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Train Yourself To be More Optimistic With The ABCDE Exercise
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Train Yourself To be More Optimistic With The ABCDE Exercise

Are you an optimist or a pessimist? If you don't know the answer try this test designed by Stanford University . Now if you already know, or just found out from the test, that you are a very pessimist person, then don't be hard on yourself. Evolution had hardwired us to remember negative experiences over happy ones, and being pessimist had some benefits from an evolutionary perspective .

However, coming to modern day, "the ways in which optimists and pessimists differ in their approach to the world have a substantial impact on their lives. These people differ in how they confront problems; they differ in how well they cope with adversity; they also differ in their resources, both social and socioeconomic," points out Charles S. Carver, Michael F. Scheier and Suzanne C. Segerstrom in a paper published in Clinical Psychology Review. They also found out that "the trait of optimism may provide cognitive, coping, and contextual resources that promote better mental health. And, the pattern of associations that optimism has with various behavioral and cognitive tendencies may give us broader hints about the nature of optimal living."

Now if you are a pessimist, then don't worry, according to Dr. Martin Seligman, anyone can learn to be an optimist. Known as the father of the new science of positive psychology, Martin Seligman in his book 'Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life' outlines a strategy that can be used to combat your inner pessimist. The method is called ABCDE and is very simple that anyone can learn to be an optimist. In this exercise, the learners are asked to keep a journal for two days in which they note small adverse events and the beliefs and consequences that followed, which are denoted by A, B, and C.

- A or Adversity is the event that happened which will end up creating negative thoughts in your mind. The first step is to write down the event that happened. For example, imagine you are driving down the road. The adversity is when someone suddenly cut you off in traffic and so write that down.

- B or Belief is how that adversity is interpreted by you. In the traffic example, you will immediately rush into thinking that the person who cut you off is very rude and selfish. The second step is to write down how you interpreted the event.

- C or Consequence s are the feelings and actions that result from the above belief. You will get angry, you may yell profanity at the driver, or in some extreme cases stop that person in the middle of the traffic and get into an open conflict. Write down the consequences that happened or would have occurred.

Next, the learner should return to the journal to highlight pessimism in their written descriptions of the events.

- D or Disputation centres on generating counter-evidence to any of the following the negative beliefs. So in this example, you should write that the driver was in a hurry because someone dear to him may be in a hospital or he is rushing to catch a flight that is about to take off. You should understand and write down that you may have overreacted and you did have cut people off before. So there is no point in being angry or frustrated.

- E or Energization occurs as a result of successful disputation as per the ABCDE method. One is energized, and should indeed try to actively celebrate, the positive feelings and sense of accomplishment that come from successful disputation of his or her negative beliefs.

(Image Credit: Wikimedia)

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