4 Ways to Change Your Thoughts and Relieve Depression

Did you know that on most days, the average person has between 25,000 and 50,000 thoughts? That’s an impressive amount of thoughts. Many people don’t take the time to pay attention to how they think. Thinking is such an automatic process and becomes so ingrained that we often don’t pay attention to the specific thoughts we have. Rarely do we observe our thoughts from a higher altitude to evaluate how our thinking patterns impact how we feel. While our thousands of thoughts range in importance and intensity, if you pay close enough attention you will see that your thoughts directly influence your mood and how you feel.

However, what happens when the majority of these thoughts are negative? Imagine the impact on your psyche and your life if you had thousands and thousands of negative thoughts each day?

This amount of negative thinking is a hallmark of Depression. Negative or pessimistic thinking is Depression speaking for you. It is the voice of Depression. What many people don’t realize is that Depression is manifested in negative thinking before it ever creates a negative thought itself. This is why it is imperative for those suffering from Depression to become acutely aware of their thought patterns. If left unchecked, negative thinking becomes a habit, one that has the potential to completely shape your life.

Change How You Think

One of the most powerful ways people can lift themselves out of the darkness of Depression is to change their thinking patterns. This is why cognitive therapy is such a profound change agent. The approach is based on the fact that thought-processing errors contribute to a depressed mood. By changing how you think, you automatically change how you feel. Once you become aware that changing your thinking is important, you are presented with an active choice you can make to benefit your mental health.

I know. This sounds about as easy as changing a tire in the rain with nothing more than a banana and a paper clip. But it can be done.

Here are some tips on how you can begin to change your negative thoughts:

1.  Keep Track of Your Thoughts

Many people are in denial about their thought patterns. They don’t want to believe they are overly negative or pessimistic. Catching yourself and recording as many negative thoughts as you can will help you to see your own mental patterns.

What will these thoughts look like? A few examples of negative thinking are as follows: “I am fat.” “I’m going to be single forever.” “I hate winter.” “I can’t stand getting up this early.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.” …. the list can be endless. It may help to use a journal to jot down your negative thoughts throughout the day as you become aware of them. In the beginning, this is all you have to do… simply pay attention to how you think and what your patterns are.

Writing your thoughts on paper will help you to see your negative thoughts in black and white. Speaking of black and white, you want to be aware of and try to avoid this type of thinking as well. Be particularly mindful of making sweeping generalizations from one specific event. Seeing things as either all good or all bad is a type of all or nothing thinking that can be particularly harmful. While tracking your thoughts, try visualizing placing them on a scale. Do your thoughts tend to tip more heavily on the positive or the negative side? If you are depressed, chances are your scale is off balance and tipping much more heavily with negativity.

2.  Identify Triggers

Once you get an idea for the frequency of your negative thoughts, try and pinpoint the triggers for them. Again, use your journal to help point out certain types of events that set off a chain reaction of negative thoughts. Triggers can include being rejected or ignored, or having an unkind remark said to or about you. Becoming aware of your triggers can be a powerful way to gain control over Depression.

3.  Positive Conversion

So far, you have learned that the human thinking process is habitual. But the good news is, you can create good thinking habits. To do this you have to start converting all of those negative thoughts into positive ones. It will be hard at first, and you will most likely feel as if you’re lying to yourself and pretending to be a glass-half-full kind of person. Don’t worry if it doesn’t feel authentic at first, just keep going.

The saying “You’ve got to fake it until you make it” has some credibility.  Though at first, thinking positively may feel foreign to you and like a waste of your time, you are re-training your brain to think (and feel) good. Our brains are designed to be adaptable and the more we practice thinking positively, the more natural it will become for our brains to begin doing this automatically.

Every time you have a negative thought, stop, recognize it as negative, and immediately flip the switch and create the positive opposite thought in its place. This could look like:

Negative thought: “I’ll never get this report done on time.”

Positive Switch: “I’m making great progress and being careful to always check my work.”

Here’s another example:

Negative thought: “I hate having to wake up so early.”

Positive Switch: “I like the way it feels to have extra time in the morning and not having to rush. It makes my whole day go easier.”

To get the hang of how to do this, go through your negativity journal and create a separate column in which you will write the positive opposites of your many negative thoughts. If you feel stuck or have a hard time completing these exercises, please consider reaching out to a trained therapist who can help you learn how to identify and change your thinking patterns.

4.  Acknowledge and Let Go

While converting negative thoughts into positive ones can be a very powerful way to gain control over your thinking and your mood, another effective way is to simply acknowledge your thoughts and let them go. Just because you think it doesn’t make it true and feelings aren’t facts. Recognize that your thoughts may be irrational and in response to years of low self-esteem, misinformation, or fear-based thinking patterns and that you do not have to hold on to them. Thoughts are simply… thoughts. Let them pass. Letting them go can help you to feel a lot freer.

If you or a loved one are suffering from Depression and are interested in exploring treatment options, please contact me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

If you are having thoughts of wanting to harm yourself or suicide, call 911, visit the nearest emergency room, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

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