good things will happen, and ultimately, optimistic attitudes are linked to a number of benefits, including improved coping skills, improved physical health, decreased stress levels, and higher persistence when pursuing goals,” Yadush says.

Here are the top seven things optimistic people do differently to be more positive, according to mental health experts.

Healthy Habits of Positive People

1. They allow themselves to feel everything.

There’s a fine line between considering yourself a generally glass-half-full type of person—and overdosing on sunshine, rainbows and butterflies. Toxic positivity is a dangerous habit because it doesn’t allow you to acknowledge and experience all emotions, both good and bad. Being optimistic doesn’t necessarily mean always being positive or seeing the bright side of everything—this is a misconception about optimism, says Olivia Howell, author and the co-founder of Fresh Starts Registry.

“Being optimistic means giving yourself permission and grace to feel all of your feelings and allow others to support you through your personal journey, always to have confidence and hope for the future,” she says.

When you face adversity, you can take the positive approach by pausing and being honest about what support you need. “As optimism is the commitment to earnest hope for the future, optimistic people live their lives processing their moments and experiences with a path forward and a plan to keep one foot in front of the other, even on dark days,” Howell adds.

2. They stay in the moment.

If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, you know the source of many anxious symptoms is fretting about things that may (or may not) happen in the future, like someone you love getting sick, losing your job or a car accident. Part of being more positive is trying your best to live in the present, says Gabriella Giachin, LMSW, licensed master social worker at New York City Psychotherapy Collective.

“Optimism is about knowing that the only moment you can control or change is the one you’re in right now,” she says. “Optimism comes from engaging with the moment in front of you and knowing you have the tools to either handle the situation or learn what you need to to eventually handle the situation.”

The next time you feel on edge or spiral toward negativity, take stock of what you can see, touch, hear, and smell right now. Engaging your senses is an excellent mindfulness practice that will help anchor you in the present and get you out of that negative spiral.

3. They focus on their abilities and unique value—not failure.

Two truths exist simultaneously: You have impressive skills and yet, will sometimes fail. What sets optimistic people apart from pessimistic people is what they focus on: their strengths or their weaknesses, says Marla J. Albertie, M.Ed., a certified professional career, executive, and life coach.

“An optimistic person will view failure as a lesson, not a loss. They believe that learning is a natural part of all progress, and they use the results as a chance to reflect, grow, and improve,” she explains. “They have a positive outlook about themselves and their self-image. They trust themselves to handle challenges and succeed in their goals.”

If you miss the mark on a presentation or fall short on a DIY home renovation project, don’t punish yourself for not being perfect. If you want to be more positive, get in the habit of writing down your wins (you tried something new!), and then try to understand your shortcomings better so you can push past them.

4. They use positive reframing techniques.

Think about the last time you had a blood-boiling conversation. Or when you and your partner couldn’t find a compromise for an important decision. During these stressful times, it’s easy to fall into the habit of catastrophizing and tunnel vision—but research suggests that practicing thinking about yourself and your situation using positive reframing techniques can be helpful, says Janis Whitlock, PhD, MPH, senior advisor for The Jed Foundation.

How can you reframe your everyday inconveniences and darkest days to find the silver lining—or, at least, to find something less negative or neutral about them? “[Think about how] the situation is not as bad as you think it is and might be giving you new insights, understanding, and experiences,” she says. “Being able to sit gently with the hard stuff and just let the feelings happen is important. It’s what happens after that that really makes a difference—does it leave you feeling bitter, angry, or resentful, or can you gently move into seeing how there may be gifts if you think about it a little differently?”

5. They know how and when to say “no.”

While it may seem contradictory, Howell says one way to be more positive is actually to say “no” to more things. When you break down the purpose of being optimistic, it’s that you’re on a quest for balance and joy, which creates a positive attitude. If something actively doesn’t bring you joy or depletes you in unhealthy ways? It’s not worth your energy expense. And while sure, some obligations (say, like parenting) require you to do hard things, when you can prioritize your happiness, don’t be afraid to pursue it.

“When you put others’ [needs] before your needs, you’re saying ‘yes’ to others and ‘no’ to yourself, which ultimately is not what will ground you in having a confident outlook on the future,” Howell says. “Saying ‘no’ [to things that don’t bring you joy] can actually bring you clarity, peace, and a way forward to a happy life.”

6. They practice gratitude.

Gratitude is not a trend, Albertie says. Being thankful is a way of life for optimistic people and a fundamental step toward being more positive. “They often practice gratitude by focusing on the things they have rather than what they lack,” she continues. “They are grateful for the good things in their lives and appreciate the positive aspects of their experiences.”

But what happens if you’re going through a stressful period where the storms seem more frequent than the sunny days? How do you choose optimism in the darkness? Whitlock says to find the tiny, often-forgettable slivers of goodness around you.

“The little things really are little: a smile, a small kindness you do for someone else or they do for you, or noticing spring as it’s coming,” she says. “These more positive feelings influence our thoughts and perceptions in subtle but powerfully positive ways.”

7. They surround themselves with supportive people.

When you’re around someone overly negative, it’s easy to fall into the same cycling of thinking. But when you’re around someone who’s positive, solution-oriented, and hopeful, you tend to gravitate toward the brighter side of life’s challenges and experiences, too.

If you’re determined to be more positive and improve your outlook on life, look outward: When you can, keep company with others who wish to see the positive side, from friends and family to therapists, coaches, and healers. “Community care is self-care, and optimistic people ensure that they have a hype team around them to empower them on days when they don’t feel the strength to do so,” Howell says. “Optimistic people are not optimistic all of the time, of course, but they know how to ask for help, so even their rainy days are shared with a friend.”

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