The Real Definition of Optimism & How to Cultivate It

I LOVED talking to Dr. Deepika Chopra (aka the “Optimism Doctor”) on The Blonde Files Podcast last month. We discussed the science behind optimism, the physical benefits of optimism, how to be more optimistic, optimism vs toxic positivity, how to hold space for all emotions (even the negatives ones), the reality of manifestation and so much more. Definitely go check it out here if you missed it! For some of us, I think optimism is something we’ve been getting out of touch with these past few months, and it’s something that we could use a lot more of in the next coming months. So I wanted to highlight a few key points from my conversation with Dr. Chopra on the blog.

The best way to define optimism is to define what it’s not. It’s not toxic positivity, being happy 24/7, wearing rose-colored glasses, and never experiencing anything that’s less than ideal. As humans, we were made to experience a full range of emotions – and, ironically, experiencing a full range of emotions, especially the ones that don’t feel good sometimes, is a key part of growing optimism, happiness, hope, resilience and grit.

An optimist is someone who sees the roadblocks and is mindful and aware of the setbacks – but they see them as temporary situations that they have the ability to overcome. Optimism is also about duality. People who practice optimism can hold the negative feelings of disappointment, anger or sadness and simultaneously hold the emotion of hope and the thought that this moment will pass. It’s about getting uncomfortable in the uncomfortableness of holding two emotions at the same time. So experiencing and working through struggles and low points will help build that resilience and grit. You don’t have to know when or how you’ll get through it, but you know that you will.

It’s SO important to spotlight and focus on the things we want more of. We’re so prone to point out to ourselves what we need to improve on, what we don’t have or what isn’t going well – but we don’t necessarily need to be reminded of those things. We’re also not too great about pointing out our strengths, competence, goals and accomplishments. Shifting that focus creates a powerful shift in our minds that can actually help change our behaviors much quicker and lead to positive changes in our lives.

Optimism is a tool you already have in your toolbox; it just needs to be sharpened. It’s a muscle that we have to practice using because as humans, we’re more prone to be pessimistic. In order to thrive in today’s world, it doesn’t do us any good to only imagine the worst-case scenarios, just like how it also doesn’t do us any good to imagine only the best-case scenarios (aka toxic positivity). If you’re having trouble practicing duality or you’re stuck in a pessimistic view, you can start cultivating optimism by:

-Showing self-compassion.

-Validating how you feel.

-Leaning into your emotions, even the negatives ones. (It’s the only way to work through them!)

-Thinking about your own competence and strengths and all the struggles you’ve overcome.

-Starting your day with a positive ritual that makes you feel good, whether that’s journaling, TM, reading or a morning at-home workout. (How your mood is at the beginning of the day often impacts your mood for the remainder of the day!)

-Accepting responsibility for the things that go well, not just the things that don’t go well.

-Take time, space and energy to celebrate yourself, positive emotions and your strengths and accomplishments, no matter how big or small.

Would you consider yourself more of a pessimist or optimist? I’d love to hear how you cultivate optimism in your daily life!

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