Why learned optimism is important?

Have you ever heard advice from others to be an optimistic? What is an optimist? First, let’s start from its definition. Be Optimistic means to view the world and any circumstance by a positive mind.

Learned optimism is the idea in positive psychology that a penchant for joy and optimism can be cultivated. It is contrasted with learned helplessness. Learning optimism is done by consciously challenging any negative self- talk.

What is benefit of being optimistic?

There is hard evidence that becoming an optimist is good for you. One of such benefits is that it can increase physical health. Most stress is dangerous to your health. High levels of stress can lead high levels of inflammation, weaker immune systems, increase in headaches, and a whole bunch of other somatic symptoms. If you still keep a negative thinking, stress will destroy your mind as well as your body. Positive thinking can change how you cope with stress, instead of sadness and worries, your life will be full of joy and happiness.

An optimist knows how to manage stress more efficiently than others. Rather, they have a way of dealing with stress so that the stress disappears at a faster rate than pessimists.

Your mental health could benefit from being an optimist. Another mental health problem, anxiety, was also monitored. The increase of mental wellness, or therein lack of depression and anxiety, led to students who practiced learned optimism techniques saw correlating physical benefits as well. One important benefit is that the longevity can be increased for optimists.

Learned optimism has another interesting effect. People who practiced their optimism skills are reported to be more successful in the world of business. Because optimists can find motivation and chances of success from failure and difficulties. They know how to catch the precious chances.

Optimism vs. Pessimism

Pessimists often tend to believe in the negative outcomes in life. They tend to have an external locus of control, or the belief that external factors such as fate or the environment will make things impossible. They also tend to focus on the past, and use those experiences to predict future events. They think that success never come from failure, and mistake cannot be fixed in the future.

In contrast, optimist always move toward good things in life. They always look for bright light from the dark. Failure is mother of success. Once you are aware of the positive meanings of bad things, good things will come to you without no doubt.

To make it clear the differences between Optimism vs. Pessimism, we have 3 basic ways to distinguish:

  • Permanence: The first difference is that the optimist sees a setback as temporary, while the pessimist sees it as permanent. The optimist sees an unfortunate event, such as an order that falls through or a sales call that fails, as a temporary event, something that is limited in time and that has no real impact on the future. The pessimist, on the other hand, sees negative events as permanent, as part of life and destiny.
  • Pervasiveness: the optimist sees difficulties as specific, while the pessimist sees them as pervasive. This means that when things go wrong for the optimist, he looks at the event as an isolated incident largely disconnected from other things that are going on in his life.
  • Personalization: the optimists see events as external, while pessimists interpret events as personal. When things go wrong, the optimist will tend to see the setback as resulting from external factors over which one has little control.


Learned optimism was defined by Martin Seligman and published in his 1990 book, Learned Optimism. The benefits of an optimistic outlook are many: Optimists are higher achievers and have better overall health. Pessimism, on the other hand, is much more common; pessimists are more likely to give up in the face of adversity or to suffer from depression  Seligman invites pessimists to learn to be optimists by thinking about their reactions to adversity in a new way. The resulting optimism—one that grew from pessimism—is a learned optimism

Can Optimism Be Learned?

Seligman’s work with the Penn Resiliency Programme, and the programme outlined in his books, Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child suggested optimism can be learned by anyone, but whether this was learning optimism or reducing pessimism is a point to consider.  The programme was based on Beck and Ellis’s cognitive behavioural techniques devised to conquer depression.

The concept of psychological immunity to depression is an exciting concept. However, the learned optimism programme as it stands may be more focused on stopping pessimism than enhancing optimism which is its own and different skill. Furthermore, in the specific area of learning optimism amongst children, there have been eleven replications, of which eight replicated the results, whilst three found no effects. Whilst the results are impressive in the studies that work (depression significantly reduced in children taught the optimism programme) and with no boosters the optimistic child programme prevents depression for two years.

However, by the third year the prevention effects fade (Gillham and Reivich et al, 1995) .Segerstrom’s recent work, highlighted in her book Breaking Murphy’s Law (2006), demonstrates the connection between optimists and their investment in goal setting and perseverance in attainment. Segerstrom argues that learning strategies that create the benefits associated with optimists are achievable.

She cites evidence that shows that optimistic people pursue their goals more doggedly, leading them to build resources through goal pursuit or effective coping with stress.  Segerstrom  (2006) seems dismissive of the link between explanatory style and learning optimism.

The ABCE model

Seligman’s process of learning optimism consists of a simple method to train a new way of responding to adversity, specifically, by learning to talk themselves through personal defeat. It begins with the Ellis ABC model of adversity, belief, and consequence.[5] Adversity is the event that happens, Belief is how that adversity is interpreted, and Consequences are the feelings and actions that result from the beliefs. This is demonstrated in the example below:

  • Adversity: This is the event that causes stress.
  • Belief: This is how a person interprets the event
  • Consequence: The resulting action from the belief caused by the adversity

In the journey to learning optimism, emphasis is placed on first understanding one’s current reaction to and interpretation of adversity. Learners are asked to keep a journal for two days in which they note small adverse events and the beliefs and consequences that followed. Next the learner returns to the journal to highlight pessimism in their written descriptions of the events.

To the ABC model, Seligman adds “D” (disputation) and E (energization). Disputation centers on generating counter-evidence to any of the following: the negative beliefs in general, the causes of the event, or the implications. D also means reminding oneself of any potential usefulness of moving on from the adversity. Disputation for the above traffic example might sound like this: “I am overreacting. I don’t know what situation he is in. Maybe he is on his way to his daughter’s piano recital and is running late. I’m sure I have cut people off before without meaning to, so I should really cut him a break. I am not in a hurry anyway.”

Over time, responses like this are predicted to change feelings to be more hopeful and positive. Successful disputation leads to energization, the E in the ABCDE model. One is energized, and should indeed try to actively celebrate, the positive feelings and sense of accomplishment that come from successful disputation of negative beliefs. Disputation and Energization (celebration) are the keys to Seligman’s method.

Teaching children learned optimism by guiding them through the ABCDE techniques can help children to better deal with adversity they encounter in their lives. If children are taught early then the thought process of disputation is claimedto become ingrained in them. They do not, then, have to focus on being optimistic, but rather optimism becomes automatic and leads to a more positive life for the child.

Although it might sound easy on paper, that doesn’t mean you’re going to learn how to be an optimist overnight. If you do not succeed the first time, then try again! Every attempt puts you closer to living a happier life. If you’re still finding yourself having trouble, then consider the use of a mental health professional.

Learn optimistic can change your mind and your life. So, why don’t you miss out this chance rather than living with a negative mind ?

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