9 practical ways to be more optimistic in day-to-day life

9 practical ways to be more optimistic in day-to-day life

via Alice Porter

Rutger Bregman’s most recent book, Humankind: A Hopeful History, explores why the world isn’t actually as bad as we think it is. Here, he shares his advice on how to adopt a more positive outlook towards life.

The world can often feel clouded by cynicism, from our laws and policies that usually assume people will do bad things, to the way we can refuse to get our hopes up for certain opportunities.

Many studies have tried to prove that cynicism is necessary. The psychological theory called the ‘bystander effect’ states individuals are less likely to offer help to a victim when there are other people present. There’s also the idea, popularized through William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, that left to our own devices outside of traditional ideas of civilization, humans will act selfishly and unethically. It’s all added up to create the idea that cynicism is part and parcel of human existence. Or, so we thought.

In his latest book, Humankind: A Hopeful History, historian and author Rutger Bregman found that the opposite was actually true. “The broad message of my book is that most people deep down are pretty decent,” Rutger says. “We’ve got a huge amount of evidence from science, from anthropology, archaeology, sociology and psychology, that shows again and again and again, that we have evolved to be friendly.”

“Biologists literally talk about survival of the friendliest these days,” he continues. “Friendliness is our secret superpower, as a species.”

Rutger has debunked both the bystander effect and the Lord of the Flies theory, using recent data from CCTV and a real-life Lord of the Flies-style case study in his book, to prove the idea that humans are fundamentally good people, and that optimism is the best approach towards life.

Even with all this evidence, however, it can still be difficult to adopt a genuinely positive outlook, especially after the unexpected and difficult events of the last year. But there are ways to change your mindset, as Rutger knows himself – “I used to be much more cynical,” he says.

Here, Rutger explains how you can start to change your mindset to view the world and the people around you more positively

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