Skip to content

Week 6: Optimism

Week 6: Optimism


"Choose to be optimistic, it feels better"

-14th Dalai Lama (1935)


Optimism: The belief that one’s goals can be accomplished and determining the specific steps needed to reach one's goals. Optimism is also defined as what we attribute to be the causes of the negative or unpleasant events that happen in our lives. Optimistic people tend to attribute causes as external vs. internal (blaming oneself), transient vs. long lasting, and specific to the situation vs. pervasive (affecting all areas of one's life).


Challenge #1: Negative Thoughts

Challenge three automatic negative thoughts this week. It's not surprising to learn that our beliefs about the causes and impact of events are often based on inaccurate thinking patterns. Luckily, there are some ways to challenge our initial beliefs about a situation!


Ask yourself these questions and see how it changes your attitude! (it may help to write your answers down)

Personalization: "Who caused the problem? Who is actually responsible? Me? Not me? What is true in this case? What evidence do I have to support my belief? What aspects of the situation can be controlled? What parts of the situation can I actually do something about?"

This type of questioning encourages you to use the influence you have, which enhances your belief in your ability to steer through challenging situations.

Permanence: "How long will this problem last? Always or not always? Is this stress really going to last forever? Can I see an end to this stress?"

Pervasiveness: "How much of my life will this problem affect? Is this stress really going to affect everything in my life? What areas will not be affected?"

It's easier to bounce back when we look for the specific areas of our lives that are affected by the stress, because then the situation feels less overwhelming and more controllable." (Pearson, 2006)


Now that you have the tools necessary, go ahead and try it out! Click here for more videos to help understand these topics!

Challenge #2: Best Possible Self

Research shows that those who participate in the Best Possible Self activity show greater positive affect (more likely to experience positive emotions) compared to those who do not (Boehm, 2011).

Write about your best possible self (your ideal self) in terms of academics, social life, career goals, or any other aspect of your life. Write some specific goals that you would like to accomplish to help you attain your best possible self. Visualize your best possible self in a way that is pleasing to you. After you have a fairly clear image, write about the details. Writing this down helps create a logical structure for the future and can help you move to concrete, real possibilities.


Example: “In my social life, I will include time for friends and family, while still being able to balance my work and school. Ideally, I will do this by making sure I keep in touch with my parents by calling them each morning. I will stick to my word when making plans with friends because I know how valuable time is…”

References & Resources

Reaching In..Reaching Out Resiliency Guidebook: Jennifer Pearson, Darlene Cordich Hall,R.N., Ph.D., April 2006


Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to increase and sustain positive emotion: the effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1, 73-82.


Meevissen,Y. M. C., Peters, M. L., & Alberts, H. J. E. M. (2011). Become more optimistic by imagining a best possible self: Effects of a two week intervention. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42, 371-378.


Boehm,J. K., Peterson, C., Kivimaki, M., & Kubzansky, L. (2011). A Prospective Study of Positive Psychological Well-Being and Coronary

Heart Disease. Health Psychology : Official Journal of the Division of Health Psychology, American Psychological Association, 30(3), 259–267.

Video: Resilience

Optimism Interventions