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  • Chapter 3: Rumination & Faulty Thinking

    How can I stop thinking about something over and over?

    Learn how you can use elements of the cognitive behavioral therapy and the ABC model along with meditation to overcome problems and stop worrying. You are not your thoughts and there is a way to stop thinking about something negative over and over. This lesson connects what you have learned in the previous lessons and shows you how you can use this to live a calmer and more stress free life in which the real you and not your thoughts and emotions are in control.

    Essential Knowledge in this Lesson:

    Use what you have learned to get more control over your inner processes.

    First you ask yourself if your thoughts and emotions are helpful and if not you look at the problem one more time. You use the ABC model (or ABCDEF worksheet) to identify faulty thinking and come up with a plan you stick to. Whenever you fall back into thinking about the problem again you use mindfulness meditation and labeling to let it fade away and cultivate acceptance.


    The role of rumination in depressive disorders and mixed anxiety/depressive symptoms. Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Vol 109(3), Aug 2000, 504-511.

    Effects of self-focused rumination on negative thinking and interpersonal problem solving. Lyubomirsky, Sonja; Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 69(1), Jul 1995, 176-190.

    Wendy Treynor, Richard Gonzalez and Susan Nolen-Hoeksema (2008). Rumination Reconsidered: A Psychometric Analysis. COGNITIVE THERAPY AND RESEARCH Volume 27, Number 3, 247-259, DOI: 10.1023/A:1023910315561

  • Chapter 2: Practical Lesson, Mindfulness Meditation and the State of Being

    How can I practice to enter the state of being more often?

    In the previous lesson you got to know the state of being. In this lesson you will learn how you can use mindfulness meditation to enter the state of being and stop being involved in your inner processes and just observe what’s going on.

    This ability of taking a step back and just becoming an observer of your thoughts and emotions is very powerful and can truly change your life. Meditation is an exercise like other mental exercises such as concentration or memory exercises so you do not have to worry about getting into anything esoteric or religious.

    Essential Knowledge in this Lesson:

    Practicing meditation helps you to enter the state of being and observe your inner processes.

    To practice meditation you select one object of meditation you focus on, for example your breath, and then observe this object in a non judgmental way. By practicing this you learn to direct your awareness and raise your base level of concentration and this helps you to become more aware of your inner processes.


    Britta K. Hölzel, James Carmody, Mark Vangela, Christina Congletona, Sita M. Yerramsettia, Tim Gard, and Sara W. Lazar. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.Psychiatry Res, 2010.

    Lazar SW, Kerr C, Wasserman RH, Gray JR, Greve D, Treadway MT, McGarvey M, Quinn BT, Dusek JA, Benson H, Rauch SL, Moore CI, Fischl B. Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 2005; 16: 1893-1897.

    Davidson, Richard J.; Kabat-Zinn J, Schumacher J, Rosenkranz M, Muller D, Santorelli SF, Urbanowski F, Harrington A, Bonus K, Sheridan JF. (2003 Jul-Aug). “Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation”. Psychosomatic Medicine 65 (4): 564–570. doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000077505.67574.E3.

    Fadel Zeidana, Susan K. Johnson, Bruce J. Diamond, Zhanna David and Paula Goolkasian, Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training, Consciousness and Cognition Volume 19, Issue 2, June 2010, Pages 597-605

    Michael Speca, PsyD, Linda E. Carlson, PhD, Eileen Goodey, MSW and Maureen Angen, PhD, A Randomized, Wait-List Controlled Clinical Trial: The Effect of a Mindfulness Meditation-Based Stress Reduction Program on Mood and Symptoms of Stress in Cancer Outpatients, Psychosomatic Medicine 62:613-622 (2000)

    Teasdale, John D.; Segal, Zindel V.; Williams, J. Mark G.; Ridgeway, Valerie A.; Soulsby, Judith M.; Lau, Mark A., Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 68(4), Aug 2000, 615-623. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.68.4.615

    The Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Cognitive Processes and Affect in Patients with Past Depression, Wiveka Ramel1, Philippe R. Goldin, Paula E. Carmona and John R. McQuaid, COGNITIVE THERAPY AND RESEARCH, Volume 28, Number 4, 433-455, DOI: 10.1023/B:COTR.0000045557.15923.96

  • Chapter 2: Awareness & our Spectrum of Perception

    What are our modes of operation and how can awareness help us to spot automatic thoughts?

