Tips on Being More Optimistic

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Do you ever have those days when you have just HAD IT?  I do.  It’s on days when everything is going wrong – I don’t sleep well, so I’m tired, work is annoying, I’m extra crabby with the kids, who then misbehave…it’s an endless cycle. Especially as Western NY starts the long slog through the rest of winter while the rest of the world (or so it feels) enjoys spring.  It can be hard to stay positive somedays!  But I think it’s important to stay positive!

For practical ways, to cultivate optimism in our lives, check out these tips from Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services who shares these tips and tools.

1. Focus on the good.

“A daily exercise I often have my patients do is keep an appreciation or gratitude journal. When you focus on all the things to be happy for in your life then more great things come. Think generally and use your senses. What do you appreciate seeing, smelling, touching, tasting, listening to? Write it down. Within a few weeks you’ll train the mind to pivot to an appreciate thought when a negative thought comes,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

2. Make plans.

Making plans to see relatives, to see a new exhibit a movie or to travel gets our mind moving forward towards something positive that we can be hopeful and optimistic about. Dr. Hafeez suggests making plans to do 3 things per month for the next 3 months. “Choose things that you know will bring you joy and then go do them! Feeling excited about what is coming and talking about how fun it will be keeps us optimistic and forward moving,” says Dr. Hafeez. 

3. Control what you can, delegate the rest! 

We get pessimistic and worry about the worst possible outcomes when we realize that we cannot control every detail. This leads to anxiety and an even stronger feeling of having to control conditions, and even others. According to Dr. Hafeez, this is a trap. “Figure out what needs to get done. What actions you can take. Then let go of anything else that is beyond your control with faith that everything will turn out fine. Envision the desired outcome,” advises Dr. Hafeez.

4. Limit your news watching and avoid it before bed. 

“There is a very common pattern I see people falling into,” says Hafeez. “People awaken and immediately reach for their smartphone for news headlines. They then turn on the TV news as background noise. They listen to news in their cars, have news alerts going off on their phones all day, catch the evening news and then the 11pm news before bed. No wonder they’re less optimistic! What you choose to look at will impact your mood. Remember, good news doesn’t get ratings,” she adds.  

5. Don’t snooze. Instead just breathe.

When the alarm goes off give yourself a few minutes to just lie there, eyes closed focused on your breathing. Breathe in counting to 4 and then breathe out. Do a mental scan of your entire body from head to toe thanking your cells for restoring you as you slept. “Deep breathing is a form of meditation and in the morning, you have a small window of opportunity to decide what kind of day you want it to be,” says Dr. Hafeez.  

6. Distract yourself with something that requires focus.

The key here is to pick something you truly enjoy doing and do it daily. It can be painting, coloring, yoga, a 20-minute walk or jog, listening to music and dancing around your living room. “When you are fully engaged in something, you can’t ruminate which leads to pessimism,” explains Dr. Hafeez.

7. Make feeling good top priority.

When you commit to feeling good you instantly start to think more optimistically. According to Dr. Hafeez, when you’re mindful of your own negativity and shift to a better feeling positive thought you feel powerful. You’ll feel like you can conquer anything when you can master your own mindset.

Dr. Sanam Hafeez PsyD is a NYC based licensed clinical psychologist, teaching faculty member at the prestigious Columbia University Teacher’s College and the founder and Clinical Director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services, P.C. a neuropsychological, developmental and educational center in Manhattan and Queens. 

Dr. Hafeez masterfully applies her years of experience connecting psychological implications to address some of today’s common issues such as body image, social media addiction, relationships, workplace stress, parenting and psychopathology (bipolar, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, etc…). In addition, Dr. Hafeez works with individuals who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), learning disabilities, attention and memory problems, and abuse. Dr. Hafeez often shares her credible expertise to various news outlets in New York City and frequently appears on CNN and Dr.Oz.

Connect with her via twitter @comprehendMind or


  1. says

    These are awesome tips and very important! I like the one of focusing on the good, I think this is a great way to be more optimistic.

  2. says

    Life is too short to be stressed out with the negativity around us. Of all these tips you mentioned, I need to work on avoiding watching the news before bed. It does affect my sleep and I wake up more tired than refreshed.

  3. Debra Hawkins says

    I absolutely love this, especially the part about not snoozing. That is just what I need in my morning to help me get going on a positive note.

  4. says

    These are great tips. Feeling optimistic is something I struggle with from time to time. I do try to remind myself that I need to work on it. Will remember these.

  5. Lindsay Bozek says

    These are great tips! I love the idea of taking time in the morning to breathe. So often I am immediately thrown into panic trying to get ready in the morning.

  6. Pam Wattenbarger says

    Avoiding the news before bed is a great idea. It is also a good idea to avoid the news before breakfast.

  7. says

    I have the worst habit of looking at the worst side of things. I need to use your tips to stay optimistic. I definitely need to stay focused on the good stuff that is in my control and as my husband says, don’t sweat the small stuff.

  8. says

    It’s so hard to stay optimistic sometimes, but this is a great list of tips. You’re totally right about the news on TV that never is a good thing for moral.

  9. says

    Great list of things to think about. I have heard of doing the breathing thing. They called it being centered and being fully present in the here and now. I have done it a few times and it does make one feel connected to where one is at right that moment.

  10. says

    Avoiding the news all together should be my motto talk about making someone upset. I am the half glass is full kind of person so I always try to find something optimistic.

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