Ep. 139: Working Through Depression by Learning Optimism Part Two

In part one of this series on Learned Optimism, we briefly discussed Self-esteem, Depression, Optimism, Pessimism, Explanatory Style and Learned Helplessness.

Let’s quickly review a few of those definitions and get right into how we can use them to learn more!

Explanatory Style is the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen.

Learned Helplessness is a giving-up reaction, the quitting response that follows from the belief that whatever you do doesn’t matter.

Pessimists tend to believe bad events will last a long time, will undermine everything they do and most importantly, their own fault!

Optimists tend to believe that defeats are temporary and are only relative to one situation.  They don’t view defeat as being their fault.  They see that a circumstance, maybe bad luck, or someone else brought about the defeat.  They see it as a challenge to try harder.

I challenged you to spend some time last week looking at your thoughts.

What is your Explanatory Style?

Do you lean towards Optimism or Pessimism?

Have you learned helplessness?

And to do it without judging yourself.

On today’s episode, we are going to look deeper into Optimism and how we can use this to help many aspects of our life.

Optimismcan help protect you against depression.

It can help how you see what you have achieved.

It can enhance your physical well-being.

I shared a disclaimer in the last episode, and I want to repeat it today.

I acknowledge that sometimes overcoming depression isn’t as simple as changing the way you think.

As someone who has been to the depths of depression and back, I know that medication is needed in some cases.  Only you and your Dr. can decide what is needed for you.

After I received medical help and got my chemicals back in order and working correctly, I found that I was still in need of some more help.

That’s where learning about how you think comes in.

There is more help needed to help you move out of depression.

And this was the way I felt that I was finally able to get to where I felt I had my life back.

I’m urging you to open your mind.

Try something different and see if it’s what you’re missing too.

With that out there, let’s keep learning about optimism.

The central skill of optimism is changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the hard parts of life that all of us have.

Becoming an optimist is not about being more selfish and self-assertive or to present yourself to others in overbearing ways.

Becoming optimistic can be as simple as learning a set of skills that help you talk to yourself from a more encouraging viewpoint when you encounter personal failures.

Optimism has an important role in every aspect of your life.

Note that I said, role.

It doesn’t change everything in your life, but it can change a lot.

Optimism can help protect you from depression.

It can help you achieve more, and it can even make your physical health improve.

Imagine that?!!!

Think of it as more than positive thinking.

Optimism is a skill.

A skill can be learned!

Anything that can be learned, can be unlearned.

Don’t forget that!!

If you feel you have learned to be pessimistic, it can be unlearned.

You can become more optimistic, it is a skill that you can learn.

I’m living proof of that!!

All of these results are amazing but there is something even better that comes from optimism.  This new way of looking at things can also lead you to an even better understanding of yourself!

You can understand more about why you do the things you do.

You can see where you’ve grown and what else you’d like to work on.

You can understand more about your failures and how you can use failure as a way to move even further ahead.

If you suffer from depression, you can learn skills to help stop it and prevent it from returning or staying as long the next time it does.  If medication is needed to get you to a place to be able to see more hope, do it!

Then you can choose when to use your new skills and how you can share them with others if you’d like!

Again, it is so much more than just positive thinking!!!

It is what you choose to think when you fail.

Dr. Seligman says, “Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism.”

Alright, let’s learn a skill we can begin practicing today that will help you become more optimistic.

It’s called the

ABC’s of Optimism:

The A is for: Adversity

Write down your description of what happened, not your evaluation of it.

This is harder than it sounds.

Giving a description without putting in your own evaluation (in other words, judgment) takes some mindfulness.

Describe the event in a way that doesn’t “lead the witness”.  Just the facts please.

Try thinking about this event as DATA.

If describing it makes your emotions start to rise, or drop, you are adding judgement.

So, pay attention to how you are saying it.

Take out any words that spur emotion.

Try to keep it neutral.

This will take practice, but don’t put off doing it because it’s going to take some practice.

That’s how you’ll get better at it.

Look for storytelling that embellishes.

This is an interesting way to look at what you tell yourself.

