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The perspective with which we choose to view our life can affect almost everything we do. The focus of this wiki will be two beneficial ways of viewing life; Learned Optimism and Mindfulness which are, respectively, a positive view and a unbiased view. Of course, through studying these perspectives the role of experiences (positive and negative) in life will be investigated.

1. Introduction
2. Seligman - Learned Helplessness and Optimism
3. Broaden and Build Theory
4. The Value of Negative Emotions
5. Mindfulness
6. Key Study
7. Need to Know
8. References


You and This Woman Could Be Very Similar

A woman who has recently married probably has the expectation of waking up beside her husband. However there is a woman who doubts this; she wakes up and is surprised if her husband is still there. Every morning she wakes before him, checking to make sure he is still beside her.

Her attitude and her perspective beg the question, why does she act like this? These behaviours might seem strange in a young woman who has gotten married for the first time however our woman has had several marriages that ended badly, one where her husband left without a word. She has learnt to fear the results from the morning checks she does; her perspective is it could happen again and she has learnt to be helpless and expect the worst. She expects the worst; you and this woman could be very similar.

The perspective we take in our lives can affect almost everything we do; Taking a good perspective in a bad situation can make it less damaging, and taking a bad perspective in a bad situation can make it feel normal (This always happens to me!). The following string of letters is a squashed up sentence, what does it say?


Some of us will see ‘you are now here’, others see ‘no where’. This example isn’t a scientific measure of if you take a optimistic view of life rather it’s to show that there is more than one way to view something. This woman, who might be like us, needs a new way of viewing her life. Her happiness is dependant on finding a balanced view concerning her new husband’s intentions. People need to balance their perspectives.

A Brief History of Perspectives

In their song ‘Run’, Snow Patrol sing, “Light up, light up, as if you have a choice”; is there a choice to be optimistic? Optimism is a tendency to look positively on events and actions; it has a lot in common with being hopeful. Martin Seligman (1998) was the first Psychologist to research optimism in a scientific context. Seligman stated that humans have a tendency to learn helplessness however it is possible to teach people to take a less dramatic perspective, which he named ‘Learned Optimism’. Over the years this theory has been developed and expanded by other researchers. An important part of learned optimism research is the techniques which can be developed to help people change their perspectives and become happier. Seligman produced the ABCDE technique for coping with situations. Another helpful way to view things is by ‘mindfulness’, which could be described as paying attention to the current situation without prejudice. Using mindfulness has been used to give a balanced view on situations and events therefore its use as way of balancing perspectives will be evaluated.

Perspectives Are Old Ideas

Optimism has been a desirable perspective for most of the humanity’s history. The idea of having a positive outlook on negative events, or being happy regardless of the situation is seen in religious texts and cultural references. The Apostle Paul, first century Christian, wrote; “Having nothing, possessing everything” (2 Cor. 6:10); this expands the idea of your internal state of mind being independant from external factors. Mindfulness originated from Buddhist teachings.

The aim of the wiki page is to describe and evaluate two beneficial ways of viewing life; optimism and mindfulness. Firstly the work of Seligman will be described as his work still acts as the basis for most of the research into optimism or perspective taking in positive psychology (part 2). It could be argued that certain emotions have been over looked and inadequately dealt with by Seligman alone. Therefore the role of positive emotions will be evaluated in part 3, and negative experiences in part 4. Mindfulness and possible techniques used to balance perspectives will be covered in section 5. Hopefully this will be helpful during exam study; we have provided a “need to know” section (part 7) for those studying very close to the exam. The key paper, Letting go: Mindfulness and negative automatic thinking ( Frewen, Evans and Maraj,2008) , is summarized in part 6. All references are quoted in the last section (8).


Think again of the woman in the introduction. Her past husbands had left her and so she assumed that her current husband would do the same. Would you make the same assumption in her position?
What this woman is doing is catastrophising, and while there is little hard evidence of how common this is, anecdotal evidence suggests that many of us do regularly.

What is catastrophising?
Catastrophising is the expectation of the worst possible outcome at any time. This can occur in individual situations, or can be as a more general outlook on life, assuming that everything you have planned for the future will go wrong. This can often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, with things turning out badly because you expect them to, perhaps due to not putting in the effort because you think you know the outcome, which in turn further fuels expectations of a bad outcome.