    (Our community is due to spammers and inactivity closed right now, but I will revive in the future again.)

    Get to know the state of being (broad awareness) and the state of doing (typical “work mode” concentration). Learn why the state of being matters so much and most of us are much more trained to remain in the state of doing. Both states have their advantages and in the upcoming practical lessons in this chapter you will learn how to train your state of being and become more aware of what’s going on in and around you.

    Essential Knowledge in this Lesson:

    Sate of being = state of broad awareness that helps you to become more aware of what’s going on inside and around you.

    The state of being helps you to see your thoughts just as they are. Instead of identifying with your thoughts you take a step back and observe your thoughts passing by. By doing this you experience the impermanent nature of thoughts and are able to spot common thinking patterns that might lead to negative emotions or reactions. This is a great way to uncover automatic thoughts and identifying them is the first step to change them.


    Brown, Kirk Warren; Ryan, Richard M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 84(4), Apr 2003, 822-848.

    Zindel V Segal; John D Teasdale; J Mark G Williams (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression : a new approach to preventing relapse. New York [u.a.] : Guilford Press, c 2002.

  • Happiness, Control and a Simple Model

    Click here to watch the video of this lesson

    Introduction, Happiness & Control

    Is this all you want from your life?

    This is a question I first asked myself many years ago. Since then I’ve had moments where I believed money, a great relationship and a lot of free time would make me happy. All those things do… but research about happiness now shows those factors are not that important.

    In fact, only 10% of our happiness comes from these factors which are our life circumstances. 50% of our happiness is determined by genetic factors: some people simply feel happy more easily than others. But there is nothing we can do about this. You can’t influence your genetics.

    So there is 40% left. What is this 40% that can make the difference between feeling happy or miserable?  That 40% is how we think, feel and act in all the hundreds of little situations that we encounter every day. It is simply your everyday life.

    So genetics matter a lot, but you can’t influence them. Your life circumstances matter a little. But the biggest factor you yourself control is the way you think, act and feel every day.

    Think about it like this. To control a car you have to know where the brake is, the gas pedal and some other things that you need to drive it. Your have to understand how cars work before you can control them. Similarly, to control your thoughts, emotions and actions, you first have to understand how your mind works.

    If you look through psychological studies and studies from related scientific fields you will find that this is the way to happiness.

    In numerous scientific studies about happiness, people who felt less helpless and more in control over their lives were those who experienced the greatest happiness.

    But to be honest reading psychological studies and research journals can be pretty boring.

    So I was thinking: how can I reach as many people as possible and help them to live happier and more fulfilled lives by showing them how their mind works in a simple and fun way?

    That’s when I had the idea to create this free Psychology Essentials course in which you learn all you need to know to get more control over your life, and as a result feel more happiness. Feel free to share this with your family and friends. Everyone can benefit from this. More people that know how their mind works means more happy people and that is what this is all about.

    Alright, ready to learn some amazing psychological concepts that will literally blow your mind?, and all of them wrapped into fun and easily digestible stories that you can read, listen to or watch as videos?
    Let’s begin.

    Let me introduce you to one of the most fundamental and important psychological  discoveries ever made: how thoughts and emotions are connected and influence everything we do.

    Understanding just this is pretty powerful.
    Lets start this off with a little story.

    Kurt’s Life, ABC Model

    This story is about the life of Kurt. Kurt is a really nice guy. He is 30 years old, works as an art director in a medium sized advertising agency. Besides that – he is just a bit of a loner and weird guy but his life is good. If only it weren’t for one problem. His house is infested with aliens!!!

    And those aliens they have a mission. The mission is to learn about humans because they are afraid of what they don’t understand and want to destroy it. In this regard they are very much like humans. But it turns out the aliens in Kurt’s house are actually pretty nice guys. They want to learn about humans and report back to the huge mothership secretly orbiting the earth right now and prevent the other aliens from destroying the planet.

    But what if what they learned about humans was so negative their commanders felt it made no sense to keep humans around? The human race would still be destroyed.

    So they must understand humans and also find ways to help them become better and stop destroying the planet and each other. Only then would the alien high council decide it was worth keeping them.

    It is a race against time. They have to understand and improve humans in just a few days to prevent the alien commanders from laying waste to the whole planet.

