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Positive Psychology Program and Certified Coaching
By Ian Kershaw
Have you ever felt like a day keeps getting worse as it goes on? That is precisely how I felt last 2020. I’ll discuss one of the most exciting topics in a Positive Psychology Course which is also discussed briefly in life coaching schools.
The year started with Kobe Bryant dying, then the looming scare of CoVid-19. I was on my last semester, and there was the sudden change to having online classes, and I thought that was all. But it kept getting worse! We’re the batch that doesn’t get any graduation rites due to restrictions, and as job opportunities were sparse, I tried opening up a meat-cutting business, and lo and behold, the African Swine Fever news came. I had to shut it down.
I felt so bombarded with bad news every day, and I realized how it might have been a lot worse for others. And it’s true. Unfortunately, some people gave up and accepted their fate. In this article, we will discuss the psychology behind a concept associated with giving up— let’s learn about learned helplessness.
I was able to dwell more on this concept of learned helplessness when it was briefly discussed in my life coach training. This behavior is strongly associated with animal psychology and also applies to human beings, especially when they are in a situation where they feel powerless. Thus they become inactive and might overlook opportunities for change.
Can You Learn Optimism?
While it may be clear that optimism can be beneficial, it becomes a question of whether people can learn to take a more positive perspective. Can even the most pessimistic of people adjust their worldview?
Nature vs. Nurture
Researchers suggest that in addition to being partially hereditary, optimism levels are also influenced by childhood experiences, including parental warmth and financial stability.
Seligman’s work, however, suggests that it’s possible to learn the skills that can help you become a more optimistic person. Anyone can learn these skills, no matter how pessimistic they are, to begin with.
Optimal Time to Develop Optimism
Seligman’s research suggests that it may be beneficial to teach kids optimism skills late enough in childhood to have the metacognitive skills to think about their thoughts but before the onset of puberty. Teaching such skills during this critical period might be the key to helping kids ward off several psychological disorders, including depression.
The ABCDE Model
Seligman believes that anyone can learn how to become more optimistic. He developed a learned optimism test designed to help people discover how optimistic they are. People who start more optimistic can further improve their emotional health, while those who are more pessimistic can benefit by lowering their chances of experiencing symptoms of depression.
Seligman’s approach to learning optimism is based upon the cognitive-behavioral techniques developed by Aaron Beck and the rational emotive behavioral therapy created by Albert Ellis. Both strategies are focused on identifying the underlying thoughts that influence behaviors and then actively challenging such beliefs.
Seligman’s approach is known as the “ABCDE” model of learned optimism:
Adversity: The situation that calls for a response
Belief: How we interpret the event
Consequence: The way that we behave, respond, or feel
Disputation: The effort we expend to argue or dispute the belief
Energization: The outcome that emerges from trying to challenge our beliefs
To use this model to learn to be more optimistic. Here are some examples.
Think about a recent sort of adversity you have faced. It might be something related to your health, your family, your relationships, your job, or any other kind of challenge you might experience.
Imagine that you recently started a new exercise plan, but you are having trouble sticking with it.
Make a note of the type of thoughts running through your mind when you think about this adversity. Be as honest as you can, and do not try to sugarcoat or edit your feelings.
In the previous example, you might think of things such as “I’m no good at following my workout plan,” “I’ll never be able to reach my goals,” or “Maybe I’m not strong enough to reach my goals.”
Consider what sort of consequences and behaviors emerged from the beliefs you recorded in step 2. Did such ideas result in positive actions, or did they keep you from reaching your goals?
In our example, you might quickly realize that the negative beliefs you expressed made it more challenging to stick with your workout plan. Perhaps you started skipping workouts more or put in less of an effort when you went to the gym.
Dispute your beliefs. Think about your beliefs from step 2 and look for examples that prove those beliefs wrong. Look for an example that challenges your assumptions.
For example, you might consider all of the times that you did successfully finish your workout. Or even other times that you have set a goal worked towards it, and finally reached it.
Consider how you feel now that you have challenged your beliefs. How did disputing your earlier beliefs make you feel?
After thinking of times you have worked hard toward your goal, you may be left feeling more energized and motivated. Now that you have seen that it isn’t as hopeless as you previously believed, you may be more inspired to keep working on your goals.
Learning Optimism May Take Time
Remember, this is an ongoing process that you may need to repeat often. When you find yourself facing a challenge, make an effort to follow these steps. Eventually, you will find it easier to identify pessimistic beliefs and to challenge your negative thoughts. This process may also ultimately help you replace your negative thoughts and approach challenges with greater optimism.
When the pandemic hit, it felt like everything was going down the drain, but then I realized that I was not looking enough, and I almost missed a lot of opportunities ahead of me. Yes! The ongoing crisis brought many negativities that almost sucked me in, but when I started challenging my thoughts and pursued the career path, I wanted… well, here I am!
One of the best things I’ve learned from the positive psychology program is that learned helplessness can become learned optimism. Through life coach training, I understood how to help myself and people who w I believe that it is beneficial when you know how to manage this phenomenon when it occurs.
I share bits of knowledge with you, and I hope that you share these things with others too!
To enroll to this or to any other course at School of Positive Transformation
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