Learned Helplessness
Catastrophising could be said to stem from learned helplessness. Learned helplessness (Seligman, 1998) is where an individual learns to behave in a helpless way after being in a situation where they have no control over the outcome. This involves the individual acting passively, doing nothing to change the situation. The individual continues to behave helplessly in future situations, even when they have the ability to help themselves.
Martin Seligman originally looked at learned helplessness in the context of dogs, but later found similar results in humans. This helplessness, and the pessimistic views that accompany it have been shown to be contributionary factors in depression and anxiety (Peterson, Maier and Seligman, 1995)
However, in the course of his research, Seligman found that not all of the subjects learned to be helpless or became depressed - in fact, on third resisted this, and found ways to overcome the situation.

Learned Optimism

As Seligman continued his research on learned helplessness, he became more and more interested in how some indivuduals were more resistant to becoming helpless. It was found that those individuals who resisted it seemed to be more optimistic, and Seligman believed that in the same way individuals could learn to be helpless, they could also learn to become more optimistic.

Learned optimism (Seligman, 1998) teaches optimism through emphasising permanence, that is believing that negative events are only temporary; pervasiveness, that is that failure or a negative event in anyone thing is restricted to that and not every aspect of life; and personalisation, that bad things are down to the situation, and not down to the individual.
Learned optimism has been shown to reduce rates of anxiety in depression in college students, with 29% of those using learned optimism techniques showing symptoms of depression and anxiety, compared to 47% of a control group not using these techniques (Seligman and Buchanan, 1998)

Practical Exercise: ABCDE model

How optimistic or pessimistic are you? Click Here to find out.

(Alternatively,copy and paste the following into your browser:

Albert Ellis' ABC model (1983) is a basic model, involving 3 steps, which became the basis for current cognitive behaviour therapy. In the mid 1990's, Seligman added another 2 steps to this model, in order to make it more oriented to optimism. The model is not dissimilar to CBT, in that it challenges unwanted cognitions to make them more positive. The model is as follows:
A dversity: this is the negative event or failure; in the earlier example, the negative event is the woman's husband leaving her.
B eliefs: this is the interpretations of the event, and generalisations are often made for the future; in this case, the woman may believe it is her fault her husband left, and she assumed her current husband will do the same.
C onsequences: this is the result of the beliefs; the woman stays awake at night to make sure her husband is still there.
D isputation: this involves disputing the beliefs and conclusions, and instead look for evidence to couneract them; the woman should remember that her current husband is not the same as her previous one, and it is because of other issues (not her) that he left.
E nergisation: this is the result of the disputation, and over time responses will become more positive and optimistic.

However, while this is a good technique in theory, there is very little empirical evidence supporting the ABCDE exercise, with only a handful of studies using this as an intervention measure. Although these studies seem to have shown positive outcomes, it must be noted that it was never given alone, but with other forms of therapy or with physical exercise, and so we must be cautious about how useful this actually is in a clinical sense.


While Seligman's work emphasises the idea that individuals tend to be overly pessimistic and are very prone to catastrophisation, this is not always the case.

Optimism bias is the tendency for people to be overly optimistic about the outcome of future events. This can include both over-estimating the chances of positive events and outcomes, while under-estimating the chances of future ones (Hardman, 2009). This bias has been shown to occur in a number of areas, with studies on students showing them to be overly optimistic about the scores they will receive on their exams, as well as the number of job offers they will receive after graduating (Armor & Taylor, 2002); as well as being less likely to be fired, end up divorced or developing heart problems (Weinstein, 1980).

This would suggest that while individuals' beliefs may not be accurate, it seems that in many people the tendency is to be overly optimistic, rather than pessimistic.


Key Points of the Theory

· Positive emotions broaden an individual’s thought action repertoire. This means that when an individual is experiencing a positive emotion, they are capable of broadened thinking.

· Positive emotions will overcome lingering negative emotions. By experiencing positive emotions one can overcome the narrowing effects of previous negative emotions on the thought action repertoire. This is known as the undo hypothesis.

