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Bust a Chronic Bad Mood

Increasing positivity is as easy as ABCDE.

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Bust a Chronic Bad Mood

Everyone runs into tough times. Job woes, bothersome in-laws or chronic stress that skews you into thinking no one is on your side.

Are you ever jealous of the folks who seem to cruise right through it all, and handle every bump in the road with ease and smiles on their faces? Well, glass-half-empty gals, fear not. You can possess a more positive outlook and eventually kick your chronic negative thoughts to the curb.

RELATED RESEARCH: We Underestimate Others' Blue Moods

Leading positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman adapted the ABCDE method from Dr. Albert Ellis’ method of disputing irrational thoughts, which is used in cognitive therapies. You can use this method to combat misfortune and tackle tough situations with a more upbeat attitude. 

Using a job issue as an example (but you can use this method for any personal issue), here’s how to apply the ABCDE model from start to finish:

  • A is for adversity. Tell it like it is. Objectively consider the situation that’s bothering you.
    Let’s say your manager is unhappy with a report you submitted. Once you’ve cooled down, think about what’s really upsetting you rather than blaming your boss and questioning her critique of the work.
  • B is for beliefs. Take a hard look at what you’re thinking. Examine assumptions you’re making about the situation.
    You may feel as though the reason your manager came down on you is because you are not good enough to do your job. But is this a rational belief? Are you assuming something about yourself that might not be true?
  • C is for consequences. Note the effect your thoughts have on you. Assess how your beliefs make you feel and how you react.
    When you doubt your abilities, you may feel anxiety and low self-esteem at work. This may inhibit your behavior, leading you to contribute fewer ideas at a meeting or take less initiative.

  • D is for dispute. Question your beliefs to reveal their inaccuracies, to generate different positive beliefs or to frame your beliefs in a new light.
    Ask yourself what you think of the report and the effort you put into it. You may find that your boss isn’t being unreasonable. You simply need to put in a couple more hours of research or writing to satisfy her and to take control of the problem. Recognize that this incident is not the norm, and try to recall all the times where you were recognized for doing a good job with your work.
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