Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Mandy Kloppers BA(UNISA); Dip Psych(Open);Dip LC(LC Inst);MCS(Acc)
10th October, 2009
People who suffer from depression tend to be introspective. They attribute all failures to their own shortcomings/inadequacies and all successes are attributed externally. By this, I mean that they often do not give themselves credit for any success in their life, explaining it away as “luck”, or “because someone else made it possible”. This ends up in self-defeating thinking, a “no-win” situation with neither thought process serving one’s self esteem in a positively reinforcing way. This can often lead to the person feeling powerless and ineffectual in their lives which further compounds the cycle of negative thinking.
• Monitor Your Thoughts (Basic Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy)
One of the most effective ways to counteract mild to moderate depression is to monitor thought processes more closely. Keeping a daily diary is a good way of becoming more aware of the negative self-talk that we all tend to have going on silently in our minds.
The trick is to be aware when you are berating yourself and/or using irrational thinking that does not serve any benefit to you. You could have thoughts about yourself that were told to you as a child. For example, “you’re useless”, “you’re not good enough”...there are a myriad of examples of negative inner self talk that we can repeat to ourselves day after day.
The result of this continuous negative talk is that these thoughts take on a life of their own and aren’t challenged anymore. They become “truth” when in fact there often is no evidence to support these incorrect outdated thoughts about yourself. Identifying these ill-serving thoughts is the first step in stopping the negative downward spiral of pessimistic thinking. It will drag you down and has no advantages to you wellbeing.
You need to:
IDENTIFY the negative, outdated thoughts.
CHALLENGE these thoughts. Where’s the evidence? Where did this thought come from? Was the source reliable? Often you will find that the source (eg a parent,care giver) had their own issues and these words were not meant at all.
REMOVE these thoughts and replace them with more appropriate ones. Eg “I am not good enough” is replaced by: “I am worthy as I am”.
IMPORTANT: Thoughts lead to feelings. Feelings lead to behaviour. Allowing positive thoughts to stay and weeding out the negative, critical thoughts will lead to more positive feelings, a lighter happier mood and more positive, optimistic behaviours and outlook on life.
• Healthy balanced diet:
A healthy, well balanced diet that boosts the consumption of vitamins and minerals is beneficial for mild/moderate depression.
Choose Wholegrains, Fruits and Vegetables. Avoid refined foods such as white sugar, flour, wholegrains. Fruits and vegetables contain vitamin B1, folate and zinc, all of which have been shown to improve the mood of depressed patients. There is some evidence that people with depression respond better to treatment if they have higher levels of vitamin B12. Consume Protein. Especially consume regular amounts of oily fish with Omega 3 in it, such as sardines and kippers.
Rehydrate Regularly – drink 8 glasses of water a day. Avoid alcohol.
Research suggests that 30 minutes of exercise a day, for at least three to five days a week, can significantly improve symptoms of depression. Exercise can provide a distraction from your worries as well as improve your general health and fitness levels which automatically leads to an improvement in mood. During exercise endorphins are released which add a “feel-good” factor to your body chemistry. Exercise can also assist with getting rid of built up stress and frustration and can help you sleep better.
It may seem impossible to get moving when you feel depressed but some studies have shown that exercise can improve your mood for up to 12 hours. It’s worth giving it a go!!
• Connecting with others
It may seem the easiest course of action when feeling depressed is to ‘hibernate’ and cut yourself off from friends and family. This is often the worst thing you can do as it leaves you more time to think, more time to get ‘bogged’ down in a quagmire of negative thoughts. “Circular thinking” often characterizes a depressed person’s thought processes – this type of thinking does not have a solution-focus to it, rather it is a downward spiral that leads further down into the ‘dark pit’ with even less chance of pulling yourself out of it alone. Being with others, as hard as it may be, really does help. It may be the LAST thing you feel like doing but studies have shown that in over 90% of cases – when they socialised their mood improved. So take the ‘Leap of Faith’ and mix with others. You don’t have to be the life and soul of the party but just taking a break from your thoughts and isolation can bring tremendous relief.
• Good Night’s Sleep
Sleep can often be disturbed when one is troubled by pessimistic thinking and low mood. Sometimes sleep is too inviting and an easy escape leading to too much sleeping. At other times, one can be so agitated that sleep is inadequate which will lead to irritability and will negatively affect an existing low mood. Try to get a regular eight hour’s sleep per night. Establish a routine that your body can get used to.
• Limit contact with negative, “toxic” people when you don’t feel mentally strong
When feeling depressed it is important to limit your time with people that drain your energy. They could be friends/family that are bitter about life, constantly criticise others, judge unnecessarily and generally offer what I call a “toxic environment”.
Some people are difficult to avoid for whatever reasons but just try be aware of their effect on your own mental state and try to avoid them as much as possible or limit contact with them when you are feeling emotional or mentally vulnerable.
Positive, optimistic people give off a different energy and this will feed your mood and contribute to raised optimism.
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