It makes a big difference to wellbeing when you learn to think optimistically. When bad things happen it is natural to be upset. What you feel is automatic but you can learn to control what you think about the situation and what you do next. When you think and act positively it helps get you past the bad feelings.

Let’s think about what happens when someone says something which hurts us. We feel low and that can spoil our day. It can be hard to escape those horrid negative thoughts and makes you more likely to believe what has been said is true.

If someone wants to make you feel bad they search for anything that upsets you. You have a choice about what happens next. You can dwell on the bad stuff or find a way to shrink it down so it doesn’t fill your head. It’s not easy at first but with practice you will get good at it and soon people won’t even bother to try to push your buttons.

Here’s what you do
1) Tell yourself it’s about them not me - don’t take it personally

2) Wonder why they are saying it, are they:
• Feeling jealous of something about you they wish they had.
• Showing off and trying to look tough?
• Perhaps they want other kids to think they are cool
• Maybe they want to be more popular and gain attention

3) Say something neutral back like “that’s just an opinion”

4) Now focus on what you have to do to shake off your bad feelings. Here’s the ABCDE of Optimistic Thinking which helps us to rid ourselves of any negative thoughts which come rushing in when we feel bad. When you start out you will need an adult to help you learn how to do this and practice until you can do it easily. The ABCDE is written for adults so the language is a bit lofty but the ideas are very sound.

A is for antecedents or what was going on?
First we start by discussing what has happened. Talk about where you were and who else was there too. What might have set this going?

B is for belief or what thoughts does it trigger?
This is about the thoughts that start to run in your head. These can make it worse or better. It is easier to notice our feelings because these are in the body but harder to catch the pesky little thoughts that race through our heads. Try hard to catch some. Sometimes we need to stop what we are doing and be quiet so we can focus on the thoughts and ideas which pop in to our heads. When you catch a thought ask yourself do I believe this?

C is for Consequences or what does it make you think about the future?
Negative thoughts and beliefs hurt us now but they also make us worry for the future. What we believe affects what we do next and how willing we are to try new things, take risks or make mistakes. We need to do all these things to learn and have a good life. Negative thoughts trap us and make us want to run away.

D is for Disputation or how else could you look at this instead?
Once you have captured these pessimistic thoughts and the negative consequences you assume will happen you need to test whether they are true. Even if they are true are they a bad thing or important? What you can do to change how you think so you look at something differently.

E is for Energising or what will you do to feel better and take positive steps to put things right?
Now you can make a plan to help you feel better and more positive. Try several different ways so you can experiment and find what works best. Keep on trying until you find what works.

Use the optimistic thinking record forms to see examples and to record how you resolve an issue. You will need to do this for several different challenges until you are so used to it that you can do it in your head without writing anything down. Remember

A is for what happened

B is for what you believe that makes you feel upset

C is for the consequences those beliefs will have for you

D is for disputing those beliefs to change them and help you feel more optimistic

E is for taking action that is positive, optimistic and energy giving

With practice this will begin to come naturally and you will be less reliant on detailed examination and writing things down. Do keep at it, changing how you think takes time because our habits of mind are well rooted and need time to change.

Author's Bio: 

Jeni Hooper is a Child and educational psychologist specialising in helping children to find their best selves and to flourish. Her book What Children need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and can be viewed here
Jeni can be contacted at or visit my website