While some people think you are born either an optimist or a pessimist, you aren't destined to remain a negative thinker just because you tend to err naturally on the side of pessimism. You can learn optimism, according to the Mayo Clinic. Not only can positive thinking help your health, it also improves relationships.
Benefits of Relationship Optimism
Optimism in a relationship means noticing good things about your partner and predicting a positive future for your relationship. Optimists and their partners experience greater relationship satisfaction when compared to non-optimists, according to a research study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Optimists view their partner as supportive and feel as though their relationship helps them reach their personal goals. Optimism helps people resolve conflict more successfully because they feel confident in their ability to solve problems together.
Replace Overly Negative Thoughts with More Realistic Thoughts
Increase your optimism by learning how to recognize overly negative thoughts. Often, thoughts that include words such as, "never" or "always" are exaggerations. Look for exceptions to the rule and replace overly pessimistic thoughts with more balanced thoughts. For example, a wife who thinks, "My husband never does anything nice for me," can remind herself of some of loving and caring acts she has seen from him in the past. She can replace her negative thought with a more balanced thought such as, "My husband behaves lovingly toward me much of the time."
Consider Alternative Explanations
Pessimism causes people to assume the worst and often, pessimists assume their partner has ill intentions. For example, a wife may think, "My husband works late because he doesn't want to spend time with me." She could become more optimistic by thinking, "My husband late because he wants to earn extra money to pay the bills." When you notice yourself thinking the worst, look for alternative explanations that may also be true.
Pay Attention to the Positive
Pessimists tend to ignore positive interactions with their partner and dwell on negative interactions. If optimism doesn't come naturally to you, you'll need to look purposely for the positive in your relationship. Look for times when you have had positive experiences with your partner. Try being less critical of your relationship and of your partner's behavior and instead, focus on something positive. It takes extra effort and practice to think more optimistically. However, with practice it becomes more natural.
- PsychCentral: Challenging Negative Self-Talk
- Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: Optimism in Close Relationships: How Seeing Things in a Positive Light Makes Them So
- Love Is Never Enough: How Couples Can Overcome Misunderstanding; Aaron T. Beck
- Mayo Clinic: Positive thinking: Reduce Stress by Eliminating Negative Self-Talk
Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.