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Power to the Positive

Prone to pessimism? We have some creative ways to help you transform your negative thinking

By Jessica C. Kraft

The common understanding of optimism is that it is an innate attitude. You're born an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist, and once you see the glass half empty, you'll always see it that way. But this is actually quite a pessimistic assumption.

On the contrary, the current thinking in psychology and neuroscience is quite optimistic about your ability to banish pessimistic attitudes. The positive psychology movement, in particular, advances the idea that optimism is a skill that can be learned and practiced until it becomes a habitual and beneficial way of approaching life's ups and downs. And teachings from global wisdom traditions also show us powerful methods for transforming negative thought patterns.

The founder of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, PhD, says that learning optimism begins with listening to how we describe and ultimately label the various events in our lives—what Seligman has termed our "explanatory style."

If your explanatory style is pessimistic, you might assume that you are generally unlikable because you've received some harsh words from a friend. If your kids aren't achieving high marks in school, you might assume that you're a total failure at parenting.

In this style, any particular setback is seen as part of a permanent condition that applies to other areas of life. When something good happens to the inveterate pessimist, however, he tends to see it as temporary and very narrowly focused. Each win is just a fluke; the high test score is simple luck… [end of excerpt]

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