· Positive emotions fuel Psychological resiliency. If the undo hypothesis holds then a person can improve their Psychological, and possibly physical, wellbeing by making time for moments where they experience positive emotions to combat negative emotions. For example, in times of high stress, breaking to enjoy something positive should help one cope better with the adverse situation. It is theorised that if an individual is resilient then they are able to use positive emotions to their advantage to “bounce-back” from negative situations.

· Positive emotions can lead to a build in resiliency. Fredrickson conducted research which has lead her to believe that merely making a conscious effort to have a more positive outlook can increase a person’s resiliency. This supported her idea that positive emotions build up an individual’s personal resources. This would suggest that one can alter their own wellbeing, growth and physical recovery merely by making a conscious effort to be positive. In Fredrickson’s experimental context this came merely by noting down a day’s events, both positive and negative and identifying positive meanings behind them.

· This all leads Fredrickson to conclude that in the grand scheme of things, positive emotions help to improve one’s physical and mental wellbeing. Evidence for this has come from bereavement studies. People who experience positive emotions post-bereavement are more likely to make long term plans and goals. The making of which has been found to be a predictor of emotional well-being a year after the bereavement. Similarly to the downward spiral which has been reported between depressed mood and pessimistic thinking, which then worsens the person’s mood eventually leading to clinical depression; the broaden and build theory supports the idea of an upward spiral. This implies that positive mood encourages optimistic thinking which then elevates mood leading to greater well-being, resilience and a person’s ability to cope with negative situations.

Conclusions and Applications

Fredrickson work suggests that we are all capable of increasing our own thought action repertoires. By making an effort to find positive outlooks even when we are faced with negative situations we can improve our ability to cope with further trauma as and when it arrives. As well as generally having a happier life filled with greater psychological wellbeing well-being; Fredrickson’s experimental research often demonstrates a positive physiological effect of positive emotions. For example when studying the undo hypothesis, she noted a faster recovery to the normal cardiovascular activity level following a heightened level of activity due to anxiety related arousal (Fredrickson, 2000). The broaden-and-build hypothesis supports, and Fredrickson cites, studies suggesting a link between positive emotions and longevity. A long happy life where one is able to quickly bounce back from negative events, whilst this is ultimately a good life pattern to aim for, is this too grand a claim to arise from merely thinking more positively?


Let us take a step back now and take closer look at the value of negative experiences and emotions and their meaning. In order to see if there is value in negative experiences, we are going to focus on posttraumatic growth and narrative.

Posttraumatic growth

The idea of growth and transformation as a result of pain and suffering is fairly old. In fact, many artistic artifacts as well as religions embrace this concept. For instance, Christ is believed to have suffered for our sins. In the end, however, he was resurrected. Muslims, on the other hand, see suffering as one of the ways to please Allah. From a more recent perspective, psychologists (notable the “third way”) viewed people’s orientation towards growth as a natural part of human nature.

Despite this long historical background, suffering and its meaning has not been studied for a long time. Tedeschi and Calhoun were among the first ones directing their attention to posttraumatic growth and its potential in terms of personal growth. In 2004, they developed a functional descriptive model of posttraumatic growth which is probably the most influential model in this area up till today (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).

But how did they come to this idea? Apart from the historical background mentioned earlier, growth following traumatic events has been reported in numerous instances such as AIDS (Siegel & Schrimshaw, 2003) and bereavement (Polatinsky & Esprey, 2000).

As Tedeschi and Calhoun see it, posttraumatic growth is “the experience of significant positive change arising from the struggle with a major life crisis” ( Zoellner & Maercker, 2006). This major life crisis is often triggered by what they call a seismic event – that is, a particularly stressful event or experience (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004). The seismic nature of an intense, stressful experience results into shaking our core beliefs and challenging our whole belief system. Cognitive processing (referred to as rumination) starts to unfold – automatically at first. Later we start to ruminate in a more intentional and constructive way. It is during this process of rumination that we review the beliefs and concepts about our world and ultimately adapt to change (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1995, 2004).

