Optimistic by nature or nurture?

I’ll admit, I’m not optimistic by nature. I grew up learning how to be very pessimistic. The environment I was raised in cultivated it. Yet at some point, I realized that I needed to reprogram my mind and the way I saw the world. For many years I was the type of person who focused on what there was to complain about. I was fixated on problems. I saw all that was wrong with the world.

The thing is, it took a toll on me. It was mentally and emotionally draining. It got to the point that I no longer wanted to live my sad and miserable life. I realized that I needed to do something about it. I didn’t know what to do or who to reach out to so I turned to journaling. It’s a practice I had used growing up but even that was tainted with my pessimistic ways. I used it to vent and get my emotions out but it was just notebooks filled with toxicity.

So I started to journal with the intention of finding clarity. I did a lot of self-exploration and self-reflection. I made a list of all of the habits I had that weren’t bringing anything good into my life. Like complaining, focusing on problems, complaining about what I had to complain about… I wasn’t sure what to do about it except, do the exact opposite. So for each habit I listed, I listed the polar opposite next to it.

I realized that the opposite of complaining was being thankful… and began to practice gratitude without realizing that’s what I was doing. Instead of focusing on the problem itself, I started brainstorming solutions. Instead of complaining to others, I started finding interesting things to talk about. Little by little, I started noticing my life starting to change, my mood starting to pick up, and my outlook on life starting to improve.

I’m definitely not the type of person who’s so positive it hurts. But I don’t think it hurts to be positive. Just because you might not be optimistic by nature, doesn’t mean you can’t do so by nurture. Learning how to be more optimistic helps build resiliency and helps you sow seeds of happiness in your life. It’s definitely something you have to adjust to if you aren’t optimistic by nature. I want to share three quick tips to help you as you learn to nurture optimism.

  1. Be patient with yourself- if you’re anything like I was, optimism was a radical extreme for me. It felt awkward and unnatural at first. I failed at it many times over in the beginning but I practiced until it felt a little less awkward and a little more natural.
  2. Implement one practice at a time- change is hard enough without over-complicating it. Pick one habit to practice the polar opposite of (gratitude instead of complaining, solutions instead of problems…). Focus on building that new habit before adding another one.
  3. Give yourself grace- as they say, practice makes progress. Don’t expect to master these new habits and practices in a short amount of time. How many years have you spent building the habits you have? Exactly. It’s going to take time and dedication to build a new habit. Don’t beat yourself up when you fail because it happens. Catching yourself is a good sign that you’re getting closer to that habit being your new sense of normal.

I hope you find these tips helpful. Whether you’re optimistic by nature or nurture, I want to encourage you to keep up your practices! Remember, being optimistic doesn’t mean you’re always happy, it just means you don’t let the thing life throws at you get you down. We all have our struggles and challenges. None of us have perfect lives. It’s just a matter of how we choose to roll with the punches and play the hand we’re dealt that makes the difference.

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