I have learned a great deal about cognitive therapy techniques as a way to make changes in my own life.
The Depression Condition
Depression tends to distort our perception. If an event happens that tends to get us down, it is natural to feel the impact of such. However, for those who greatly struggle with depression, we quickly become consumed by all kinds of negative thoughts that seem to naturally rise up in our mind. These negative thoughts throw us into a spiral that keeps us confined and feeling defeated. Some of these self-defeating thoughts have been programmed in us sometime in our life, while others have developed as we go.
We may be caught up in a whirlwind of programmed thoughts, such as, “Everything bad always happens to me. I can’t do anything right.” “I don’t deserve happiness.” “I will always be alone.” “I am worthless, unattractive, loveless, stupid, etc..” Since thoughts feed into our feelings, and those feelings feed back into our thoughts, these negative thoughts can keep us trapped in a vicious cycle of self-defeat and depression.
The good news is, is that we do have the power to change this cycle and stop being ruled by depression. Yes, depression is a neurological chemical disorder. However, did you know that our thoughts alone can rewire our brain and change the chemicals our brain sends back out? This restructuring of the brain is known as neuroplasticity, and redirecting your thoughts is called cognitive therapy.
The Cycle of Depression
When you engage in and fuel certain thoughts, your brain uses a specific pathway that is connected to those thoughts. If you often think negatively and feed yourself with negative, sad, gossipy, judgmental, devastating information, you keep the chemicals connected with the negative thoughts and feelings heavily circulating in your neurological system; negative in = negative out. These chemicals keep us feeling bad about ourselves and our environment, which also affects every function in our bodies, creating fatigue, illness, and pain.
Yet, when we choose to find more positive things to function on, we end up releasing the chemicals related to those feelings; positive in = positive out. When these positive chemicals are released, we feel good, happy, energetic, and capable.
Therefore, in order to change this depressive cycle, we must learn how to redirect our thoughts towards a new pathway . . . this is how we can utilize the mind over matter concept. I like to think of this as reprogramming myself. I am choosing to look at my negative thoughts and behaviors and I am deciding to override them by putting something more positive in their place.
Mind Over Matter
When you feel yourself getting caught up in a depressive cycle, here are some suggestions to help you to reprogram your brain and make an effective change.
Know When to Stop
When you find yourself overcome by negative thoughts about yourself, such as being stupid, unattractive, or unworthy, a bad wife, mother, daughter, son, or whatever negative programs you have written about yourself, simply tell yourself "STOP." These thoughts are self-defeating and serve no purpose. Even if you’ve made mistakes, know you have the power to make amends for those mistakes and redirect life in a more positive manner.
Once you stop the negative self-talk, focus in on something good about yourself. Focus on something you find attractive about yourself. Focus on something you do that expresses your intelligence. Know that you do have value and that you are working to remove negatives in your life in order to obtain more positive results. Acknowledge what good things you do as a person and what you can do to improve yourself rather than focus on beating yourself up and keeping yourself down.
Write these positive thoughts down so that you can easily call them to mind when you’re feeling negative. Be sure to add more positive truths to your list often. Seek out positive affirmations to help you draw up more positively directive influences. When you say something positive to yourself, look in your own eyes in a mirror. It reinforces these truths about yourself even more and with repeated efforts, you'll be amazed at the power those thoughts will have.
Redirect Your Thoughts
Redirect negative thoughts by calling to action the use of your problem-solving skills in order to correct or improve the situation. People in a depressive cycle tend to ruminate on problems and allow the problems to weigh them down, leading them to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. There is usually something you can do about most situations to help direct them towards a more positive outcome. It may not be exactly what you desire as the end result, but it will be better than sitting in the dark believing that you are defeated. Even if it means finding new ways of doing things or developing a new perspective, there is something you can do to make a situation better for YOU.
Check Your Breathing
People who suffer from anxiety or depression cycles tend to hold in a lot of tension. The tension can often be felt in their muscles which lead to muscle aches, headaches, stomach aches, and other physical ailments. Often short, shallow breathing is a contributor to this tension. Be sure that you are taking full breaths in and out (count to 4 breathing in, then 4 counts when breathing out).
Also, check yourself for muscle tension. If you feel that you’re holding yourself in a tightly balled up manner that creates your muscles to be tense and tight, learn to shake it out. Drop your shoulders and relax any muscles that are clenched up. Doing so opens up passageways to get greater oxygen flow through your whole body and helps to ease painful ailments. Practice relaxation techniques often and become aware of how you feel when you’re tensed up versus more relaxed.