Posttraumatic growth differs from other alternative outcomes following a traumatic experience in that it works as a catalyst leading to a better psychological functioning (better compared to prior to the traumatic event). Individuals experiencing posttraumatic growth are believed to do more than just “return to the baseline” (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2004).

The model has been supported by several other researchers. For instance, Christopher (2004) argues that our response to stressful events is a normal, mechanism designed for metalearning, based in cortical plasticity. Its main role is to review and rebuild our basic believes and concepts and allow for a better adaptation. He points out that people experiencing PTSD do not display any of the clinical symptoms after a 6 to 16 month period of time, even if they are not treated in any way.

Critical arguments related to the concepts of posttraumatic growth are based on the fact that no posttraumatic growth has been observed in several cases – for example, after someone child’s death (Murphy, Johnson & Lohan, 2003).

Also, the work of Taylor (1983) shows that people suffer “positive illusion” or, in other words, biases regarding themselves, their future and the control they have over the events in their life (such as cancer).

Furthermore, the studies conducted by McFarland? and Alvaro (2000) showed that people interpreted the term “growth” as a comparison between their current situation and their negatively perceived former self. Overall, they argue that the whole idea of growth is just a cognitive illusion.


There is a difference in approaching positive and negative experiences if we want to become and/or stay happy. When it comes to positive events and experiences, it pays off to avoid making sense and analyzing too much. According to Wilson and Gilbert (2008), similar attempts would transform our positive experiences into something ordinary, robbing them off the novelty aspect. This, in turn, would facilitate hedonic adaptation – or, how quickly we get used to these events. However, we want good, positive experiences to make us happy for as long as possible. Therefore, these authors propose not overthinking the good things life brings us.

Interestingly, with negative experiences, quite the opposite strategy appears to be more effective. Different studies have shown that, after stressful events, people benefit more from a systematical analysis of their traumas and from making sense of them. James Pennebaker has done a lot of work in this area. Along with his colleagues, he has shown that writing is an appropriate tool for structuring and organizing our thoughts in the case of negative experiences. It enables people to find the meaning, the cause of events and the eventual solution for their situation (Pennebaker, Mayne, & Francis, 1997; Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999 ). Paradoxically, writing in a narrative form appears to reduce intrusive thoughts and rumination which has been linked to depression in several studies (Nolen-Hoeksema, Parker & Larson, 1994). Pennebaker & Seagal (1999) argue that the reason why these interventions work dwells in the fact that creating stories is a natural method helping people understand the experiences we they through as well as themselves. The process of narrative writing gives us a sense of being in control of our lives as well as a sense of predictability. In addition, they point out that disclosure and construal of a story is, in principle, at the core of psychotherapy.


Narrative psychologists believe that writing in a story-like format is beneficial in order to capture the meaning of our lives and have a greater sense of control over them. According to Gergen and Gergen (1988), the way we would describe our life should be very much alike any other story. For instance, it should have an overall goal (theme) and different events should be put in relation to each other in an orderly fashion. Try the following experiment, originally conducted by Pennebaker and Seagal (1999), especially when experiencing a stressful or even traumatic event. For four consecutive days dedicate a couple of minutes (approximately 15) to writing up your thoughts regarding your situation. Here are the original instructions:

“For the next four days, I would like for you to write about your very deepest thoughts and feelings about the most traumatic experience of your entire life. In your writing, I’d like you to really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts. You might tie your topic to your relationships with others, including parents, lovers, friends, or relatives, to your past, your present, or your future, or to who you have been, who you would like to be, or who you are now. You may write about the same general issues or experiences on all days of writing or on different traumas each day.”


All experiences our life presents us with can be perceived as learning experiences and opportunities for growth. Instead of repressing and denying negative emotions, there are other ways of dealing with them in a much more constructive way. Being aware of where we are standing in terms of our emotional reality is crucial in order to maintain balance and peace within ourselves - there is time to rejoice and there is time to grieve.



The Present is the only time that any of us have to be alive – to know anything – to perceive – to learn – to act – to change – to heal.’

