This post has some important information if you or someone you know struggles with depression! The focus of this post is on the connection between what you think and how you feel. The connection between thoughts and feelings has been well researched as part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is the most research based form of therapy for anxiety and depression. A critical component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is to learn how to modify what you think to change how you feel.
When a negative event occurs, it is necessary to think things through so you learn from hardships and keep yourself and your families safe. However, when you continue to think about negative situations past the time of learning from them, it causes harm and is no longer useful. People who are depressed frequently ruminate like this. They get stuck in a negative thought spiral. When depressed, negative thoughts may spin around in your head for hours. Thoughts often go from bad to worse. The more negative thoughts you have, the worse you feel.
Your mood declines because of the connection between thoughts and feelings. For example, if you think about a sad event, it makes you feel sad. Likewise, if you think about a threatening situation, it makes you feel anxious. If you think about an activity you enjoy, you feel happy. You get the idea. What you spend time thinking about impacts how you feel. When you spend most of your time thinking sad or worried thoughts you feel more and more sad or worried.
When you continue to entertain negative thoughts it is difficult, if not impossible, to break free of your negative emotions. If you are prone to depression you likely often engage in a negative thought spiral without realizing it. Negative thoughts can flow like water when one negative thought sparks another, which sparks another, and so on. You need to break the negative thought spiral to break free of depression.
Change Your Thoughts
To end the downward thought spiral you need to become aware of when you have negative thoughts. To help yourself become aware of your negative chatter, set your phone for an alarm to go off each hour. When it goes off notice your thoughts. Another choice is to notice what you are thinking when you are in a low mood. When your mood is low, there is a good chance your thoughts are negative. The activities that tend to make it easier for people to get caught up in negative thoughts include:
- Being alone
- Spending time with someone else who is negative with you
- Being caught in traffic
- Listening to sad music
- Watching television
- Other activities in which you are not actively engaged
Once you become aware of when you are caught in negative thought patterns, you need to take the steps to stop it. Try to “let go” of ideas that don’t serve you. You can also try to think of something positive. Often times this is a difficult process to try on your own. Working with a counselor can be help you learn to shift your thoughts. It is helpful to have someone outside of yourself help you through the process.
For some, people changing thoughts is challenging and it helps to change their activity. For example, my clients create a list of engaging activities they enjoy. Next clients incorporate activities from their list into their lives. Everybody’s list is different because we are all different people. Some things to try include:
- Talk with someone (not about your negative thoughts)
- Engage in a fun activity either with someone else or by yourself
- Go out in nature
- Listen to music that makes you feel happy
- Play a sport
- Learn something new
When you are in a negative space it is difficult to remember the things that bring you joy, so it is important to write your list down. If you can’t think of anything that you enjoy anymore, then try to think of activities that make you feel less sad. Build time into your day doing activities that leave you less sad. Keep in mind you don’t want to only engage in fun activities. You still need to clean, work, cook, etc. If you avoid the things you need to get done in the end you will feel worse, not better. The trick is to engage in activities that bring you joy while still scheduling in the things you need to get done.
Take The Next Step
If you or someone you know struggles with depression, counseling helps! It is important to get the help you need so you can feel better. Different people need different approaches to help them through depression. Some people respond well to therapy and lifestyle changes, some need medication. It can be overwhelming to try to figure things out alone. A counselor can give you support and guidance to work through your options so you can feel better.
Call us if you need help at 720-583-9332. We can connect you with a counselor to help. You can also read more about depression and other mental health difficulties on our website. Click here to read about depression counseling for adults. Click here to read about depression counseling for children and teens. Join our mailing list or Like our Facebook page if you haven’t already so you can get more helpful information!
I hope you have found this helpful!
Written By Dr. Steffanie Stecker
Dr. Steffanie Stecker a licensed psychologist and the owner and clinical director of Mountain Vista Psychology, PLLC.
In addition, she is a board certified neurotherapist (BCN E5669) and board certified in QEEG (QEEG-D). Less than 100 people world wide are board certified in QEEG, which indicates competency in reading QEEGs and choosing neurofeedback protocols. Dr. Stecker is passionate about brain based effective therapy and creating a safe relationship for her clients to create change. She loves what she gets to do each day!