Explore Many Angles
Ask yourself if you are looking at all the possible angles of any given situation. People with anxiety and depressive disorders tend to think up the worst possible scenario and without any facts to back up this scene, tend to believe it as the truth. They then take this self-created information and begin the process of reacting from that position, therefore, creating problems that often do not even exist in the first place.
Consider carefully if you are you jumping to conclusions based on small fragments of data. Do you have all the information on the situation? Do not be so quick to assume you know what's up if you don’t have facts to back it up. Be sure to consider all possible sides of the story/situation and get all the factual information that you can before drawing conclusions and reacting from such conclusions.
Do something nice for yourself and do something you enjoy. People in negative cycles often wait for someone else to treat them nicely. Therefore, they often place their values upon what others are doing for them. Why do this? Why wait for someone else to show you kindness? You are basing your worth on someone else’s actions. Why not show kindness to yourself and treat yourself with more value? When you value yourself, others will see this and respond to you with more value as well. You’ll be amazed at how much of an impact being kind and loving to yourself can make for you. Engage in a physical activity that you enjoy and/or get involved in something that interests you. You don’t have to wait for anyone else to do this. Remember, your energy attracts like energy. Self-defeating energy attracts self-defeating outcomes and vice versa.
Know You're Not Alone
No matter how alone you may feel, you are truly not. Nobody can help you unless you are willing to ask for help. If you reach out, you may be surprised at how many people are there for you. Turn to friends, family, a counselor, or a support group. Don’t expect others to make decisions or do everything for you. Others are there to provide assistance, but it’s still up to you to make the decisions that decide on the direction of your life.
Be sure that the support you surround yourself with is positive. If you surround yourself with others who are negative and make you feel worse after spending time around them, this will drain your energy and bring down your mood, thus feeding into the cycle of depression. Be sure you are with others who you feel good around. Positive people leave you feeling happy, revived, and with good options/solutions to work from.
Consider Natural Remedies
Look into natural remedies for depression. Prescription medications are not the only options for building serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine levels—the feel-good chemicals in the brain. It is possible that you may have some mineral deficiency that can result in a reduction of these levels. For instance, low levels of folic acid are shown in most people with depression. Supplements like folic acid, selenium, and vitamin B complex help balance out neurological chemicals. Herbs that ease feelings of anxiety and sleeplessness include valerian root, passionflower, and chamomile. Learn more about alternative or homeopathic options and be sure to consult with a medial professional about these possibilities, especially if you are already on prescription medications.
Engage in physical activities that you enjoy. Whether you get out for a walk or engage in some other physical sport or activity, getting the body moving improves blood flow to the brain, which elevates mood and lowers stress. Consider relaxation movements. Activities like meditation, yoga, t’ai chi, and qigong, provide techniques to stimulate and relax the body and mind.
Look at the Positive
View positive material and view pleasant images. It is a fact that what we feed our minds produces how we function in our lives. Depression cycles tend to create images of darkness in our minds. In order to redirect these images, be sure to view and read items such as positive stories, quotes, affirmations, and scenes that lift you in a positive manner.
Keep away from information that brings you down. The news is a huge contributor to negative feed. Be more aware of how discussions and information makes you feel. Choose to reduce the ones that create negative feelings and increase those that create more positive feelings.
Be patient with yourself. It takes at least three months to develop new habits, so be consistent and persistent with your efforts, you’ll find it will be well worth the time and attention you’ve put in to it all! However, if you feel you are not able to manage the cycle of depression yourself, consider further guidance from self-help books, therapists, holistic healers, or a medical doctor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2012 Mary Roark
Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on January 31, 2013:
Thank you phildazz!
Allan Philip from Toronto on January 30, 2013:
Great advice, practical and to the root cause. Thank you!
Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on January 26, 2013:
Thank you so much Pamela-anne. These methods have worked very well for me , I do hope it also serves to benefit you and anyone else willing to give it a try.
Pamela-anne from Miller Lake on January 25, 2013:
Really enjoyed this well written informative hub I will make use of this good advice and info thanks for sharing!
Mary Roark (author) from Boise area, Idaho on January 18, 2013:
Thank you for stopping by and reading elle64.
elle64 from Scandinavia on January 18, 2013:
I like the advice, Thanks.