On waking up this morning, how did you feel? Did you wake up, with a dry mouth and sore eyes, feeling sluggish? Did you get ready for work and start to think about what the point of all of this is? Do you have nothing to look forward to?
If this is a constant feeling for you, it is very likely that you may be undergoing some sort of mild depression. Now, while depression is something that can be treated (and should be, so visit a doctor if you’re feeling down), there might be some specific reasons for why you are feeling down in the dumps. Your situation might not be as you imagined to, but this isn’t really a problem with the world, but the way that you are currently interpreting it. A good rule for life? You can either change the situation, or change the way you feel about it. If everything is right, but you’re not feeling right, something is wrong – and you need to figure out what and why.
It could be that you need to change your life, it could be that you need to change the way you think about your current life. Either way, something needs to be done and that change can only come from within.
Now, a quick note. Depression is a serious, serious issue. If you are diagnosed with depression, you should absolutely listen to your doctor and get treated. Now, this might be with medication or via therapy, but either way – go with the path that is right for you. Depression in many cases can be situational – caused by circumstances outside, but it can also be medical.
Situational depression is best described by Beck’s cognitive triad – which describes a cycle and self-perpetuating series of negative thoughts that begat more negative thoughts developed by Aaron Beck in 1976. This concept is used in the treatment of depression and as part of cognitive behavioral therapy. This means automatic spontaneous and uncontrollable negative thinking that leads to more negative thoughts.
The key parts of the triangle? Thoughts about yourself that lead to thoughts about the world or the situation that lead to thoughts about the future. For example, you might think about yourself in a negative manner; you may feel that you offer nothing to the world, that you’re fat, useless, ugly, stupid or anything else that brings negative feelings and connotations. This leads to negative feelings about the situation you’re in and the world at large, where you might feel unvalued by your friends or job, or you might feel lost. This can only lead to bad feelings about the future – you’ll feel that you’ll only get worse, things won’t change. Of course, this thinking then again leads to negative thoughts and the cycle repeats, worsening each and every time.
There is nothing wrong with being a pessimist, in a sense, but when pessimistic thoughts are applied to yourself, it can be quite dangerous as it can only lead to a cycle of negative thinking – a cycle that will only ever affect you and the way that you think.
This means that one of the most powerful things that you can do is think. Thinking negatively constantly can be a real disease – as proven by Beck’s triad. You want to avoid this, but it is natural to think negatively sometimes. Ideally, you want to surround yourself with optimism, because if your self-esteem is taking constant heavy blows, you are only naturally going to start thinking negatively.
That’s where CBT comes in, we spoke a bit about cognitive behavioral therapy and the general gist of this line of treatment can be used by everyone. It revolves being aware of your thoughts and the type of things that trigger these thoughts. This is so you can almost ‘catch’ negative thinking in the act and be aware of what causes this – as to stop the cycle of negative thinking that can lead to heavy periods of depression. CBT can be administered by a therapist, or can be applied yourself through help-sheets. It’s worth trying – as said, you can either change your situation or change the way you think about it.
Changing the way you think doesn’t just stop at escaping depression. Changing your mindset can not only help you feel better, but achieve more. Legends in the field of self-help like Jack Canfield show that thinking can be a huge precursor to success. Even at bare minimum, changing your mindset can help you lead a more enjoyable life.
We mention CBT so heavily because it has roots in mindfulness. Being aware of your thoughts and state of mind is mindfulness is a nut-shell. If you’re taking things for granted, for example, you’re not being mindful, are you?
A lot of people associate mindfulness with meditation, and they’d be right – but that’s not all. Mindfulness is more an appreciation of your life and current situation. At the start of the article, we focused on what you’re unhappy with, now you might hate your job – but you can still find a lot of things to be grateful for, trust us.
If you hate your job and that is leading to negative thinking, what can you be grateful for? Maybe you can be grateful for having a job in the first place? Many people don’t. If you have a roof over your head, that is something to be grateful for as well – even in first world countries; there are still huge amounts of the general population that do not have this privilege. If you’ve got food in your belly, good friends and other things to look forward to – be grateful for this and find an appreciation for them, as not many have this. Even if you’ve not got a lot going for you, you can still be grateful for your health. Even if you haven’t got your health, do you know what you have – the fact that you live in a place where you can be treated in a humane manner and with relative comfort? There are always people in the world a heck of a lot more worse off than you are, so finding an appreciation for what you have rather than what you don’t have is something that can really refresh your mind.
How can you put all of this into practice? You need to find time, peace and quiet. This could be at your desk at home, or on your bed. As long as you’re comfortable and have the time to yourself, that’s enough. Now, it’s time to get rid of distractions – clear your desk, put your phone away, turn the TV or the radio off. Now, turn down the wild thoughts that will fly around your mind when you find peace. Our minds are always active, so don’t get too caught up in these thoughts when you start to settle down. Simply start to acknowledge these thoughts. Notice that they are there. Settled in? Close your eyes, or focus on something – a single spot.
Take a deep breath in, and focus on this, as it comes in and as it comes out. Notice how your body reacts to each breath in and out of your body. Notice how your body expands and contracts and focus on this. Follow your breath up and out of your body.
Focusing on your breath allows you to focus on something other than constant thinking. For the first two times, you do this, you’ll find it hard to focus on the breath rather than the thoughts in your mind. This takes a lot of practice, but it’s ok – the whole process and task is about noticing these thoughts and a wandering mind – only to bring your focus back to what is real – your breathing.
There’s a lot to be said about the practices of mindfulness – and training your mind to be aware of thoughts can help you start to think actively than think pointlessly. Pointless thoughts are often negative, so why not use your thoughts to improve your life or situation than attacking yourself and your feelings? Being grateful for what you have, rather than what you don’t have can help you feel better about your current situation – it’s always going to be in your mind, so train yourself to be able to control your mind.
Please remember that although you can change how you feel about your situation, there are some situations that do need changing. Violent situations, bad jobs – all these types of things need changing, so get yourself into a new, positive situation. It’s all good, coping, but sometimes you need to do a little more for yourself.
We can always find ways to make our life a little bit more enjoyable, and sometimes that might simply mean changing the way that we think about things to find appreciation for the little things in our life. Change your mindset if you feel you need a little bit more out of your life, it might be easier than you think.