Growth & Self-Esteem

Improve Your Life: Learn to Be Optimistic

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6
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Date Published:
September 2, 2021

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Summary

If a driver suddenly smashed into your car on your way home, would you look at it through a positive or negative lens? If you were to take a negative approach, you might sink into fear and rage that your car was damaged and you will be late getting home. But if you took a positive approach, you might cultivate feelings of gratitude that God protected you and your loved ones through the accident.

Unfortunately, we cannot control every aspect of our lives, but we can control how we react to things.

Cultivating an optimistic point of view may look tough, but it only takes practice. So to help you reframe your mind toward optimism, we've compiled five ways to learn to be optimistic as a Christian.

Why is it important to be optimistic?

As Christians, we should act with intention and purpose. So let's start with two key questions: what does optimism look like for a Christian, and what are the benefits of optimism? 

Optimism is a state characterized by confidence and hope. People who cultivate optimism are "optimistic," and people who see the worst in the world are "pessimistic." 

If you’re a pessimist, you view good things as temporary and negative situations as normal (i.e., "glass half full"). If you are an optimist, you view bad things as temporary and positive situations as normal (i.e., "glass half empty").

The difference between optimism and pessimism may feel huge, but it's nothing but a mindset.

Adopting an optimistic mindset will help you be a better friend, partner, parent, and Christian. 

That's because optimism will help you:

  • Approach challenges with confidence
  • Grow your self-esteem
  • See the best in others and help people make positive changes
  • Ditch negative beliefs
  • Improve your well-being and mental health
  • Support others with hope in hard times
  • Reduce your stress, improve your physical health, and boost your quality of life
  • Achieve your goals (as research shows people who are confident they can achieve their goals are more likely to work hard to meet them)
  • Connect with God more intimately 

Cultivating optimism will also help you appreciate God's good design for the world, as you will reframe your mind to see God's blessings everywhere.

As Christians, our creator calls us to have an optimistic outlook on life. For example, we see in Colossians 3:15 that God calls us to "let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful." 

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How to become optimistic

While optimism may seem like a mindset that some Christians are simply blessed with, this simply isn't true. Optimistic people often struggle to see the good in the world. But unlike pessimists, optimists take steps to cultivate optimism every day. 

Here are five of those steps. 

1. Change how you view negative events

If an optimist and a pessimist lose their jobs after budget cuts, they'll frame the event differently in their minds. 

When we consider this difference, we focus on three explanatory style factors called the '3 P's':

  • Permanence: How long the person thinks the bad event will last 
  • Pervasiveness: Whether the person believes that the bad event has a specific cause or that bad things are universal and always happen
  • Personal: Whether the person believes bad events happen to everyone or just them 

In practice, that plays out like this: 

The optimist will view unemployment as a temporary struggle resulting from the company's budget shrinking. They understand that it wasn't personal. 

The pessimist will view unemployment as another blow in a long line of bad events that only impact them. 

Once you recognize the 3 Ps in action, you can save yourself from pessimism by acknowledging and readjusting your negative thoughts.

2. Question your reactions to setbacks

When we face a setback, we often react with pessimism. However, if you want to become an optimist, you should question your reaction carefully. 

For example, if you forget to purchase milk at the store and catch yourself thinking, "I always mess things up," question that thought. 

Do you always mess things up, or were you simply distracted and trying your best?

The goal of questioning your reactions isn't to force yourself into positive thinking, as it's completely normal to feel pessimistic sometimes. Instead, the goal is to recognize that your initial reaction frames your mindset later. 

So, if you question your reaction, you can reframe your negative self-talk and approach the situation better.

3. Embrace learned optimism and cultivate gratitude

Optimism doesn't come naturally to everyone, including positive people. Optimists cultivate their positive outlook by fostering gratitude, which is an emotion of thankfulness and appreciation. 

As a Christian, you can practice gratitude daily by:

  • Giving thanks for your blessings through prayer
  • Keeping a gratitude journal
  • Looking for positive events 
  • Creating a gratitude collage for your home or office
  • Noticing your blessings with mindfulness
  • Keeping a list of your blessings on your phone as a reminder
  • Saying "thank you" to your family, friends, and coworkers often 

You can also foster optimism through meditation, as meditation brings you peace in times of stress and anxiety.

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4. Look to the Bible for guidance

As Christians, we can look to the Bible for guidance, as God's word lays out His design for our lives. 

We can see His design for optimism through Moses's trials in the Book of Exodus. Here, we learn that Moses faced many challenges in life, including slavery and persecution. However, Moses didn't succumb to hopelessness or abandon God's design for his life. Instead, he cultivated hope, trusted in God, and led his people (the Israelites) to the Holy Land. 

We can also see God's design for optimism through scriptures about peace. For example, we see in Psalm 34:14 that we're commanded to "turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.

And in Isaiah 41:10, we're told: "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

5. Find a positive mantra and embrace prayer

Cultivating optimism takes consistency and effort, which is why many optimists embrace mantras. Mantras are short reminders you give yourself to cultivate positive emotions when you face stressors. 

There are many wonderful options if you're looking for a biblical mantra. This includes:

  • Philippians 4:13, which says, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me."
  • Proverbs 4:23, which says, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
  • Psalm 118:24, which says, "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
  • Romans 8:28, which says, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose."

Once you've chosen your mantra, remind yourself of it by writing it down and placing it somewhere you'll see it often. This might include your bathroom, desk, fridge, car, or bedroom. 

Every time you see your mantra, reflect on it for a second, and it'll bring you hope.

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How to learn optimism as a Christian

God calls us to approach our lives with hope and serve Him dutifully. But when we're stressed and worried, cultivating optimism can be tricky. 

However, there are simple steps you can take to learn to be optimistic, including: 

  • Reframing your negative thinking
  • Embracing positivity over negativity
  • Cultivating gratitude
  • Referring to the Bible for hope and guidance
  • Embracing a positive mantra 

If you'd like to learn more about cultivating optimism in your daily life or read Bible stories about gratitude, download our App from the iOS App Store or Google Play store. Alternatively, if you enjoy podcasts, you could listen to our podcast episode "Positive Mindset."

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