We have thousands of daily thoughts that circle through our minds at any given time. Imagine when these thoughts are consistently firing negative messages. “I will never be any good” “Who wants me” “I will never be with anyone” “I am too fat” “I can’t do anything right” Does this sound familiar?
This is how depression sounds. These negative messages are often reinforced each time you are triggered by work stress, relationship worries, sleepless nights, or just had a bad day. A depressed mind doesn’t look at the problem as an isolated situation. It spirals down replaying every bad thing that has happened in your life. Soon you start to believe that there is nothing good about you or your life and you give up; isolating yourself from friends, and family.
Since our thinking is a natural function of the brain, we often don’t realize the impact of these thoughts on our emotions and behaviors. Our thoughts fly low under the conscious radar, making it hard for us to connect how these automatic thoughts affect our emotions. This continuous loop of negative thinking can become one of the strongest habit patterns to break.
These thoughts usually come from a place of fear and worry. It creates a false reality because it’s based on false thinking and not the truth of a situation. Negative thinking will derail you from trying new things and steal your ability to fully enjoy life.
One of the most effective ways of combating depression is to recognize the quality of your thoughts. Negative thinking will maintain and intensify depressive symptoms. Changing the way you think will change the way you feel. Many times, we can’t control how a situation makes us feel, but we can change how we respond by considering alternative thoughts to a situation. This requires making an active choice each time to look at your problem from a different angle.
When treating depression, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is the most recommended therapy. An evidence-based approach that can change negative ideas, unrealistic expectations, and critical self-judgment. CBT focuses on your thoughts and moods and targets actions and behaviors. Therapy takes place in a structured setting to help identify specific negative thought patterns and behavioral responses to challenging or stressful situations.
Recognizing the way you think and how it contributes to your feelings of hopelessness and despair is the beginning of taking control of your life.
Here are some CBT strategies that you can start using right away:
- Step back and re-evaluate your situation: You can do this by using a journal to record your thoughts. This allows you to evaluate the situation from a distance. Write down how often negative thoughts pop up when you have challenging moments. This will help you to identify certain events that trigger the thoughts. Do you have the tendency to get stuck in negative thinking or do you take action towards a solution?
- Question your thought: Learn to challenge your automatic negative thoughts by using positive self-talk to combat negative thinking. This will help you examine the facts of a situation. This can change your thinking from “I can’t do anything right” to “Everyone makes mistakes.”
- Use Meditation: Download an app like headspace to pause from your intrusive negative thinking and clear your mind. Taking a “time out” will help you to come back to a situation with clarity and less emotionally charged.
- Increase Positivity: Keep a gratitude journal to help increase your positivity and get “unstuck” from feeling negative. Think of a few things that you may take for granted and be grateful. Listen to positive podcast, read things that encourage and motivate you.
- Banish negativity in your environment: Are you watching doom and gloom television shows? Are you on social media discussing the chaos of the world? What you read, watch, and spend time doing, does matter. Spend your free time doing things that bring enjoyment, fulfillment, and overall make you feel good. Reduce the amount of time you spend with people that constantly complain about things, or have negative attitudes. This kind of energy will zap yours and increase your depressive thinking.
- Get Connected: Spend time focusing on others. This will help you stop thinking of your own issues, and allow you to make a difference in someone else’s life. Volunteer in a house of worship, local school, mentoring program, community event, or charity. Being a part of something positive is a great self-esteem booster.
Make changes today to help you control negative thoughts that keep you from living a full and purposeful life. Take action to embrace positivity and end the cycle of toxic negative thinking.