How To Foster Optimism In Your Life

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated February 21, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The ability to remain positive about the future can make us happier, keep us focused on our goals, and even improve our mental and physical health— and it serves as the basis for an optimistic mindset. We practice optimism when we imagine that the outcomes of coming events or life challenges will be favorable. Despite its benefits, optimism can be a difficult attitude to maintain, especially when we experience hardship. If you are going through a difficult time or would just like to view things from a more positive perspective, there are several ways you can develop an optimistic outlook on your life and the world around you. Below, we’re going to discuss what optimism is, its benefits, and how you can cultivate it in your life. 

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
A positive attitude can improve your mental well-being

What is optimism?

According to an article published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, optimism is present when individuals “hold generalized favorable expectancies for their future.” It can be described as a person’s ability to see the proverbial glass as half full or look on the bright side of things. Optimism is generally viewed as the converse of pessimism, which is a negative outlook on the future. 

Benefits of optimism

Science has linked optimism to a variety of positive effects, including improved physical and emotional health. Researchers have found a connection between optimism and reduced depression, anxiety, and stress. Additionally, studies have shown that optimism can boost the immune system, increase pain tolerance, and decrease the risk of death from severe illness. There is also evidence that optimism can improve performance in school and even lead to higher earning potential. 

A man in a white shirt and checkered long-sleeve shirt wearing glasses is standing outside a doorway; he is smiling while holding a notebook and looking past him.
Getty/Halfpoint Images

How to be more optimistic

Fostering optimism in your life typically involves more than simply adopting a positive mindset— although that can be a powerful start. The following tips can help you practice optimism on a daily basis, shift your perspective, and develop a more hopeful outlook. 

Recognize negative thoughts

When you determine which parts of your life you view in a pessimistic light, you can start to identify negative thoughts as they arise. Do you have a negative mindset when it comes to school? Does work frequently evoke pessimism? You may find that there are certain facets of life that you feel very positive about and others that could benefit from an optimistic perspective. 

Additionally, negative thoughts often follow certain patterns. These patterns, often called cognitive distortions, are mental frameworks that can cause us to unconsciously view a situation in a negative light. For example, some people tend to catastrophize, which means that they think about the worst possible outcomes of a situation. Another cognitive distortion involves using a mental filter that screens out positive information and leaves only the negative. Other negative thought patterns include:

  • Personalization – assigning blame to yourself even when other factors were at play 
  • All-or-nothing thinking – only perceiving outcomes in terms of extremes 
  • Overgeneralization – applying a negative result from one situation to all subsequent situations
  • Labeling – giving yourself a limiting classification   

When you’re able to identify negative thought patterns in your life, you may be more equipped to reframe them and effectively decrease your pessimism.

Focus on solutions

A pessimistic mindset often stems from the belief that life is out of our control. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy when it keeps us from doing everything possible to ensure a beneficial outcome. If you’re concerned about the future, think about ways you can take some measure of control over the situation. 

Consider a scenario in which you had a job interview that you feel went poorly. While you could dwell on the negative aspects of the interview, a more productive approach might be to follow up with the interviewer with an email thanking them for their time, adding points you may not have included in the interview, and reiterating your interest in the job. This can help divert the negative energy you might expend dwelling on the interview toward a direct action that could improve your chances of getting the job. 

Of course, we can’t gain control over every situation. However, looking at a problem from a solution-oriented mindset may help you stay more optimistic.  

Start to acknowledge your successes

Identifying areas of your life in which you’re excelling can help you feel more confident and, in turn, optimistic. Take time at the end of each day to write out a list of the successes that you had for the day. These could be big things like finding a new job, or they might be small things like getting everything on your grocery shopping list. The more you begin to label the things that you're accomplishing throughout the day as successes, the more optimistic you may become. 

Visualize your success

If optimism doesn't come naturally to you, you can practice it by imagining positive outcomes. When you have a situation coming that you are feeling uneasy or negative about, take time to visualize it. Close your eyes and picture what success will look like. Imagine yourself receiving the promotion, passing the test, or finishing the race. Visualizing an outcome does not guarantee that it is going to happen, but it can help to train your mind to expect a more favorable outcome. 

Practice gratitude

Being grateful for the things that you have in life can increase your happiness and help you develop a positive outlook. You can practice gratitude daily by using a journal. Write down a list of things that you are thankful for in life. You may want to include things like relationships, your well-being, possessions, experiences, etc. You can also practice gratitude by letting loved ones, friends, or even colleagues know that you appreciate them. Being grateful helps you focus on positive influences in your life, which can lead to increased optimism.

Surround yourself with positive people

It can be even more challenging to remain optimistic when there are people in your life who have a negative mentality. If you have friends, family, or coworkers who tend to be pessimistic, consider talking to them about their mindset. They may not know that they’ve been approaching situations negatively or that their pessimism has had an impact on the people around them. You can also simply limit the time you spend with someone who is frequently pessimistic.

Try to nurture relationships with people who already have a positive influence on your life. Is there an acquaintance with an enthusiastic attitude you can get closer to or an optimistic coworker you can befriend? You may notice a significant difference in your own optimism when you surround yourself with a positive support system. 

Getty/Luis Alvarez
A positive attitude can improve your mental well-being

Online therapy with BetterHelp

If you are struggling with optimism, depression, or similar mental health-related concerns, know that help is available. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can receive support and guidance as you work to change your mindset. Since BetterHelp has thousands of mental health professionals—with wide-ranging areas of expertise—you have a high chance of matching with a therapist who can address your specific concerns. A qualified therapist can provide a different perspective and help you develop a positive, healthy attitude. 

The efficacy of online therapy

Research shows that online therapy can help individuals increase their optimism and reduce symptoms of disorders that may lead to pessimism, like depression.

A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that an online optimism intervention could decrease symptoms of depression in individuals who tend to be pessimistic. According to researchers, participants reported increased happiness and significantly reduced levels of negative attitudes.

Read below for reviews of BetterHelp therapists from people who have reached out for help with similar concerns. 

Therapist reviews

“I was never someone who thought I would want to go to therapy or talk to a therapist. Recently I came to the realization that I may need it and have since started talking to Dr Rasheed after I got paired with him on this site. I am an anxious person and I had all sorts of anxiety about starting with him but I can say, he makes it very comfortable and definitely knows his stuff. I've been to two sessions so far and plan to do alot more. Every session leaves me feeling a bit better than before. I went from being unsure of this whole process to being very optimistic and confident that we will overcome my mental obstacles. He has me looking forward to future sessions and has already given me a mindset to improve myself. Definitely recommend talking to him!”

“Ramona has helped me rebuild my confidence in recent weeks and helped me to focus on what really matters. Without her guidance and direction, I probably would be way behind in my feelings of optimism.”


Approaching life’s challenges with a positive mindset can benefit your health, motivate you to succeed, and elevate your mood. If you’re looking to increase optimism in your life, utilize the above tips— and consider reaching out to a licensed therapist online for support and advice. With the right help, you can experience the many benefits a new perspective often brings.
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