LEARNED OPTIMISM

Hope is an essential attribute to mental health. Seligman (2002) shifted his research to study learned helplessness to learned optimism. Seligman performed lots of studies about individual expectancies about the occurrence of adversity in their lives. These expectancies are powerful predictors. So, expecting that adversity will continue and if you feel powerless increases likely hood that depression and anxiety will remain active. In contrast expectations of control, ability to cope and increase resilience will lower symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.


If you attribute negative events to yourself, that they will always happen and they will be stable across time ex..."Things never go right, I will never be happy or energetic again" and "I am good for nothing" and attribute positive events to temporary, and minimize their importance......"That it was just luck, it won't happen again", "yea BUT"........minimizing your influence increases feelings of depression and hopeless.


Vs.


A hopeful thinking style attributes positive events as something positive about them as an individual, "I am a valuable person", "I worked hard" and they attribute negative events as something temporary, specific and external factors (vs stable across time and about them)..... as "I couldn't visit my mother today because I had to finish my work" (vs. I am so slow and stupid I couldn't get my work done).


What to do?


1. First simply notice (be mindful) of your habits of the mind.

2. WRITE down the positive events (A-C below). Yes write it down. Why? It makes it more concrete in your mind. You will change 4x faster if you write it down and share it.


A. Over the course of the week make notes of your strengths - what did you do well?

B. Express gratitude to someone whom you have not properly thanked....

C. Make note of three good things happening in your life OR before going to bed write down a sentence about the most pleasant event of that day and how YOU made that happen because it was within your control. What did you do to make that positive event happen????

D. If something unpleasant happened, see that event as something temporary and not related to you as a faulty human (Example, I missed my bus today and wasn't able to go to my friends, I'll watch my time better next week -no shaming in that statement just statement of fact that is temporary unfortunate situation)


The goal is to train your mind and soul to NOT ignore positive events and focus on the negative events as temporary issues you can manage. Our brains have a strong negative bias tendency. This is a fact. Its wired in our biology. Its not that anything is wrong with you....its just something we need to notice and actively work on to feel better.


3. Share your journal with your therapist or a close partner. Sharing your experiences increases the likely hood you will change your habits of thinking.


​--- Writing it down and sharing your positive events with someone are engaging activities that will increase your ability to change your mood. You can change your moods! They key is to do this activity daily. Daily. Yes Daily! :-)



Notes:

Seligman (2002). Authentic happiness. London, UK: Brealey

Bannink (2015). 101 Solution focused questions for help with depression. New York, Norton & Company.

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