Five Thinking Strategies to Ease Depression
Stress is a common feeder of depression and most people find their thinking becomes more negative when they feel under stress. Negative thinking taps into negative memories and feeds negative thoughts about yourself and your future. Negative thinking alone can be debilitating and because of this it is worth considering some strategies to prevent negative thoughts from taking control.
Reinterpret: Every situation lends itself to a variety of possible interpretations. A predisposition to interpreting situations negatively can influence our sense of competence and personal effectiveness. For this reason cognitive therapists encourage people with these tendencies to actively interrupt their own thought processes and to interpret a negatively perceived situation in a more positive or more neutral light.
Stop Jumping to Conclusions: This extends the interpretation theme by pointing out the tendency for negative thinkers to evaluate situations both rapidly and negatively. There are all sorts of ways we jump to conclusions. The tendency towards blame is very common. Blaming others or blaming oneself is invariably only a part of the total picture as to why something has gone wrong. Blaming is a form of easy thinking. If we see a minor collision between two cars most people will attribute some form of blame to one or both drivers. The reality is we often don't really know the background to the collision and we're mistaking feelings for facts. A more constructive approach is to remain neutral or to consider the raft of other possibilities.
Form a Perspective: When people feel down, or are perhaps slipping towards depression, there is an increased tendency to see things in black and white terms and to magnify the negative aspects to a status they really don't deserve. The most common ways people lose perspective is by over-generalizing and catastrophizing. Over-generalizing refers to the process of reaching sweeping conclusions based on assumption or fairly flimsy evidence. Catastrophic thinking refers to the ways negative thinking can blow things way out of proportion. A clue to whether you think catastrophically is to listen to the language you use. Maybe things are ‘always wrong', or ‘terrible' or ‘a complete disaster'. Simply thinking about using a more measured and accurate tone can actually make you feel better.
Reduce the Extremes: Extreme thinking comes with depression. This is a form of thinking that seems to rule out gray areas and focuses mainly on the black. Is that person really so bad? Are you really useless? Isn't fallibility a natural part of the human condition? Is it such a terrible thing that you can't cook as well as that other person? A lot of people might prefer to be better, or wiser, or wittier than they are, but these should realistically be seen as things we might choose to strive towards, or admire in others, rather than become a millstone around our necks.
Set Realistic Goals: When you start to question and challenge your own negative thinking you may find that you start to uncover problems that need solving. If this is the case always ensure you set an attainable goal. A big issue may need some thought and may need to be broken down into smaller stages. Make sure the stages are attainable otherwise the lack of attainment may simply feedback into your thinking as a failure.
Accepting and recognizing the fact that you have a tendency towards negative thinking is always the first step on the path to positive change. Once you give yourself permission to challenge your thought processes and begin to reconstruct them you will find a curious sense of liberation. Thinking patterns have a way of locking people into a cycle of expectation that they feel incapable of breaking away from. Negative thinking can never be removed, and it would be silly to suggest it should never occur, but it can be neutralized along with the negative effects it produces.