Hope and optimism go hand in hand. Having an optimistic or hopeful attitude means you have confidence that things will go well. You often have a positive approach to or take away from a situation. People who are hopeful or optimistic often experience better moods and have higher well-being than those who are not.

While some people are naturally more hopeful or optimistic in their outlook to life, we can use a range of strategies to develop a more positive and hopeful mindset. These can work well with both adults and children. Over time, and with some effort, they can become healthy habits to improve our mood and overall well-being, even when things are hard.

Want a more hopeful outlook?

  • Identify a goal that is important to you – how can you begin making steps towards it?
  • What have you achieved this week? Take time to savour this.
  • Look out for good things happening around you/to you – can you see e.g. 3 today?
  • Talk about a problem with a friend – can they offer a new perspective?
  • Quieten the negative inner chatter – remember what you can do and do well.
  • Reframe an irritating situation – e.g did it teach you anything new?

Most importantly – be realistic. We all have our ups and downs. The challenge is to not let these overshadow the good in our life.

Defining Resilience

The text below comes from an article written by Pr. Ilona Boniwell which originally appeared on her Positran consultancy website. Pr. Boniwell is an expert and leading figure in Positive Psychology.

Stress, limitations, challenging situations, loss, significant life changes, like getting older, and even death, are an inevitable part of being human. Although on the surface these issues sound like nemeses of positive psychology, given that they are unavoidable, managing them well can actually contribute to a life well lived.

The concept of resilience was conceived about 40 years ago when researchers noticed that some people adapt well to life despite the presence of high-risk circumstances (such as losing parents young, for example). This indicated a positive divergence from the typical pathological models that assumed that early traumatic experiences would undoubtedly result in negative life consequences. However, little scientific research at the time was devoted to this phenomenon and the field of study was fairly small. It is only in the past 20 years that the investigation of resilience expanded considerably, and a recent review revealed that the usage of the term ‘resilience’ in the academic literature increased by 8-fold in the last two decades.

Resilience can be described as resistance to stress as well as present and future adverse events or conditions (maltreatment, divorce, poverty, etc). In other words, resilience is a capacity to bounce back and to feel in control of the way we feel about and react in challenging circumstances. Those who have this capacity are more active, socially responsive and adapt successfully to the experience of risk factors.

Resilience is actually a multi-faceted construct. It is both a capacity and an active process encompassing a person’s flexibility in response to changing situational demands, and the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences. We can distinguish three facets of resilience: recovery, resistance and reconfiguration. 

  1. Recovery is the facet of resilience which refers to the return to a normal, pre-stressor, level of functioning (health and psychosocial wellbeing).
  2. Resistance as a facet of resilience is said to occur when a person displays minimum or no signs of disturbance (low distress, normal functioning) following a challenging event.
  3. Reconfiguration is said to occur when a person returns to homeostasis in a different formation with key aspects about that individual changing as a result of their experience.

Although resilience is a complex phenomenon, many of its skills can be learned, thanks to the tools offered by coping, post-traumatic growth, cognitive-behavioural therapy, positive psychology, mindfulness etc.

In an upcoming post the areas of research and practice that inform our current understanding of resilience will be explored in detail.


Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it.

Robin Sharma

Making the decision to forgive is a deliberate choice. We don’t have to forgive someone who has e.g. betrayed or upset us – however many of us choose to do this. Of course, the more we feel wronged, the harder it is to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t a quick or easy fix – instead it’s a process which involves expressing our emotions and perhaps even showing empathy for the person who wronged us.

It’s important to recognise that forgiving is not the same as forgetting or excusing the action that upset us in the first place – instead it’s letting go of the strong negative feelings we have for the person, whether we decide to include them in our lives again or not.

Of course, forgiveness does not always have to involve someone else – it can be applied to ourselves. Self-forgiveness encourages us to forgive the mistakes we have made by accepting them, letting go of self-resentment/negative thoughts and moving on. Many of us may find this more difficult that forgiving another person.


We might view forgiving someone as being a kind and generous act towards them, however forgiveness also has the potential to bring multiple social and health benefits to us e.g.

  • Strengthens our relationships
  • Makes us more hopeful/optimistic
  • Improves our personal happiness
  • Encourages prosocial action
  • Provides closure/peace
  • Reduces feelings of hostility and desires to retaliate
  • Decreases stress levels and anxiety  


Research suggests that while forgiveness is part of human nature (with some of us naturally more forgiving than others) we can all develop our ability to forgive by building the necessary skills.

Many forgiveness interventions focus on reviewing the emotions e.g. hurt/anger created, increasing our empathy for the person who wronged us to help us become ready to forgive and finally looking at the potential benefits forgiveness can offer us.

The Greater Good Science Center has a wide range of strategies to cultivate forgiveness, including links to related articles, videos and research papers.


McCullough, M. (2008). Beyond revenge: The evolution of the forgiveness instinct. John Wiley & Sons.

Your Best Possible Self

What is It?

This is a positive psychology intervention which encourages you to think about your future in a positive and optimistic way. In this future you will be your best possible self, living your best possible life – whatever that may look like to you.

How to do it

This exercise could be engaged with as a one-off intervention or alternatively you could spend e.g. 15 minutes on it each day for two weeks.

Take some time to stop and imagine your future. What is the best possible outcome you can think of? Be sure to consider all areas of life that are important to you e.g. family, relationships, health, career, opportunities to learn, personal accomplishments – what would these areas of life look like in your best possible future?