This is what writing down a description of what happened is all about.

That is the A in this skill.

An example of this may be: Someone pulled into the parking space you had your eye on.

Adding judgement to it would change the example to this instead: Someone zipped into the parking spot I had been waiting a long time for without even caring about me.

See the difference?

Try to keep the feeling as you describe it neutral.

The next step in the ABC’s of Optimism is the B.

B is for Belief

Your Belief is how you interpret the Adversity, and what you believe it means.

It’s not how you feel about it, that comes next.

Most of the time don’t even recognize we have strong beliefs about something because they happen unconsciously, and very quickly.

This is where learning to think about thinking comes in.

It slows everything down and helps show you what’s going on in that brain of yours.

It can be a very interesting process.

Again, it’s so important not to judge what your beliefs are.  Just start noticing them for now, slow down the time between the stimulus and your response.  Remember we learned about that in Episode 135.

This step sounds something like, “I just blew my diet” or “I am incompetent”. Those are beliefs, not feelings.

Let’s plug this into our previous example of: Someone pulled into the parking space you had your eye on.

The belief is what you think next.

Perhaps your belief is “People shouldn’t drive around parking lots and take spots another person is waiting for.”

The other person may have a different belief than this.  Which one is right?  It doesn’t really matter.  Right now, we’re just paying attention to what WE believe so we can move onto the next step and learn the skill of optimism.

The last of the ABC’s of Optimism is the C.

C stands for Consequences.

In this step you simply record your feelings and what you did.

Remember we are learning to watch what we are thinking and learning from it.

So, for this step you’ll pay attention to how steps A and B made you feel.

Did you feel sad, anxious, joyful, guilty…?

Write down as many feelings and actions that you’re aware of.

“I had no energy.”  “I wanted to get her to apologize.” “I was tired, so I went back to bed.”

If you’d like a list of emotions that you can use, go to hunkeedori.com/emotions and print off the list I made for you.

Use the list to help you find the closest emotion that you are feeling.

Again, let’s use the parking lot example.

Your C (consequence) may look like this:

You get angry (feeling), roll down your window and yell at the other person.

The first step to SEEing the way you think, is to be honest about what you observe.

What good does it do to inaccurately write down what you think?

We are just trying to look at how you are doing these three steps.

Over the next few days until our next episode…write down as many ABC’s as you recognize happening in your life.

Try to get at least one a day.

Give your Beliefs and Consequences as much information as you can.

Maybe by paying attention, you start to notice some of the unconscious conversations you are having in your head.

When you start looking and noticing, you’ll be surprised how many you may pick up on.

There’s a lot of storytelling running around freely in your mind.

No wonder you feel weighed down with burdens.

Many of them are happening without you even knowing it.

Working on this during your journaling practice could be a great place to find them.  If you’re not journaling, this could be a great time to start!

Either way, try to collect at least 5 ABC’s over the next week.

When you look for the connection between your Belief and the Consequence, try to notice where pessimism can set off negative feelings of how you decide to handle it and how optimistic explanations can actually give you energy.

It is a fascinating thing to start noticing.

As a trained coach, I can help you learn to be a more optimistic person.

I can help you look at your thinking from another viewpoint and show you where your thinking may be tweaked just a bit.

It’s not always easy to see your own thinking clearly.

You’ve had years and years of learning the patterns you go to subconsciously.

An outside perspective can quickly show you things you probably miss yourself.

If you have felt overwhelmed with how many times you’ve tried to be more optimistic and failed, I can help you with this.  And a failure is actually just a chance to learn where you could do something different next time.

I have more skills to teach you that will help you get out of your pessimistic rut and begin to feel hope in your life!

Register for a FREE Mini Mentor session with me and I’ll help you get started with this.

Just reserve 15 minutes of time and we can get started!

I’ll help you see some simple steps you can begin taking right away and start seeing changes happen.

Go to https://hunkeedori.com/MiniMentor  and choose a time that works well for you!

Ep. 139: Working Through Depression by Learning Optimism Part Two
Tagged on: