For example, such spontaneous thoughts as “I feel so stupid for giving the wrong advice to my officemate; he’ll never ask me again to collaborate on a project” and “Ever since my relationship ended, I feel unlovable and unappealing,” are called barrier thoughts, and then consider ways to reinterpret the situation. In the process, ask yourself questions like...
● What else could this situation or experience mean?
● Can anything good come from it?
● Does it present any opportunities for me?
● What lesson can I learn and apply to the future?
● Did I develop any strengths as a result?
Be sure to practice this exercise when you’re in a neutral or positive mood, and consider writing down your answers. This approach should prevent your reflections from developing into circular, negative ruminations
A successful twelve-week optimism training program for fifth and sixth graders has already used a very similar technique. The children were taught to be more optimistic by learning to identify pessimistic explanations (e.g., “My friend didn’t call me today; he must hate me”), to dispute them (“What evidence do I have that this is really true?”) and to generate more optimistic alternatives (e.g., “Maybe he’s too busy”). Notably, the children who participated in this program were less depressed than a control group for an entire two years after the program ended, and their reduction in depression turned out in some measure to be due to their learned optimism.
From The How of Happiness by Sonya Lyubomirsky. Reprinted by arrangement of Penguin Press, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright (c) 2007 by Sonya Lyubomirsky.
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