Turning Around Gloomy Thinking
This is my third post on the topic of gloomy thinking. Previously I asked the question, what are low moods? Then I looked at ways of identifying gloomy thinking. I concluded by saying I’d look at some self-help techniques to help turn things around. So on that note, here we go!
One important thing about self-help, or for that matter any kind of therapy, is you must give it a chance. Motivation is key and the big problem with gloomy thinking is that everything slows down, with the potential of grinding to a halt. For people who don’t suffer with depression it’s a difficult concept to fully grasp. If you are such a person, try to imagine having a really bad case of flu yet being encouraged to get involved in a whole range of activities. Yes, it’s that good, or worse.
Still, my focus is on gloomy thinking, which I consider to be within the grasp of most people to turn around. I’d say there are five useful self-help techniques that most people can successfully apply:
Start with a plan. This may sound like you’re dodging something more meaningful, but actually it can be trickier than you think when you’ve been preoccupied with gloomy thoughts. Jot down, in any order, things you’d like to do or would consider doing. Things to avoid are those passive activities like sitting in front of the television. The aim here is to plan to do things that you find pleasant, or that you’d like to try. Once you’ve listed a few ideas, put them an order where the easiest top the list. This might be something like making the effort to call someone, or asking him or her over, or just tidying the place up. Take the task seriously and plan out a full week. Don’t try filling every minute but maybe something in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Once the plan is set it’s up to you to put it into action. You may find any number of reasons to avoid the things you’ve listed but try to stick to the plan unless there is a particularly strong reason preventing you. This leads me to the second technique, which is to increasingly build in activities that require mixing with people. This doesn’t require you to be the life and soul of the party and anyway it may not be your style. But having people around you, maybe in a coffee shop or a park, is actually quite useful. People watching can be quite stimulating, entertaining and thought provoking.
My third technique is one I’ve written about before, but I am a firm believer in the benefits of exercise so I’m saying it again. Okay, taking exercise may not come to the top of your planning list, and that’s fine. If however you can work it in I guarantee you will feel the benefit. Now, don’t kid yourself. Sitting on a park bench while your dog chases birds is not exercise. You can choose whatever activity you want, so long as it leaves you slightly breathless, preferably with the glow of perspiration on your skin, and takes maybe 20 to 30 minutes of your time in a day. If you work in an office block you can probably achieve this just by using the stairs a few times. Exercise is often more easy to undertake if it’s a part of your daily routine. Gloomy thinking won’t necessarily disappear as a result of these techniques but you will almost certainly feel better in yourself.
My fourth self-help technique relates directly to gloomy thinking. An easy way to tip the balance in your favor is via a technique known as balancing. It’s an active technique in the sense that you need to become aware of your own negative thoughts and then counterbalance it with alternative more positive thoughts. If we think of a negative thought in a physical way, it may be fairly dense and heavy. For some reason positive thoughts seem lighter, so my suggestion is for you to use as many positive thoughts as it takes to counter the weight of something more negative.
My fifth self-help suggestion relates to those niggling gloomy thoughts that hang around for days or weeks on end. The aim here is to move the thought(s) out of your head and give them some physical form. So, get yourself a pen and a sheet of paper and begin to map out what’s in your head. It’s a process that can take as long as you like and you can pick it up whenever you want. You may find you end up with a kind of map containing words, squiggles, things in boxes, connecting dots, feelings and stuff heavily underlined! The purpose of all this is to turn your thoughts and their associated emotions into something with structure. This structure can then make unpicking confusing or worrying issues a little easier. In turn it may help you to generate ideas that will solve these problems.
So there we have it. I hope you’ll give some of my ideas a try or perhaps share some of the self-help ideas you’ve experimented with yourself.