In recent years, many studies have been done looking at the relationship between positive thoughts and overall health. Research has been able to show that those who identify as optimists are subject to many health benefits including fewer colds, lower blood pressure, a reduced risk of heart disease, and even a slightly longer life.
Author of Contagious Optimism, David Messapelle, has been studying this phenomenon for over five years. He says that some people have a more optimistic nature than others, but he strongly believes that having a positive, optimistic baseline is something that everyone can work on and improve upon. Mezzapelle is also quick to add that being an optimistic doesn’t mean having a sunshine and rainbows outlook on everything, but it is having the ability to change your perspective on a situation through your thoughts and combine optimism with acceptance of that situation.
But even for those who have a naturally optimistic outlook, optimism and positive thinking is something that needs to be practiced- every day. Mezzapelle and CEO of MindBodyGreen.com, Jason Wachob, have put together a list of seven traits that most optimistic people seem to have in common. They both strongly believe if someone puts in a deliberate effort to acquire these traits, they too will adopt an optimistic baseline and eventually will find themselves living their daily life with a positive outlook, no matter how “naturally” pessimistic they previously were.
1. Optimistic people express gratitude
Mezzapelle says one of his most important findings of naturally optimistic people are that they express gratitude each and every day, even for the smallest things in life. “The sun coming up in the morning, your child or dog excited to see you- being thankful about the littlest thing makes the bigger things that much better,” he says. Another important characteristic is not just finding gratitude in the small, easy things, but finding the good within hardships. This will give people the strength and resilience they need to lead an overall positive life.
2. Optimistic people are interested in others
“When people hear stories of how others persevere, it fosters optimism,” says Mezzapelle. For people to maintain hope and optimism during their hardships, it is important for them to know that they are not alone in their struggles. Even small things such as reading inspirational stories online can help. Or even if you are not going through something, reading about others’ struggles can help you feel grateful and appreciative of the good things in your own life.
3. Optimistic people donate their time and energy
Giving back is a very important element of feeling happiness and fulfillment in your own life. If you spend time with those less fortunate and help them out, it not only makes you feel grateful for what you have but also good about yourself for helping someone else in their time of need.
4. Optimistic people forgive others
One of the easiest ways for people to slip into a pessimistic mindset is to hold on to grudges. This causes people to live in the past and not be grateful or happy in the present. While Mezzapelle says this is easier said than done, it is an important skill to learn in order to maintain an optimistic lifestyle.
5. Optimistic people surround themselves with other optimistic people
This is one of the most important characteristics of the seven. If you surround yourself with negativity and negative people, then it will become very difficult for you to feel positive about your own life and the world around you. Optimists and pessimists both put out energy into the world, and that energy is easily absorbed by the people around them. So surround yourself with happy, optimistic people and you’ll absorb that positive energy and start being able to make it a part of your own daily life.
6. Optimistic people don’t listen to naysayers
A critical part of being able to maintain an optimistic outlook is to be able to not let others’ negative opinions or outlooks bring you down or upset you. “What other people do or say is a reflection of their own reality, not yours,” says Mezzapelle, “Optimistic people don’t take the opinions of others too seriously when they don’t agree. You can disagree with other opinions- that’s the beauty of life. Don’t look at it any other way and don’t let it affect you. It’s their reality, not yours.”
7. Optimistic people smile- a lot
Research has shown that optimistic behaviors can be the fuel for optimistic thoughts, even simply smiling can have a positive affect on one’s mindset. Plus, Mezzapelle adds, it creates a happy environment that attracts other happy people to you.
For someone who considers themselves a naturally pessimistic person, or has slipped into a general negative mindset over time- challenge yourself to change that mindset by paying close attention to and replicating these seven traits in your own life. Start by simply writing down 5 things you are grateful for and 5 good things that happened that day every night before you go to bed. Then work towards surrounding yourself with happy people and cutting out the negativity. Then, simply practice smiling more and you are on your way to becoming a more naturally optimistic person!