Ep 141: Working Through Depression by Learning Optimism Part 4

Quick Review:

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

In Part Two, I shared with you that 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.  AND, even though being optimistic can change a lot in your life, don’t expect it to change everything.  It’s worth the work though.

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

I also shared with you the ABC’s of Optimism activity.

Then in Part Three, we learned what it means to be pessimistic and that we can reverse it.

We also learned more about Learned Helplessness.

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

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

When we LEARN to recognize how we explain things to ourselves, we can make clearer decisions and choose what we want to think instead of going for the easy, more comfortable way.

I also introduced you to the three parts that make up your Explanatory Style.

They are:

Permanence, Pervasiveness and Personalization

If you haven’t listened to the past three episodes, I highly suggest it.

I’m breaking this down into bite sized pieces, so it’s easier to understand.

That helps me to learn things a bit easier and I hope it does for you too.

When you learn skills that show you what you are thinking and how to change it, that’s when progress starts to happen.

You change your explanatory style.

You develop confidence because of the control you have of your own thoughts.

Finally in Part three we added the D to our ABC’s of optimism.

You use the ABC’s to evaluate what you have experienced and the D helps you make a conscious choice.

Are you going to Distract yourself from the circumstance or are you going to jump in and Dispute it?  There is a time for both.

Learning these steps can help you to really see you have a choice… in EVERYTHING you let your thoughts go to.

So much self-empowerment when you think about it in this way.

Let’s get into the next part I wanted to share with you about Learning Optimism.

I’m going to add one more D.  I forgot to share it on the last episode, so sorry about that, but luckily, we talk every week so I can keep you up to date, even when I forget stuff.

Like I said, I forgot one of the D’s from the ABC’s of Optimism activity in the last episode.

I shared with you that once you take a closer look at the thoughts you are trying to become more aware of, you can choose two ways to deal with them.

You can Distract yourself or you can Dispute the thought.

Disputing is actually more effective in the long term because when you take the time to disagree with what you don’t want to believe anymore, you’ll be less likely to let those thoughts back in.

The third D that I didn’t share last week is Distancing.

This begins by recognizing that your beliefs are just that—beliefs.  They may or may not be true.

It seems easy to distance yourself from things others say to you that just aren’t true.

For example, if a really onery four-year-old told you that your hair was purple and it is clearly brown, it’s easy to brush that away and distance yourself from it or believing that it is true.

It’s not so easy to do when you do this to yourself… sometimes multiple times a day.

We get caught in the belief that whatever we think must be true.

I’m here to tell you, from very personal experience, and from the experiences of many friends and clients… just because you think it, doesn’t make it true!

What you say to yourself may just be as unfounded and silly as a 4-year-old telling you that you have purple hair.

More than likely, these unfounded thoughts are just bad habits of thought, one that you have added to from many negative experiences you’ve had in your life.

It could be something that a mean neighbor or an overcontrolling parent, or a super jealous friend in Jr. High may have said to you, that has added to your already negative thoughts about yourself.

But just because you hear it from your own thoughts, doesn’t make it true.

Really take some time and think about that.

It’s a bad habit thought, a pattern that was learned.

And remember, if something can be learned, it can be unlearned!!!

(That thought just gets better and better doesn’t it.)

These are just beliefs.

So, take the thought out of your head.

Take a step back,

Get some distance between you and the thought.

Hold it out away from you and really look at it, actually hold your hand out away from your body and visualize the thought sitting on your hand.

Is it true?

Is it?

Is this a belief that you want to hold onto OR

Can you let it go… just let it float away like a cloud in the bright blue sky.

Yes, you can really just decide to do that.

That’s what thinking about your thinking can do for you.

Distance yourself from the thought.

That’s the third D I wanted to add to last week’s episode.

I have one more step to add here.

The E of the ABC’s of Optimism

This is the final step in taking a pessimistic thought to an optimistic one. It’s the E.

E stands for Energization. (that’s a hard one to say)

As you begin watching your thoughts and taking them through the ABCDE’s of Optimism, start paying attention to the energization that takes place as you succeed in dealing with negative beliefs.  Energy is something you can feel.  It can increase or decrease depending on the situation.

Energy is actually all around us to but to simplify, let’s just talk about what you feel within yourself.

When you explain what is happening to you in personal, permanent, and pervasive ways, you feel your energy drop and you begin to feel helpless.

When you explain what is happening to you in the opposite way, the more optimistic way, you actually become more energized.

The consequences of our beliefs are not just actions but effect our feelings as well.

Even when these beliefs you’re looking at are minor, you can still feel the shift in your energy.

It’s better to practice with the easier situations than trying this out with something more complicated or when your emotions are really high.

Start looking for places you can practice.  This is a skill worth learning.

The results change so much in how you live your life.

This theory of changing your thoughts is also called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

Cognitive Therapy’s goal is to show you how your thinking affects your mood.

It teaches you to think in a less negative way about yourself and your life.

It is based on the understanding that thinking negatively is a habit that, like any other habit, can be broken.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has five steps:  I think you’ll see the similarities in what we’ve been learning about Learned Optimism.  I think it’s valuable to share these steps because it may make more sense to some of you.  I hope you connect with one of the ways I’m sharing this so that you can begin learning this skill.

#1: Recognize automatic thoughts.

Begin looking for thoughts that bring negative feelings.

#2: Dispute the automatic thoughts.

Focus on evidence that contradict your automatic thoughts.

#3: Make different explanations of your automatic thoughts.

Make them less personal, permanent and pervasive.

#4: Distract yourself from depressing thoughts.

Learn to control not only what you think about, but when you think about it.

#5: Recognize and question the depressing thoughts.

Choose a new set of more optimistic thoughts.

This stuff is for real my friends.

Don’t let go of the main idea here.

You get to choose your thoughts.  It’s not something we grew up learning.

But we can learn it now!

OK, that’s it for today but there is one more area that I’d like to talk to you about in this series because it has been a powerful tool that I’ve learned and use daily that helps me to overcome my depression.  I’m going to share that with you next.

I hope you’ll join me next week for the last episode in this series.

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Ep 141: Working Through Depression by Learning Optimism Part 4
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