How to Start Your Optimism Practice

By: Emily Saul, Playmaker

Practicing optimism might not be as easy as a magic “1, 2, 3…” but it’s not that far off, either. Building a practice of optimism can start with three simple steps, which can be repeated as often as you like to help you strengthen your skill of optimism—just like you can practice and strengthen skills for gardening, carpentry, knitting, or tossing a frisbee.

These steps are great to try out accompanied by a journal or somewhere to write down your responses.

Step 1: Seeing good things in ourselves

WHAT YOU GET TO DO: Name 3 things you like about yourself.

HOW THIS HELPS: Seeing ourselves optimistically is the foundation for seeing the good around us. This isn’t being selfish, narcissistic, or egotistical; it’s simply acknowledging that there is good in us. Try these starter questions:

  • What qualities, characteristics or personality traits do you like about yourself?
  • What values, beliefs, or attitudes do you hold that you appreciate?
  • What skills, talents, knowledge, or experience do you have that helps others?

Step 2: Seeing good things in others

WHAT YOU GET TO DO: First, think of someone you enjoy interacting with regularly. Name three things that you appreciate or like about them. Then, think about someone with whom you sometimes struggle. Name three good things about that person.

two women wearing hats and smiling

HOW THIS HELPS: It’s often easy to identify good and likeable things about people with whom we enjoy interacting, and this is a great practice of gratitude: To appreciate the good things about the people we enjoy. And, just as importantly, we strengthen our capacity to see more than just the challenges in “challenging people” when we practice seeing the good that’s in them, too.

Step 3: Seeing good things in the world

WHAT YOU GET TO DO: First, think about the last 24 hours and reflect on something good that you experienced. Take a whole moment, even 3-4 deep breaths to remember and re-experience that feeling. Then, think back to identify something difficult you’ve experienced in your life and take some time to reflect on how that challenge served a positive purpose in your life.

women smiling posing in front of bridge

HOW THIS HELPS: Celebrating positive moments is valuable because it helps us to experience them more fully, in the moment. Recalling and re-experiencing good feelings helps to reinforce those good feelings over time. Additionally, reflecting on challenges through a lens of optimism often highlights that even the most difficult times spur discovery, learning, growth, and opportunity.

The best part? This is an anytime practice. Anytime you want to practice your optimism and strengthen your skills, pick one (or two or three) of these steps and do them again. Over time, you’ll shift your perspective toward all that’s good.

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