(Kabat-Zinn, 1990)

Background and Summary

Mindfulness, originating from Buddhist teachings, has in recent years become increasingly popular in Western society. According to Buddhist traditions, an untrained mind can be the direct cause of human suffering. It is said that such suffering can be alleviated through the use of meditation by calming and clarifying the mind, opening the heart and refining attention and action. Mindfulness involves developing particular aspects of attention and awareness through the use of meditation (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Internal and external stimuli are observed, but not evaluated, as they enter the stream of consciousness. Thus, the focus is on the present moment.

What is Mindfulness?

Operational definition

Bishop et al (2004) propose a concise operational definition of mindfulness. Mindfulness is described as a ‘nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, person-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is’. This prevents individuals from reacting automatically to stimuli. Instead, a space is created between perception and response, allowing individuals to respond reflectively as opposed to reflexively.

What does it consist of?

Bishop et al (2004) claim mindfulness consists of two components: 1) the self regulation of attention and 2) the adoption of an orientation towards experience.

The self-regulation of attention is said to require the development of the following skills: sustained attention, attention switching and the inhibition of elaborative processing. Sustained attention is the ability to remain in a state of alertness for prolonged periods of time. This can be achieved by maintaining attention on a target observation such as breathing or walking. It serves to anchor one’s attention in current experience, allowing for the observation of the internal or external stimuli as they arise. Switching involves the flexibility of attention and refers to shifting attention from one object to another. For example, returning one’s attention to one’s breathing following the acknowledgment of a thought, feeling or sensation. The inhibition of elaborative processing consists of the prevention of rumination and expansion of thought streams. Attention is redirected to one’s breathing following the observation of an event.

The adoption of an orientation towards experience is said to begin with curiosity regarding the object to which the mind drifts when it inevitably wanders. It is also characterised by acceptance: as each event is acknowledged when entering the stream of consciousness, the individual does not attempt to modify their feelings or produce a particular state (e.g. relaxation). This acceptance is an active process and requires an attitude of openness and receptivity toward the reality of the present moment.

Mindfulness in Western Psychology

Despite being named ‘the heart’ of Buddhist meditation, mindfulness is not exclusive to Buddhism but is rather a universal capacity (Kabat-Zinn, 2003). Indeed, Kabat-Zinn (2003) claims that the practice of mindfulness may be beneficial to many individuals in Western society, without necessarily having to adopt Buddhist traditions.

Clinical populations

Bishop et al (2004) claim that mindfulness is a form of mental training which reduces cognitive vulnerability to reactive processes which could otherwise lead to heightened stress and emotional distress, or even to psychopathy. Indeed, mindfulness has been incorporated into a number of mental health treatment programs (see Table 1) which are taught independently of its religious and cultural traditions (Baer, 2003). The intention is that the mindfulness training will facilitate increased awareness and skilful responding to mental processes that contribute to emotional distress and maladaptive behaviours (Bishop et al, 2004).

Table 1: Therapies incorporating mindfulness training

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT)

Relapse Prevention (RP)


The most frequently cited form of mindfulness training.

Based on MBSR but incorporates cognitive therapy.

Does not describe itself as mindfulness or meditation.

Also includes a wide range of cognitive and behavioural treatments.

A cognitive-behavioural treatment package.

Main Clinical Population

chronic pain and stress-related disorders

prevention of depressive relapse


borderline personality disorder (BPD)

relapse prevention in substance abusers


Teaches clients to approach stressful situations mindfully.

Facilitates a detached view of client’s thoughts.

Thus preventing the escalation of negative thoughts into ruminative patterns.

Teaches clients to abandon attempts to control thoughts and feelings.

Allowing them to observe thoughts without being absorbed by them.

Encourages clients to accept themselves while working to change their behaviours and environment.

Teaches clients to cope adaptively with urges by observing and accepting their occurrence.

Example Exercises

Several mindfulness skills are taught.

E.g. Clients are instructed to sit in a relaxed and wakeful posture with eyes closed and to direct attention to the sensations of breathing.

Also, attention is directed sequentially to numerous areas of the body while the client is lying down with their eyes closed. Sensations in each area of the body are observed.

Clients are taught that thoughts and feelings are not aspects of themselves.

Includes statements such as ‘thoughts are not facts’ and ‘I am not my thoughts’.