    So the aliens landed and made Kurt’s house their operating base and explained everything to him. He knew he had to help these guys or mankind was doomed. The aliens started with their research right away.

    They gave Kurt special glasses that could read and record what was going on in his mind. As soon as Kurt put on these glasses the head researcher Doctor Hum grabbed a huge hammer and smashed it into Kurt’s TV screen.

    All the while a big A flashed on one of the researchers’ computer screens. It took Kurt a few moments to realize what he was seeing. “Oh no! My TV is destroyed! I wont be able to watch my favorite shows anymore!”

    Right after these thoughts shot through his brain a B flashed on the researchers computer screen.

    Doc Hum was still smashing the TV to bits and Kurt grew angry. A big C flashed on the computer screens.

    He was about to shout at Doc Hum to stop when all the alien researchers around him started to cheer. That made the situation even more bizarre.

    Doc Hum quickly apologized and explained that this was part of the experiment to understand how humans think. He took Kurt’s arm and pulled him over to a screen to show him the research findings. Kurt just couldn’t believe all this was really happening but followed along.

    Doc Hum explained they had just witnessed the ABC model in action. This is a model that describes how humans think and was created by a psychologist named Albert Ellis.

    It all starts with A: the activating event. This can be anything. Anything people see, feel or hear. Pretty much anything that gets the ball rolling. In this case…

    The activating event was when Doc Hum started to smash Kurt’s TV.

    Right away, thoughts of how bad this was shot through Kurt’s brain, and then the big B flashed on those computer screens. In the ABC model B describes beliefs and thoughts that result from A the activating event. So as he watched the Alien destroy his TV, the thought that he would not be able to watch his favorite shows flashed through Kurt’s brain.

    These thoughts triggered C which are the consequences. They are emotions and reactions.
    Kurt got angry and was about to shout at Doc Hum that he should stop doing this!

    Ok, so that’s the ABC model that explains how humans think.

    A: An activating event
    followed by
    B: Beliefs and thoughts
    followed by
    C: Consequences which are emotions and actions

    Kurt understood the idea, but not really why it mattered… and why they had to test it like that. Doc Hum apologized and started to fiddle with the TV like he was trying to repair it.
    Kurt sighed and just asked if this model would always apply to human thinking. He felt like he had become angry right away without thinking at all.

    Doc Hum explained. Sometimes the beliefs and thoughts come so fast that humans are barely or not at all aware of them. In this case these thoughts are called automatic thoughts and humans feel like an activating event is followed by an emotion or reaction right away.

    Martial artists train for that. They repeat the same movements over and over so that when they fight they react automatically, without really thinking..

    That made sense to Kurt. He told Doc Hum this happened when he saw a spider and got scared right away. Doc Hum just nodded and started to smile. He asked: “Do you actually understand how powerful this is?”

    Kurt didn’t know what to say and Doc Hum continued. “If all humans would understand this and be able to control their thoughts and automatic thoughts they could control their emotions and reactions in all sorts of different situations. That would make this world a way better place.”

    Kurt just nodded. He had worked all day and was a bit shaken up by having to deal with aliens and their very unique ways of doing research. He excused himself and went upstairs to go to bed. Somehow he couldn’t sleep right away and opened his window and a cool breeze started to flow through his room. It was a beautiful summer night and he stared into the clear night sky and things started to make sense.

    If people could understand that there would always be these thoughts before their emotions and reactions, they could learn to control their thoughts and so many misunderstandings and so many feelings of anger, frustration and sadness could be avoided. This would truly change the world for the better. This would also make all those humans who know this more relaxed and happier and give them a feeling of having more control over their life.

    That was what Doc Hum meant about how powerful this is.

    When Kurt started to feel tired he had this warm feeling of satisfaction that what he had done was right. He just tried to avoid thinking about the big weird smile of Doc Hum who had already announced some “fantastic” experiments for tomorrow.


    Alright, in this story you got to know the ABC model that shows how humans think. Let’s talk about this a little bit.

    Why is this so important? Because if you have control over your thoughts, you have control over your behavior and emotions; and with that you have more control over your life. People with more control over their life feel happier and less helpless.

    That’s the basic idea.

    Let’s have a look at another graphic illustrating the whole process of thinking, feeling and reacting that we run through several times every day.

