Depression: Stop Negative Thoughts
What is an Actionset?
Depression is an illness that makes a person feel sad and hopeless much of the time. It's different from feeling a little sad or down. Depression can be treated with counseling or medicine, or both.
Healthy thinking also can help prevent or control depression.
Healthy thinking is a way to help you stay well by changing how you think. It's based on research that shows that you can change how you think. And how you think affects how you feel and act.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help you know what thoughts of yours—both helpful and not helpful—affect problems or feelings that trouble you. With practice, you can replace negative thoughts that discourage you with accurate thoughts that encourage you.
Working on your own or with a counselor, you can practice these three steps:
The goal is to have accurate, encouraging thoughts come naturally. It may take some time to change the way you think. So you will need to practice healthy thinking every day.
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Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help change how you think about yourself.
You need to see a counselor to do CBT.
Changing the way you think can help you replace negative thoughts with helpful ones. This can help you cope with depression and may help keep it from coming back.
Maybe you weren't able to close a sale or get a big project done at work. Or perhaps a relationship has ended. It's normal to feel down. But you've had trouble sleeping. You can't enjoy many of your usual activities. And you're blaming yourself. "I'm a failure at everything," you tell yourself.
The more you think about yourself in a negative way, the harder it is to feel hopeful. The negative thinking makes you feel bad. And that can make you feel more depressed, which leads to more bad thoughts about yourself. It's a cycle that's hard to break.
But with practice, you can retrain your brain. After all, you weren't born telling yourself negative things. You learned how to do it. So there's no reason you can't teach your brain to unlearn it and replace negative thinking with more helpful thoughts.
Healthy thinking also can help you manage stress. Stress can increase symptoms of depression. And depression can make your outlook on life negative and daily tasks more stressful. Too much stress can raise your blood pressure and make your heart work harder, which can increase your risk for a heart attack. Stress also can weaken your immune system, which can make you more open to infection and disease.
Although you can use CBT on your own, it's important to talk to your doctor or a counselor if you feel that your mood is getting worse. You may need more help.
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Healthy thinking can help you stop negative thoughts that make depression worse.
Healthy thinking can help your health in other ways.
Notice and stop your thoughts
The first step is to notice and stop your negative thoughts or "self-talk." Self-talk is what you think and believe about yourself and your experiences. It's like a running commentary in your head. Your self-talk may be rational and helpful. Or it may be negative and not helpful.
Ask about your thoughts
The next step is to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. Does the evidence support your negative thought? Some of your self-talk may be true. Or it may be partly true but exaggerated. There are several kinds of irrational thoughts. Here are a few types to look for:
Choose your thoughts
The next step is to choose a more helpful thought to replace the unhelpful one.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts is one of the best ways to practice stopping, asking, and choosing your thoughts. It makes you aware of your self-talk. Write down any negative or unhelpful thoughts you had during the day. If you think you might not remember at the end of your day, keep a notepad with you so you can write down any irrational thoughts as they happen. Then write down a helpful message to correct the unhelpful thought.
If you do this every day, accurate and helpful thoughts will soon come naturally to you.
But there may be some truth in some of your negative thoughts. You may have some things you want to work on. If you didn't perform as well as you would like on something, write that down. You can work on a plan to correct or improve that area.
If you want, you also could write down what kind of irrational thought you had. Journal entries might look something like this:
Test Your Knowledge
Which of these thoughts is an example of healthy thinking?
I've had a couple of bad relationships. I know I'll never have a good relationship.
I feel bad that I didn't get as big a raise as I wanted. But there may have been reasons that had nothing to do with me. I'll talk to my supervisor to see if there is anything I can do to get a bigger raise next time.
How can a daily journal help you have more accurate, rational thoughts?
It makes you aware of your self-talk and can help you come up with helpful thoughts to correct an irrational thought.
Writing in the journal every day will help healthy thinking come naturally to you.
Now that you have read this information, you are ready to practice healthy thinking to help cope with depression.
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