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Article Title:
How to Build Healthy Optimism and Lasting Resilience - Part Two

Article Description:
We face more adversity every day.  So do our kids. But some of 
us thrive, while others drop into dperession, or worse. What 
accounts for that difference? Adversity, by itself, does not 
cause depression.

Additional Article Information:
1129 Words; formatted to 65 Characters per Line
Distribution Date and Time: Fri May  5 02:57:08 EDT 2006

Written By:     Bruce Elkin
Copyright:      2006
Contact Email:  mailto:[EMAIL PROTECTED]

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How to Build Healthy Optimism and Lasting Resilience - Part Two
Copyright © 2006 Bruce Elkin
Personal Life Coaching Services

NOTE: This is the second part of a two-part series. This is:
Part 2 of Depression Proof Yourself---and Your Kids!
Read Part 1 online at:

We face more adversity every day.  So do our kids.

But some of us thrive, while others drop into dperession, or 

What accounts for that difference?

Adversity, by itself, does not cause depression.  Many of us make 
adversity worse by taking a pessimistic stance toward it.  We 
dwell on the worst aspects of what happens to us.

 * We think it is PERMANENT ("This is going to last forever!").

 * We think it is PERVASIVE ("It is going to ruin my whole 

 * We think it is PERSONAL ("It's all my fault!").

As well as contributing to an overwhelming sense of helplessness 
("I can't do anything about this"), such pessimism can lead to 
low moods, low achievement, apathy, and poor health.  Left 
unchecked, helplessness can spiral down into hopelessness ("Why 
do anything about anything?).  Hopelessness is the prime cause 
of suicide.

Pessimism is 50% genetic and 50% learned. We cannot do much about 
our gentics, but we can do a lot with the 50% we learned.  So 
learning how to be more optimistic can make a huge difference in 
our lives—and in our kids lives.

Dr. Martin Seligman says we can "immunize" ourselves and our kids 
against depression.  The key to depression-proof yourself and 
your kids, he says, is twofold:

  1) develop "masterful action" (on our own, and in our 
     youngsters), and

  2) develop a flexible, optimistic "explanatory style."

Doing both can result in emotional mastery and an an upward 
spirtal of healthy optimism, and increasing resilence.

Masterful Action

Masterful action--the habit of persisting and overcoming 
challenges--begins in the crib and can be reinforced throughout 
childhood.  When, for example, toddlers struggle try to climb up 
on a couch, let them figure out their own way to do so.

Don't interfere, except for safety.

"For your child to experience mastery," says Seligman, "it is 
necessary for him to fail, to feel bad, and to try again 
repeatedly until success occurs."

My father used to tell me, "If you can't do something right, do 
not do it!"  Then he'd snatch away my tools and finish my project 
for me.  I felt stupid and inept.

As well, when I couldn't finish a project on the solar system on 
time (because I feared I wouldn't "do it right"), my mother made 
the paper machÈ planets for me.

Both thought they were helping.  But they weren't; not in the 

Fifty years later, I still feel inept when it comes to making or 
fixing things.  As well, I failed to develop the sense of mastery 
that would have come from faling, doing it again, learning, and 

Seligman says kids need to feel bad, learn from mistakes, and try 
again until they achieve mastery many times before they become 
teenagers.  If they do not learn to accept diffuciulties and rise 
above bad feelings when they are young, they become prime 
candidates for depression in their are teens.

"Failure and feeling bad," Seligman says, "are necessary building 
blocks for ultimate success and feeling good."

True self-esteem—in kids and ourselves—comes from feeling good 
about doing well at things that matter s.  It also comes from 
developing a realistically optimistic way of explaining what 
happens to us.

Explanatory Style

Explanatory Style is a great predictor of failure or success in 
life.  It predicts who will become stressed, anxious or depressed 
when faced with adversity, and who will sail smoothly through 
troubled waters to the rewards on the other side.

Kids pick up their explanatory style from their primary care 
giver, ususally mom.  So, changing how you explain things to 
yourself can help you and your kids take a more realistically 
optimistic approach towards what happens.

Realistic optimists rarely suffer from emotional disorders such 
as depression.

  They see adversity as TEMPORARY ("This won't last").

  They see it as SPECIFIC ("Just part of my life is affected").

  They see it as external ("It's not all my fault).

As a result, they are more resilient than pessimists.

They realize they have control over adversity and its outcomes—if 
only their responses.  They limit adversity's reach into their 
lives.  Moreover, they know that the adversity will not endure 

Dr. Paul Stoltz, author of Adversity Quotient has shown 
ownership—being accountable for the results you want, regardless 
of what happens, or who is at fault—helps you persevere, and 
create what matters.  Those who score high on ownership persist 
where others quit.  They succeed where others fail.

Changing Your Explanatory Style

Changing your response to what happens can help your children 
change theirs.

A first step is listen to your own self-talk—the stream of 
thoughts, beliefs, stories, judgments, and conclusions that 
runs through your mind.

We usually don't know we do it, or that it affects our moods and 
behaviors, but we constantly comment to ourselves on our lives, 
our actions, other people and their actions.  We pass judgment 
on what happens to us, and why.  Too often, we indulge in self-
defeating, "shoulda, coulda, and woulda" thinking.

Unfortunately, this constant nattering affects our moods and 
emotions. "Emote," means, "to move".  Our emotions give rise 
to our actions, and our results.

Unnoticed, self-talk and the emotions it generates, can move us 
in ways we don't want to move.  Much self-created grief is, for 
example, caused by "shoulding" on ourselves, others, and the 

"I should have know better."  "It should have happened like 
this."  "I should be smarter (or prettier, or thinner, or richer, 

But, simply changing "I should have..." to "Next time I will...", 
for example, can have an amazing effect on both your emotions and 

Another way to change explanatory style is note the differences 
between a pessimistic style and a realistically optimistic one. 
Practice using the optimistic style to explain what happens.  I 
am sure you will discover that both your moods and the results 
you create improve.

Together with masterful action (learning to create what matters 
most—with whatever life gives you), developing a more optimistic 
way of explaining what happens will help you and your kids 
develop optimism,resilience, and persistence in the face of 

It will help you regain that spark of vitality.  It will give you 
energy to do what matters.  It will make life worth living again.

Masterful action and explanatory style are true basics.  They are 
critical life skills we and our kids need to thrive in 
challenging times.  The time to start working on them is now.

 * For more information about depression, it's treatment and 
   prevention see: The Optimistic Child (HarperPerennial, 1995) 
   by Martin Seligman; and Emotional Mastery: Manage Your Moods 
   and Create What Matters Most—With Whatever Life Gives You 
   (eBook), by Bruce Elkin.

Bruce Elkin is a writer, coach, and consultant who helps 
individuals and organizations create what matters most—in spite 
of problems, circumstances, and adversity.  His ebook Emotional 
Mastery: Manage Your Moods and Create What Matters Most—With 
Whatever Life Gives You is available on his website at:



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