Some people seem to be perpetual pessimists, always expecting rain, whereas others are optimistic and better able to “enjoy the ride.” It turns out that those who are optimistic also enjoy better health, less depression, and more success in their jobs and personal lives. But there’s good news for pessimists: optimism can be learned.

Of course, pessimists often think that they’re the realistic ones, and that optimists are living in dreamland. However, research suggests that pessimists often expect things to turn out worse than they do. At other times, their negative view becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, actually causing things to turn out worse in both work and relationships. The following approach can help foster optimism.

  • To counter negative thinking, the first step is to become aware of your thoughts. When something upsetting or disappointing occurs, pay attention to what you say to yourself (e.g., “that just goes to show how nothing good ever happens to me”).
  • View the negative thought for what it is: “That’s just my pessimism talking. Just because I had the thought doesn’t make it a fact.”
  • Next, challenge the thought. Ask yourself, “What is the evidence for this thought? Am I jumping to conclusions? How would someone else see this situation?” Consider alternative views of the situation (e.g., “actually, several good things happened earlier this week”).
  • Talk with optimistic friends or colleagues who may offer a different perspective. Old habits are tough to break, but with practice, you can develop a more positive outlook.