    The input here is anything that gets the ball rolling. In the ABC model it’s called the activating event. This is always followed by Beliefs & Thoughts, some of them happening so quickly we are at best barely aware of them. In this case they are automatic thoughts. But these beliefs & thoughts are inevitable, and that is crucial to keep in mind.

    And as a result of these thoughts, you feel how you feel and you act how you act. That’s the output.

    Various self-help techniques and psychological therapies try to alter the path from input to output. Here are some common ones.

    Some deal simply with managing the mess. Basically you just learn how to deal with these bad feelings and how to stay under control. This is useful, and there I nothing is wrong with that. But how about not having these bad feelings at all? Sounds better? It is!

    Some techniques like positive thinking try to get you to that point. Basically, you try to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. That’s great too! But to replace these thoughts, you have to be aware of them in the first place, which means you are still helpless when you are at the mercy of automatic thoughts.

    What you learn here goes that critical step further, and goes pretty much to the limits of modern psychology and cutting-edge neuroscientific research. You not only learn to change your thoughts, but also your automatic thoughts, and this is crucial. You learn how to identify activating events that trigger certain thoughts, how to become aware of automatic thoughts, and then, how to change them.

    Because you can stop negative emotions before they even come up, you learn how to avoid getting stressed, angry, sad or depressed. Thats what you can learn here like thousands of other people before who learned this and were able to live happier lifes. If you look for a shortcut to happiness this is as good as it gets.

    Just fill out the form next to the video to stay up to date and get new lessons along with our three extra lessons about motivation, creating habits and goal-setting.

    In the next lesson we will have a look at different states of mind we humans have and how to get one step closer to become aware of those elusive automatic thoughts.


    Click here to watch the video of this lesson

  • Chapter 1: Practical Lesson, ABCDEF Worksheet

    How can I use the ABC model in everyday life?

    The main thing you should take away from the previous lesson (Chapter 1: Control, Happiness and a Simple Model) is that if you can control your thoughts and automatic thoughts you can control how you feel and how you act and that gives you way more control over your life and makes you happier.

    Now lets have a look how this can help you in everyday life. I will ask you to write some things down. Some of you might not like this but writing things down really makes a difference. It helps you to organize your thoughts and because we work a lot with thoughts in this exercise you will want them to be organized.

    Download the ABCDEF Worksheet

    ABCDEF Worksheet

    Essential Knowledge in this Lesson:

    Understanding what’s going on inside of you is the first step for changing it.

    Using the ABCDEF worksheet helps you to stop reacting automatically to activating events just because you are so used to react to them in a certain way. It helps you to open your mind to different thoughts and therefore different ways of reacting and shows you what’s going on inside of you and why you think how you think.


    Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., & Schkade, D. (2005). Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change. Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131

    Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). The how of happiness. New York: The Penguin Press.

    Sheldon, K. M., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2007). Is it possible to become happier? (And if so, how?). Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 1, 1-17.

    Andrew C. Butlera, Jason E. Chapman, Evan M. Forman, Aaron T. Beck (2005). The empirical status of cognitive-behavioral therapy: A review of meta-analyses. Clinical Psychology Review Volume 26, Issue 1, January 2006, Pages 17-31

    Ellis, Albert, Corsini, Raymond J. (Ed); Wedding, Danny (Ed), (1989). Rational-emotive therapy. Current psychotherapies (4th ed.). Current psychotherapies (4th ed.), (pp. 197-238). Itasca, IL, US: F E Peacock Publishers, xi, 623 pp.

  • Live a more stress free life

    Do you know those times when there is so much on your mind you can’t stop thinking? Thoughts or worries bubble up non-stop and after a while you become exhausted, worried or stressed.

    Usually this is because we tend to evaluate the past or try to predict or worry about the future. “Will I be able to make this in time?” Or, “What might he think about this?” Or,  “Oh… oh what did I do?!”

    But when you think about it, the only thing we really have is the present. The past is only an archive of memories that lives on in our mind. And the future is only what we think might happen, and is influenced by so many factors that it is pretty hard to predict. Studies show that over 80% of worries about the future never materialize.

    Part of the Psychology Essentials course is training your awareness. Awareness is simply being able to see what is going on inside of you and around you in the present moment without judging it. This not only helps you understand how you think and to identify negative thinking patterns, but also helps you to stay calm in problematic situations. It gives you more time to make conscious decisions about what to do instead of being instantly overwhelmed by feelings.

