How do you react when bad things happen in your life? Do you blame yourself for not doing things differently, or dwell on what you did wrong for long periods? If this sounds familiar, you may have a pessimistic explanatory style, as described by American psychologist Martin Seligman. In a nutshell, this means that you attribute negative outcomes or events in your life to internal causes – you blame yourself when things go wrong.
Many times, people with a pessimistic explanatory style believe problems and negative events in their lives ultimately aren’t going to change, which makes them more vulnerable to feelings of helplessness, stress, anxiety and depression.
Shift Your Thinking & Your Well-Being
Fortunately, if you are prone to this pessimistic tendency, you can shift your outlook with some careful attention and hard work. Developing an optimistic explanatory style – the way you mentally explain the events that happen to you – will improve your mood and overall well-being. Here are some ways of thinking that are at the heart of this mindset.
It wasn’t me, it was the situation. Optimists explain negative life events in terms of external, temporary causes. Rather than blaming themselves, they focus on the external factors that are outside of their control. The next time a negative event happens to you, try to think about three things involved in the situation that contributed to the problem.
This situation is temporary. When individuals interpret negative events as both situational and temporary, they can make a plan to learn from what happened and move forward. For example, after a fight with a spouse, an optimist may say, “We both were having a bad day. We can talk through this disagreement and work out a solution when we are calm.”
Things will get better. An optimist doesn’t see a negative event as something that always happens. They consider these events to be situational, outside of their control and, therefore, subject to change for the better.
Not surprisingly, research has indicated that an optimistic explanatory style is associated with a significantly higher quality of life than that experienced by pessimists.
Innovative Counseling From the Heart
Do you need help to shift a pessimistic outlook? A therapist at Sound Mind Therapy is ready to support, educate and empower you! To schedule an individual counseling appointment, call Sound Mind Therapy at (314) 499-9144 or complete our online appointment request. We serve residents of Creve Coeur, Chesterfield, Ladue and many other St. Louis, MO, suburbs.