Optimism is an outlook where a person believes that life is a positive experience. They think that people and things are fundamentally "good." When they encounter obstacles in life, they predict the outcome will be positive. An optimist views the good in people rather than their flaws. They genuinely think that people are fundamentally good and that things will work out for the best no matter what the circumstances. The word derives from the Latin “optimum,” which translates to "best." Here you will find articles focusing on how being optimistic can benefit you in life. Sometimes it can be challenging to see the bright side of hard situations, but if you are actively working on yourself, it will be easier to see the good rather than what’s wrong.
Medically Reviewed By: Aaron Horn, LMFT, MA
Optimism is an outlook that’s characterized by positivity. A person who’s optimistic looks for the best in a situation. It’s a belief system where one feels that things will turn out in a favorable manner. An optimist sees the glass is half full rather than half empty. The term optimism comes from the Latin word “optimum,” which means “best.” When you're optimistic, you’re looking at the best possible outcome that could occur from a scenario. In psychology, we refer to that as “dispositional optimism.”
There’s a difference between positively looking at things and negatively conceptualizing things. There are two theories: dispositional optimism and dispositional pessimism. They are opposed to one another. People who see the negative side of things are called pessimists, and they are the opposite of optimists. If you catastrophize and consistently believe that things will not go well, that would be being pessimistic. If you think that things will be successful and turn out well, that is optimism.
One of the things that people work on in therapy is developing a more positive outlook. When you view things negatively, you may find that you experience life feeling hopeless or sad. Pessimism and pessimistic thinking are features of depression. Many forms of therapy can help someone combat negative thinking. One of them is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, commonly referred to as CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy helps people look at their negative thought patterns, which could be considered pessimistic, and transform them into more positive thinking.
In cognitive behavioral therapy, you look at something called “cognitive distortions.” Cognitive distortions are thought patterns that are irrational or blown out of proportion, and they are almost always negative. These thought patterns affect a person's emotions and overall mental health significantly. If you always believe that the outcome will be bad or you reject the positive aspects of things, you're thinking in a pessimistic manner. If you think that people don't like you or you’re personalizing things (for example, “everything is my fault,” or “everyone hates me,”) that is a pessimistic way of thinking. CBT helps you change harmful cognitive distortions and curb negative thinking.
If you look for the best in a situation, it’s likely you’ll see a positive outcome in the end. The reason is that you’re willing to give others the benefit of the doubt and you want things to turn out well. You’re not interested in seeing the situation decline. Unfortunately, as hard as you try, there are some situations where you can’t find a way to make the circumstances better. For example, there are times when bad things happen to good people. People who have endured severe episodes of trauma have a right to their story. Still, many people have been through awful life challenges, and again, manage to persevere and see life as a fundamentally positive experience. Their painful experiences are real, and they work through them in therapy. They can learn to appreciate what is good in their lives in addition to accepting the bad things that have happened. You can be optimistic even though bad things have happened to you.
Life Isn't All Good Or Bad
You can see life in a balanced way. It’s not all good or all bad. There are times where it’s hard to get up each day. You can feel depressed and still feel optimistic that things will get better. Sometimes, life is hard. No one is happy all of the time, but there are ways to make your life better, even if you’re in a bad situation. So, if you look at the positive aspects of a position and choose to have an optimistic outlook, you can feel better. Are you having trouble finding the positives in life? It might be time to seek online counseling.
If you’re struggling to adopt a positive viewpoint on life, online counseling can help. When you talk with a therapist, you’re exploring what the roadblocks that may be preventing you from being positive or optimistic. Working with an online counselor can help you view things more positively. Search our network of online counselors and find one at BetterHelp that you can work with to become more optimistic.