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Thoughts and Depression

Updated: Dec 18, 2019

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As anyone suffering from depression knows, it can be an extremely difficult illness. You are plagued with unwanted, negative thoughts. One way to relieve the anguish this can cause is to regain some control over your thinking and reach for a more positive outlook on life.

As anyone suffering from depression knows, it can be an extremely difficult illness. You are plagued with unwanted, negative thoughts. One way to relieve the anguish this can cause is to regain some control over your thinking and reach for a more positive outlook on life.

Of course this is easier said than done. Depression can be caused by genetics; it might have been passed down to you, making you more vulnerable in difficult life circumstances. Or you might become depressed due to hormonal changes. A lot of people get depressed when facing struggles in life. If a close friend or relative passes away, if you face financial problems or another source of severe grievance you are likely to experience this mental health illness.

So trying to change your thoughts alone is definitely not the only solution, but can aid a successful recovery to complement good mental health care. Here is some advice to follow if you want to think more positively and regain some optimism.

Know you have control over your thoughts

To rein in your thoughts you first have to believe it is possible. While your emotions may go on a rollercoaster, the evidence shows that we can control what we think. It is easy to get into certain patterns and the more we follow the pattern the easier it is to slip back into it later. But likewise, if you force yourself to think about something else every time you start slipping into that misery ditch, it will become increasingly easier to haul yourself out again. Remember, what you think you become. Although depression isn’t resolved with a snap of the fingers, you can help yourself. You need to in order to have any chance of getting better.

Use positive affirmations

When you feel yourself hitting a really low point you might want to have a positive affirmation at the ready to help boost yourself up again. This can work as a kind of mantra you repeat in your head to remember what you enjoy or are grateful for in life. You might say to yourself, “I am happy with who I am,” “I’ve had many good days and I have many to come,” “I have everything to fight for,” or “I am loved.” If you have a simple phrase ready that is personal to you and you remember it in an especially difficult moment, you can use it to fight off those negative thoughts that will wear you down.

Track your thoughts

By using a thought diary you can learn more about where any negativity comes from. It might also allow you to pass a critical eye over your thoughts and eliminate any that you might later realise aren’t accurate. Note it down any time you think something dismal. It will also help you get an idea of the frequency of these thoughts and when you are more vulnerable to them. Knowing this can help you prepare for times you are likelier to become gloomy and ensure you are somewhere safe and comfortable. You might organise an enjoyable activity for this time to allow yourself to cheer up.

Switch from negative to positive

When you think negatively you have an internal dialogue that feeds sad ideas around your mind. You might be thinking “The weather is so bad,” or “nobody has contacted me for a long time.” When you have such thoughts try to acknowledge them and turn them on their head. Instead tell yourself: “But I can have a relaxing day indoors in the warmth and there is a film I really want to watch.” If you haven’t heard from your friends, think of the last time you had a fun time with someone and when you feel better organise to do something like that again. Try to dispute your negative thoughts and question yourself. You might find you can reason with yourself that it isn’t as bad as you previously thought.

Do things you enjoy

The more time we dedicate to things we want to do rather than the things we need to do, the happier we become. By organizing something to look forward to you also give yourself something positive to think about in the meantime. You can also find smaller things to do that you enjoy day to day. Make a mindmap of all the things that make you happy and make sure you do at least one of them every day. Try even setting aside a whole day or two each week to dedicate to leisure activities.

Avoid stress

When you depression setting in it is best to avoid stressful situations that might exacerbate how you feel. You might get irritable. Depression in some severe cases can even lead to psychosis when partnered with excessive levels of stress. By practicing deep breathing or mindfulness you can deal with stress. Otherwise make sure you find help or face problems before they become a burden you can’t cope with. Dealing with stress will keep you in a good condition to tackle negative thoughts.

Take care of your physical health

Exercise can help by encouraging the release of endorphins into the body that improve your mood. Likewise, healthy eating is important because fruit and vegetables contain certain vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, which act as natural antidepressants. By avoiding drugs and alcohol you will also do yourself a favour as these are known to exacerbate depression. With a healthy body, healthy thoughts will come easier to you.

Reach out to others

Remember you are never alone in your struggle. Whether it is a friend, family member or mental health professional there is always somebody to help you. Free helplines are available as well, which allow you to speak to a trained volunteer or professional. Speaking to others can often lessen your burden. You might also want to ask someone you are close to and trust to help you think more positively. They can help talk you out of negative thought patterns or remind you to challenge negativity yourself.

Remember your depression doesn’t define you

Negative thoughts and depression can often wear down at your self esteem. Just please keep in mind that depression is an illness that affects your behaviour. Sometimes you will do or say things you wouldn’t otherwise if you were well so try to be kind to yourself when this happens. Try to think about how you will deal with a difficult situation so you don’t react in a way that upsets you more but remember you are not yourself.

Depression can lead to vicious cycles of thoughts. But you can control your thoughts, allowing you to fight it to an extent. Make sure you do this and you may find in doing so you feel better just from the self-achievement.

You are an amazing, loved person, even if you don't believe it right now, please just remember it.

Ellen xx


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