How to Be a Local Optimist

To be a Local Optimist means to choose to look at things through an optimistic lens, to recognize that you have an impact on the world around you, and to operate from a place of gratitude.

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By The Local Optimist Team

Optimism (​​hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something) is a term we all know well. It’s frequently used to brush away negative thought patterns (“be optimistic!”) or to describe the people we know who never seem to feel down. In that process, which some might call toxic positivity, it’s lost some very important nuance. 

When we founded The Local Optimist in 2019, we were looking to create a home for conversations grounded in both reality and hope – a place to hold space for the full spectrum of human emotions and experience. To sum it up, we coined Local Optimist, a simple but many-layered term. Although some of its beauty lies in the fact that its meaning can shapeshift depending on who’s using it, there are some core tenets of Local Optimism that hold true regardless. 

To be a Local Optimist means to choose to look at things through an optimistic lens often, to recognize that you can have an impact on the world around you just by being intentional with those in your immediate orbit, and to operate from a place of gratitude (both for yourself and others). You don’t have to do all of these things perfectly or even every day, it’s about showing up and giving it your best effort whenever you can.

For more on living like a Local Optimist, read our full guide, below.

Homework

Choose optimism

There is so much in our lives that we can’t control, but one of the most important things we do have control over is our mindset and outlook on life. You can embrace the low moments and the sadness that are a vital part of life while also choosing to be optimistic throughout. As Madhappy co-founder Mason Spector puts it, “approaching each and every day with a sense of positivity and gratitude can take us a long way.”

The way we think directly impacts our mental and physical health: ​​studies have shown that a single positive thought can trigger feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones, like dopamine and serotonin and decrease the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Try this: when you wake up in the morning, before you grab your phone and let work stress infiltrate your mind, focus on one great thing that happened the day before or that you’re looking forward to that day. If your commute to work is a mess, share something else when you get to the office instead. You’ll be surprised how quickly this shifts your mood throughout the day.

Start small 

The Scottish sociologist Patrick Geddes famously suggested that people “Think globally, act locally.” Although he was referring to our collective impact on the environment at the time, his guidance holds true for optimism as well: we can’t change the world in a day, or with one action, but how we act within our own communities adds up and reverberates beyond us. “One conversation, one act of courage or vulnerability, can create a domino effect that has the potential to change people's lives,” explains Spector.

Though we tend to forget this, the energy we carry rubs off on those around us, whether it's a clerk at the grocery store, a colleague at work, or a romantic partner. You can use intentionality to make an impact with the tools you already have: go out of your way to give someone a compliment when you’d normally just keep the thought to yourself or create a space for deeper connection by asking someone how they’re really doing and letting them know they can give you an honest answer. These small shifts in behavior go a long way. 

Live in gratitude

There’s a reason you’ve heard this advice many times before – operating from a place of gratitude rather than scarcity really does make you and those around you feel better. Multiple studies have shown that giving thanks and counting your blessings can lower stress, result in better sleep, and improve our relationships. Our co-founder Peiman Raf swears by it: “There is so much comparison and judgment that happens all day long, particularly online, that it really helps me to get grounded and thankful for what I have in my life.”

The key is to show love not just for other people, or the things you have, but for yourself, too (we’re big on treating yourself like someone you love). Whether it's every day or once a week, start a practice of writing out 3-5 things you’re grateful for. If it helps, try splitting them into categories (one person, one quality of your own, one external thing or experience, and so on). It’s a great way to kick off the day optimistically or wind down before bed in a hopeful headspace.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here