For the next 15-20 minutes (longer if you are doing this as a one-off intervention) write down or mind-map what you have imagined using as much detail as possible. Research suggests that the exercise is most useful when you are specific about what you envisage – e.g. if you are writing about your best possible future relationship with someone, who are you really thinking about, what does the best version of your relationship look like, what kinds of things do you now both feel, say or do? This is a real opportunity to be as imaginative as you like, don’t be held back by the reality of your current relationship with this person. The whole point of the exercise is to project how you would ideally like your relationship to be.


Thinking about your future in this way can help you identify what is really important to you and what you want in life. Imagining your best possible self in the future can build optimism and motivate you to work towards achieving this. Engaging in this exercise can boost your mood and experience of positive emotions as well as potentially building personal happiness in your future.

Further Reading

Malouff, J. M., & Schutte, N. S. (2017). Can psychological interventions increase optimism? A meta-analysis. The Journal of Positive Psychology12(6), 594-604.

Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2006). How to increase and sustain positive emotion: The effects of expressing gratitude and visualizing best possible selves. The journal of positive psychology1(2), 73-82.

Greater Good in Education

“…skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society – what we call ‘the science of a meaningful life’.”

Have you explored the Greater Good in Education website?  It offers a great selection of evidence-based strategies and techniques to integrate social emotional learning and character education into schools. It also champions the creation of positive relationships within the school community and highlights ways to improve staff well-being. Advocating prosocial behaviour, it offers ideas to improve both personal and collective well-being and build a mentality of global citizenship within our education systems.

It’s well worth a look.


Martin Seligman’s well-being framework is one of the most well-known and commonly referred to in positive psychology.

In the PERMA model (2011), he identifies five key areas of our lives which impact on our happiness and well-being and suggests that regular participation in activities to enhance these five areas will effectively enhance our overall well-being, happiness and experience of a meaningful life.

Positive emotions

P – experiencing a good level of positive emotions, optimism, pleasure and enjoyment in life.


E – using and developing our strengths and personal interests by doing more of what we enjoy and what we’re good at.


R – having positive, healthy and happy relationships with others.


M – sense of being connected and part of something bigger than ourselves, whether this comes from religion, spirituality or being community minded.


A – the self-belief and ability to set and accomplish personal goals, creating satisfaction, pride and fulfilment.

More recently, the importance of looking after ourselves e.g. with a healthy diet, enough sleep and regular exercise has been highlighted, leading to some adding the pillar of Vitality to the original PERMA model – making it PERMA -V.

Being aware of the PERMA model for well-being and happiness may help you begin to identify who and what makes you happy, where your strengths and passion lie and which areas of your life offer a sense of meaning and purpose. When you’ve begun to identify these factors, you can then start to find ways to target the areas highlighted in the PERMA model and make small sustainable changes to your outlook and behaviour. Penn University offer a free PERMA test on their Authentic Happiness site if you’re interested in finding your current level of well-being.

Protecting and promoting our well-being not only feels good but research shows higher levels of well-being can provide numerous benefits such as:

  • Better personal relationships
  • Increased prosocial behaviour
  • Stronger immune systems
  • Better physical health
  • Longer life expectancy
  • Self-awareness, emotional regulation and coping strategies
  • Resilience skills
  • Improved work performance
  • Higher life satisfaction
  • Less depression and anxiety

Have you engaged with the PERMA framework before? Let us know how and in what ways you made changes to your outlook and behaviour.


Creativity can come in many forms. From the creative expression displayed in e.g. music, art and writing to the creative thinking shown by those that are open to change, who seek out new ideas and can see more than one solution to a challenge.

Creativity takes confidence to try things out, a certain level of openness to failure and acceptance that not everyone may like our ideas. It embodies the desire to think outside the box and explore a different path. Our world has been shaped by creativity and innovation – from scientific research and advancements, the design and creation of innovative products, to the artwork, music and literature we appreciate and find meaning in.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun…”

Albert Einstein

Research suggests that expressing and exploring your creativity can have many well-being benefits such as improving your mood, increasing experiences of positive emotions and generating feelings of self-competence. Being creative can give you a sense of meaning and purpose and deepen your connection with other people.  

Below are some questions to get you thinking about how you view your current level of creativity. Can you identify the last time you…

  • Were open to new experiences and ideas?
  • Thought of multiple solutions to a challenge?
  • Took a curious and playful approach to problem solving?
  • Enjoyed expressing your creativity in some form. How?

Creativity is recognised as a VIA character strength – one that is valued across cultures and time. If you want to know where creativity falls in your personal character strengths profile, you can explore their free strengths questionnaire.  

Like most things, our creativity can be enhanced with some effort. Ideas to begin to grow your creative side include:

  • Break your routine and try new experiences
  • Be curious – play, daydream, mind-map your ideas and see where they lead you
  • Ask open questions and enjoy listening to different perspectives  
  • Set time aside to be creative (whatever that looks like to you!)

While nurturing your own creativity, look for and appreciate creativity in other people – both those you know and those you don’t. From friends, family members, colleagues or public figures – there’s creativity out there to inspire you…

Further Reading

Kaufman, S. B., & Gregoire, C. (2016). Wired to create: Unraveling the mysteries of the creative mind. Penguin.

Robinson, K. (2017). Out of our minds: The power of being creative. Third Edition. Wiley & Sons Ltd.