    A very nice side effect of training your awareness is that you will also be able to live more in the moment. You will worry less and have the chance to experience the present more fully because you are not distracted by thoughts about the past or the future.

  • Understand yourself better

    Much of our daily thinking occurs in an area of our mind that is closed for many of us, the unconscious part of our mind.

    Most people know little about how to control or work with this part of their mind that is filled with unconscious thoughts, unconscious habits and automatic reactions, complexes, hidden phobias and concealed desires. The subconscious or unconscious mind includes all the things we have learned and do automatically, like walking or typing without looking at a keyboard.

    Our conscious way of thinking is always determined by our unconscious mind. Before we become aware of it, all sensory input (what we see, hear, smell and taste) is filtered and processed by the unconscious mind, which in turn alters that input. For example, our unconscious mind determines whether or not we find someone beautiful.

    Basically a lot of the things that make you who you are come from the dark, vast space we call the unconscious mind.

    Wouldn’t it be nice to learn to see a bit better in the dark? To spot some of our underlying ideas and motivations that make us who we are, and make us feel or act like we do?

    Imagine your mind as a vast ocean of which you usually just see the surface. When you think and deal with your conscious thoughts you are swimming on the surface. Dealing with your subconscious thoughts means you learn to dive and see what is going on down there.

    This is not scary; it is fascinating and will help you better understand yourself. If you want, it can also help you change yourself. In the Psychology Essentials course you will learn how to dive down there, what kind of equipment you will need, and how to make sense of the truly fantastic and sometimes weird things you might come across.

  • Make better decisions

    Think of your decision-making like this: In every area of your life you have a goal or something you want to achieve. For example you might want to be successful, get a promotion and double your current salary by the end of the year — or you might simply want to kill your neighbour’s noisy dog (but don’t!).

    Imagine your goal as a point on a map. There are many ways to get to this point, and you make decisions on how to get there. So you start walking in a certain direction towards your goal. Whenever you reach a crossroad and must make a decision,your emotions, experiences, values and thoughts are all tugging you in different directions.

    For example, one feeling might try pulling you toward the road on the left, while the logical and analytical part of your mind pulls you toward the road on the right. If you feel deeply about a certain topic or many feelings are involved, this tugging and pulling can feel like getting beat up or torn apart. You might also feel like you are stuck or confused when several forces pull you in different directions. Those are the times when you are unable to make a decision.

    The JU Psychology Essentials Course helps you understand what is pushing and pulling you around whenever you face a decision. It helps you organize those unruly forces (or slap them into place!). Part of this is training your awareness and detecting faulty thinking. This can help you get unstuck and make decisions faster and better because you can see the whole picture without being too deeply involved.

    When you learn to understand your own unique processes influencing your decision-making, you feel more at home with yourself. Your thoughts and feelings stop tugging and pulling and stay still so you can look at them and decide what you want to do. You are more confident about making well-informed decisions and about seeing clearly what matters.

  • Become a more complete person

    Some people might be good at being compassionate, while others might excel in hating their neighbours with passion. Leaving out the good and bad in this, everyone has areas in which they are better than others.

    Research shows that genetics do play a role. For example, if you are genetically predisposed to happiness, it is easier for you to feel happy, but of course this is just one factor of many.

    Recently I was helping a friend renovate his house, and for the first time in about 10 years I was painting walls. I remember how messy painting was, but this time, it was not messy at all and the results were great. My friend, who loves to work on things around his home, told me how paints have improved a lot over the last couple of years, and how it has become pretty easy to get things done in a good and professional way without being an expert or hiring a painter.

    Cognitive psychology and neuroscience have made a lot of progress in recent years as well, and you can benefit from this. The good news is you are already equipped with all the right tools to work on yourself. It is just a matter of upgrading them and understanding how to use them effectively to become a more complete person.

    In the Psychology Essentials course you will learn the basic “art of change” that can be used for whatever goal you like.

    I am guessing that goal is not to become the most evil and aggressive person in your neighborhood, and that instead you will want to use these ideas more constructively. But in the end this is up to you. The psychological principles you will learn are powerful tools that will help you to be who you want to be and go where you want to go. They are some of the most magical things that still exist in our world. And as we know from Harry Potter, being able to perform a bit of magic isn’t a bad thing.

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