Clients are encouraged to see themselves as capable of observing their thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Includes statements such as ‘I am having the thought that I am a bad person’, rather than ‘I am a bad person’.

E.g. clients imagine their thoughts are written on signs carried by parading soldiers. They are required to observe the parade without becoming absorbed.

Clients can choose from a number of exercises.

E.g. Imagine the mind is a conveyor belt where thoughts, feelings and sensations are observed, labelled and categorised.

Also, imagine the mind is the sky where thoughts, feelings and sensations are clouds passing by.

Clients are encouraged to engage in ‘urge surfing’.

They are required to imagine that urges are ocean waves which grow and eventually subside.

The client ‘rides’ the waves without giving in to the urges, thus learning that urges will pass.

Client also learns that new urges will appear and that these are not easily eliminated.

Developed by…

Kabat-Zinn (1982, 1990)

Segal, Williams and Teasdale (2002)

Hayes, Strosahl and Wilson (1999)

Linehan (1993a, 1993b)

Marlatt and Gordon (1985)

Baer (2003)

Non-clinical populations

Mindfulness training is also available for non-clinical individuals. Both weekly and residential courses are widely available in the UK and there are numerous resources on hand to enable individuals to engage in mindfulness training in their own home (see Further Resources section). Studies have demonstrated that the benefits of mindfulness practice are not limited merely to those diagnosed with a clinical disorder but can also help improve the wellbeing of the wider population. The Key Study below demonstrates one such beneficial effect.

Mindfulness as a Balanced Perspective

Mindfulness training teaches individuals to observe all thoughts, feelings and sensations, whether positive or negative, and regard them merely as passing events. This approach acknowledges positive and negative emotions as valid experiences and places equal importance on both forms of emotion. A key principle is not to respond too strongly to these events by ascribing significant meaning to them, identifying with the content or attempting to suppress them (Frewen et al, 2008). Instead, individuals are encouraged to view them nonelaboratively and nonjudgmentally, enabling reflective as opposed to reflexive responses, and importantly, allowing for a greater awareness of the present moment.

Further Resources

The University of Massachusetts Centre for Mindfulness website:

Easy to read information on mindfulness and mindfulness in Scotland:

An organisation based in Scotland founded by a group of mindfulness practitioners, including NHS clinical psychologists and psychiatrists, currently awaiting charitable status:

Listen to mindfulness MP3s or fill in mindfulness worksheets:

Watch Jon Kabat-Zinn discuss his therapy, MBSR, in 6 short Youtube clips (if the links don't work, please copy and paste):

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5:

Part 6:

Frewen, Evans and Maraj (2008) - Letting go: Mindfulness and negative automatic thinking

This study examined associations between mindfulness and responses to automatic negative thoughts, specifically, the frequency of such thoughts and the ability to let go of them.

Study 1

  • Hypothesis
    • Measures of mindfulness will be negatively correlated with both the frequency of automatic negative thoughts and the difficulty with which individuals are able to let go of them.
  • Participants
    • 64 students
  • Method
    • Standardized meditation instructions were given (sit upright and comfortably, close eyes, breathe through nose while attending to breathing).
    • For 2-3 mins - instructed to silently count breaths to further direct attention towards breathing.
    • For 15 mins - instructed to attend to breathing without counting. Instructed to let go of distractions and return attention nonjudgementally to breathing if attention had wandered.
    • During this time the experimenter rang a bell every 3 mins. At these times, participants raised their right hand if their attention was focused on their breathing, and raised their left hand if their attention had wandered. This formed the Meditation Breath Attention Score (the number of times the individual had been focused on their breathing).
    • Following the meditation, participants completed the following questionnaires:
      • Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS)
      • Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
      • University of British Columbia Cognition Inventory – ‘Letting Go’ Revised Version (UBC-CI-LG)
    • Results
      • Results support the hypothesis

