This article is in our series about increasing happiness and life satisfaction. Many people with chronic pain can’t decrease their pain. So another way to live a more enjoyable and fulfilling life – perhaps even more important – is to increase the positive. That’s what we’ll look at in this series.
Let’s look at hope.
To be more hopeful, we can learn to recognize our pessimistic thoughts and then change them to be more hopeful. You can use “ABCD” (I’ve slightly changed the acronym from Authentic Happiness).
A – What is the adverse event?
B – What are the beliefs that you’re having because of this event? (Beliefs are just thoughts; they are not necessarily true.)
C – What are the consequences of these beliefs?
D – How can you dispute these beliefs?
So let’s look at some examples:
A – Susan wasn’t invited to the wedding of a coworker Ann.
B – Susan starts to think, “I was left out. Maybe everyone else was invited and Ann doesn’t like me. Maybe no one really likes me at work.” (See how our thoughts can spiral?)
C – Susan feels upset and sad because of these thoughts.
D – To dispute these thoughts, Susan can do several things:
- look for evidence to see if her thoughts are true or not. (“It’s true I wasn’t invited, but Ann is generally friendly to me. A few weeks ago, we had lunch. So it’s probably not true that she doesn’t like me.) And Susan can look for evidence for the opposite, (“For many other things, I’ve been included, so it’s probably not true that no one likes me at work. Actually, I usually feel friendly with my coworkers.”)
- look for less serious implications. (“It’s true I wasn’t invited, but she did mention she’s having a small wedding. I was probably not invited because of the size of her wedding, not because she doesn’t like me.”)
Here’s another example:
A – Colin’s new pain medication didn’t work.
B – Colin starts to think, “This one didn’t work, just like that last one. I bet there’s no medication that will help me. I’ll be left with this pain for my whole life.”
C – Colin starts to feel discouraged and hopeless.
D – To dispute these thoughts, Colin can do several things:
- evaluate if the thought is helpful or not. (“Being that pessimistic isn’t useful to me. It’s just getting me down.) Just because you have a thought, doesn’t mean you have to believe it.
- come up with alternative thoughts. (“Pain is hard to treat. Just because 2 medications haven’t worked doesn’t mean none will. I’ll talk with my doctor at my next visit about what medication I can try next. And I’ll also ask her about non-medication ways I can use to cope with my pain.”)
Your assignment: Practice ABCD for one negative event each day. Look for pessimistic thoughts and dispute them.