7 Ways to Hardwire Optimism to Overcome Health Challenges

When setting out to tackle your health challenges, it is important to find ways to hardwire optimism into your thinking as you set your goals and put them into motion. Negative thinking can be a huge stop sign for moving forward. Once you lose your drive toward action, you lose the ability to get anything done.

An optimistic person believes that through luck and/or actions that the future will be successful and fulfilling. Through optimism, a person believes that things will work out reasonably well, even through troubling times, and that there is almost always a way to get the work done with some effort.

Positive health outcomes are associated with optimism. A review of 83 studies demonstrated that optimism is a significant predictor of positive physical health outcomes.1 Quality of life, psychological well-being, and age are directly and positively associated with health optimism.2 More recently, study results demonstrated that the absence of pessimism is even more strongly related to good physical health than is the presence of optimism.3

Pessimism is thinking about things with expectations of a negative outcome. While avoiding pessimism is certainly essential, thinking optimistically can be the difference between easily reaching success and falling short. But how can you start thinking optimistically? There are certain actions you can take that will help you shift your core beliefs.

Ways to develop optimism when tackling health challenges.

Try these ways to set yourself up for success with optimism:

  • Expect the best. Be clear about your desired outcome for your health goals and believe that the best-case scenario can prevail. While you may drift into the “what if” thoughts from time to time, you also have the power to wrestle those negative thoughts. If you catch yourself thinking this way, immediately shift your focus onto something positive. It can help to state your desired outcome or positive beliefs out loud or write yourself sticky notes and post them on your mirror or somewhere where you will see them.
  • Take immediate action. Reaching your ultimate goals can be intimidating. There might be many things holding you back, including the fear of failure. But when you take immediate action, you leave no time for pessimistic thoughts to arise. You’ll plow forward in a positive direction.
  • Seek the silver lining. There will be situations that present challenges to you. You must believe that everything happens for a reason and that there’s a silver lining somewhere in this challenge. Do your best to learn from the situation and then actively seek the best direction forward.
  • Write down your thoughts. Write down your thoughts, including your fears so that you can process them. Take note of your positive thoughts as well those negative ones. Many times you can dispel the negative thoughts through rational thinking. By writing them down, you’ll often gain further clarity about your goals. Remember, whatever you believe, you achieve.
  • Normalize challenges. Don’t waste your time worrying about the challenges. Challenges are normal. Once you realize that worrying serves no purpose, you’ll be better able to let them go. Chances are things will work out for the best. This is important to believe to achieve an optimistic attitude. There’s a lesson to be learned in each challenge. Realizing the lessons you’re presented with will allow you to grow as a person and learn from both your successes and failures. As you learn, you build confidence and confidence brings optimism.
  • Reward yourself for positive action and making traction toward a goal. Perseverance is important to recognize. Any reward should be aligned with your values and beliefs and not be in opposition to your progress toward a health goal. It doesn’t have to be expensive or a big reward. It can be as simple as telling someone.
  • Avoid negative feelings such as shame, guilt, and succumbing to pessimism based on a failed action. It is normal to have ups and downs when you are trying to change your health behaviors to achieve better health outcomes. If these feelings surface, confront them. Reflect on the progress that has been made and commit to moving forward towards positive actions and goals.

While it’s important to be realistic that there’s the possibility of failure when you are dealing with health challenges and trying to develop healthy behaviors, adopting an optimistic approach can help you get to your desired outcomes. Encouraging optimism through these actions helps you build confidence and make progress. While challenges are a normal part of life, being optimistic can help you overcome the obstacles that come your way when addressing health challenges.


1.          Rasmussen HN, Scheier MF, Greenhouse JB. Optimism and physical health: A meta-analytic review. Annals of Behavioral Medicine. 2009;37(3). doi:10.1007/s12160-009-9111-x

2.          Rai R, Jongenelis M, Pettigrew S, Jackson B, Newton RU. Identifying modifiable factors associated with health optimism in older adults. Aging and Mental Health. 2019;23(3). doi:10.1080/13607863.2017.1416589

3.          Scheier MF, Swanson JD, Barlow MA, Greenhouse JB, Wrosch C, Tindle HA. Optimism versus pessimism as predictors of physical health: A comprehensive reanalysis of dispositional optimism research. American Psychologist. 2021;76(3). doi:10.1037/amp0000666

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