Study 2

  • Hypothesis
    • Participation in a mindfulness-based clinical intervention will be negatively correlated with both the frequency of automatic negative thoughts and the difficulty with which individuals are able to let go of them.
  • Participants
    • 43 students seeking therapy
  • Method
    • Eight weekly, 120-150 mins long mindfulness sessions were provided. The content was adapted from MBSR and MBCT.
    • Prior to the first session, participants completed a questionnaire package which included:
      • short form of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS-21)
      • Mindful Attention and Awareness Scale (MAAS)
      • Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
      • University of British Columbia Cognition Inventory – ‘Letting Go’ Revised Version (UBC-CI-LG)
      • Individualized Negative Cognition & Letting-go Scale (Indiv-NCLG)
    • The DASS-21 was also administered at each weekly session.
    • The MAAS, KIMS, UBC-CI-LG, and Indiv-NCLG were also completed at mid-treatment and post-treatment.
  • Results
    • Results support the hypothesis
  • Discussion
    • This study indicates that negative thoughts are experienced less frequently in highly mindful individuals than in less mindful individuals.
    • However, those high in mindfulness are not immune to negative thinking. Rather, they experience the negative automatic thoughts differently to those lower in mindfulness. Highly mindful individuals have a greater ability to let go of their negative thoughts, suggesting they may perceive them as being more controllable and less intrusive and bothersome.


For those who are nearing exams and are short on time, here are the basics:

The perspective we take in our lives can affect almost everything we do so it is important to research it.


Learned helplessness: an individual learns to behave in a helpless way after being in a situation where they have no control over the outcome.

Catastrophisation: the expectation of the worst possible outcome at any time.

Learnt Optimism: positive mindset where a hope for the future is developed:

permanence (neg. Events are not permanent)

Pervasiveness (Neg. Events don’t affect everything)

Personalization (It’s not you that is the problem)

Dealing with life events: Adversity (WHAT has happened)

Beliefs (WHO is affected and their thinking)

Consequences (HOW it has affected someone )

Disputation (questioning WHY it happened)

Energisation (WHEN we return to optimism)


Positive emotions help:

1) Overcome negative emotions and thoughts

Making an effort to find positive outlooks even when we are faced with negative situations we can improve our ability to cope with further trauma as and when it arrives.

2) Understanding about happiness and achieving it

A person can improve their Psychological, and possibly physical, wellbeing by making time for moments where they experience positive emotions

The value Negative emotions might have:

Experiencing negative life experience helps build up an individual’s character. This is observed in people who suffer from AIDS (Siegel & Schrimshaw, 2003) and bereavement (Polatinsky & Esprey, 2000).

Writing has been shown to help this development and understanding of negative life events occur (Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999). However there are some examples where there has been almost no positive aspect of a tragedy, for example, after someone child’s death (Murphy, Johnson & Lohan, 2003).

MINDFULNESS (Kabat-Zinn, 2003)

Mindfulness is nonelaborative, nonjudgmental, person-centered awareness in which each thought, feeling, or sensation that arises in the attentional field is acknowledged and accepted as it is’. The main point is not making assumptions or explanations for the situation, however being totally aware of it.

Bishop et al (2004) claim mindfulness consists of:

1) The self regulation of attention

Involves the use of attention; Being able to remain alert over a long period of time and the ability to switch attention to different objects.

2) The adoption of an orientation towards experience.

This starts with curiosity. It is also characterized by acceptance: as each event is acknowledged when entering the stream of consciousness, the individual does not attempt to modify their feelings or produce a particular state.

Different techniques have been developed using mindfulness at the centre: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) are some examples.


Armor, D. A., & Taylor, S. E., (2002). When Predictions Fail: The Dilemma of Unrealistic Optimism in Gilovich, T., Griffin, D., Kahneman (Eds) (2002) . Heuristics and biases: The psychology of intuitive judgment . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125-143

Bishop, S.R., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: A proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 11, 230-241

Frewen, P.A., Evans, E.M., and Maraj, N. (2008). Letting go: Mindfulness and negative automatic thinking . Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32 , 758-774

Gergen, K.J., & Gergen, M.M. (1988). Narrative and the self as relationship. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology, Vol. 21 (pp. 17–56). New York: Academic.

Hayes , S.C. , Strosahl, K., and Wilson, K.G. (1999). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. New York: Guildford Press.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1982). An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results. General Hospital Psychiatry, 4, 33-47

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain and illness. NewYork?: Delacorte.

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