Kindness 101 with Steve Hartman: How to be optimistic when life gets tough

Kindness 101 with Steve Hartman: Optimism
Kindness 101 with Steve Hartman: Optimism 20:54

Welcome, class! Steve Hartman's Kindness 101 course is in session. Every Monday, we'll be showing some of our favorite stories and talking about the lessons we learned from them. This episode's topic is optimism — something we could all benefit from right now.

It's not always easy to look on the bright side or find silver linings when things get tough. But in this class, we'll try to teach you some tricks and tips to do just that. What is optimism? How does an optimistic person differ from a pessimistic one? What can we do to look at things in a positive light, rather than negative? We'll discuss these questions with your help, and hopefully end class with a brighter view of the world.

The four people we'll introduce you to all represent the value of optimism, and the positive impact it can have if you practice it. First up: Breanna Carsey from Connersville, Indiana, who took on a crazy dream with a relentlessly positive attitude, and defeated the odds. She was determined to turn a runt horse with no experience into a champion racer, and she did it!

Next, we'll speak with Gabe Sonnier of Port Barre, Louisiana, whose smile shines clear across the bayou. When we met Gabe, he was working as the principal at the local elementary school, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, Gabe spent 20 years working at that same school as a janitor. His unbridled optimism helped him succeed in changing his circumstances.

After that, we'll head to State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State University, to introduce you to Mailman Mike. Most people dread going to the post office, where the lines are notorious. But the residents and students of State College actually go out of their way to do it, just to see Mike. His kindness, compliments and infectious good spirits have made this humble mailman a local celebrity.

Finally, one of our favorite stories ever: that of Norah and Mr. Dan. Dan Peterson was as pessimistic as they come when he first met Norah at a grocery store. He'd recently lost his wife and didn't know what he was living for. But when little Norah, just 5 years old, reached out to give him a hug, it changed his whole perspective and gave him a new lease on life.

We've got a project for you to try this week to practice what you learned in class and look for silver linings every day. Take 10 pennies or pebbles (or any non-slimy object) and put them in your left pocket at the beginning of the day. As you go throughout your day, look for things to be grateful for. When you find something you're grateful for, move one of the pennies or pebbles to your right pocket. By the end of the day, see how many pennies you've moved. We expect that if you spend your day looking for things you have to be grateful for, you'll end your day feeling more optimistic.

New episodes of Kindness 101 will be available every Monday at 9 a.m. ET at cbsnews.com/kindness101 through June 1. Next week, we'll talk about gratitude.

Have questions or feedback about Kindness 101? Email us at kindness101@cbsnews.com!