Depression & Negative Thoughts
Hara Estroff Marano believes that there is a strong link between thinking and depression, where “It has been estimated that we have anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day. If your cast of mind is predominantly negative, imagine how many negative thoughts you are generating daily—thousands upon thousands. That is precisely the case with depression.” Someone with depression typically engages in pessimistic thinking, which is is one of the characteristics of depression, so “The negative thinking is actually the depression speaking. It's what depression sounds like. Depression in fact manifests in negative thinking before it creates negative effect.”
When someone is depressed they may not even be aware of the level of despair and hopelessness that they are experiencing. They may not even know how their thoughts that are so negative are affecting them. Negative thinking can happen to anyone, and most times, it does. Most people have what are called thinking errors. There are many thinking errors a person engages in. the following are the 6 most common thinking errors:
Top 6 Thinking Errors & Depression
1. Filtering. Negative details and magnify them while filtering out all positive details.
2. Polarized Thinking (or “Black and White” Thinking). Everything is all good or all bad. There is no gray area.
3. Overgeneralization. Based on a single incident, or evidence, a conclusion about the entire world is drawn, even if it's logically unrelated.
4. Catastrophizing. Impending doom is around every corner - Everything is negative, or something negative is about to happen.
5. Personalization. The belief that everything that is said or occurs is somehow related to the person.
6. Blaming. Placing blame or responsibility on others instead of focusing on our own responsibility in the situation.
“One of the most powerful actions you can take in combating depression is to understand how critical the quality of your thinking is to maintaining and even intensifying your depression—and that the quickest way to change how you feel is to change how you think. Often enough you can't control how you feel, but you can always control how you think. There's an active choice you can take—if you are aware that changing your thinking is important”, according to Marano. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one option for addressing negative thoughts ; CBT focuses on thinking, feeling and behavior. All three work together. This theory states that if you change your thinking, then you will influence your behavior (or outcome).
Top 8 Action Steps
1. Know that it is possible to control the quality of your thinking. That contributes more to how you feel than any other factor. It is a widespread but false belief that you have to change your feelings in order to change how you think; it is actually the other way around.
2. Keep track of just how many negative thoughts you are actually having. There are several ways to do this, but no matter which way you choose, you need two to three days to assess the amount and degree of your negative thinking.
3. Keep a thought journal for several days in which, at the end of each day, you jot down as many instances of negative thinking as you can remember. "I thought I was too fat." "I hate my boss." "I hate traffic jams." Include instances in which you call yourself a name such as "idiot," or think of yourself (or someone else) as worthless.
4. Keeping your diary of negative thinking, create a separate column for writing the corresponding positive thought. "I'm too old" vs. "I'm getting better with age." Do this for a few days to get the hang of converting negative to positive thinking.
I believe that negative thinking does influence depression and that depression influences negative thinking. I agree with the studies that suggest that if you use CBT or learn to manage your thoughts then you can control you behavior and feeling.
5. Become aware of the content of your thought patterns - Which kind of thought circuitry do you plug into—negative or positive? "I'm too fat" vs. "I've never been more fit." "This plan will never work" vs. "I have some suggestions that will help get this plan off the ground." Constantly flip the switch from down and dark to up and light.
6. After you get a fix on the kind of negative thinking and its frequency, identify the situations that trigger such thinking. The act of writing down instances of negative thinking is an exercise in focusing that helps make you aware of the negative-thinking triggers. In all likelihood, certain types of events are particularly likely to set off a chain of negative thoughts. For some, it's an act of being rejected or ignored or not responded to by another person. For others it might be a negative remark about or actual setback in their work.
7. Convert negative to positive thinking the next time you encounter a trigger. Just flip the switch. For this it helps to have a visual reminder at hand. Keep in your purse or on your desk a switch plate with an actual light switch on it. Refer to it often.
8. Utilize the partnership strategy. Tell your mate or trusted colleague that you think you're sounding too pessimistic in your thinking and that you want to be more optimistic; ask them to help you out by first cueing you when you are sounding negative and then asking you to instantly convert it to a positive statement.
- Kim B.
Following a recent family meal that included my mother at the table, I received an awkward text message.
“If it would be more appropriate for me to stay away from family meals, I will oblige the family by doing so,” read the message.
My reply was something like, “What are you talking about?”
“It was awkward at dinner. When I came in everyone was chatting and talkative. As I came to the table the children were laughing and cutting up. When I sat down everything became silent. I am sure that they were talking about me,” continued the conversation.
“Umm, they were telling a story about something that happened during their day at school. It was not about or even concerning you. I am sorry you felt awkward. However, if you did, it might have been your paranoia. If you would feel better by not visiting for dinner then that is your decision. Whatever you need to do to be more comfortable,” I explained.
“Oh. Okay. I’ll see you at dinner,” was the final message in the conversation.
This entire exchange infuriated me. Let me explain. I often despise the use of text messaging. Sure it is convenient and can be private. It is often the only way to adequately communicate under certain circumstances. If not for text messaging, I might never hear from my children, so I admit that I use text messaging and usually on a daily basis. However, I miss having oral conversations.
I miss in person communications. I miss reading the body language. I cannot hear tone of reflection in someone’s voice through text messaging. (I made the same complaints about email several years ago.)
What I dislike most about text messaging though is when someone wants to argue via text. It is most difficult to deal with conflict face-to-face or even in a formal written document, even in an audible conversation on the telephone, but via text? Yikes!
I believe that people who live a life of negativity often are those people who will hide behind their paranoia. They will hide behind a social networking nickname or handle. They use email and/or text messaging to wield words, with false courage and often foolishness, unconcerned about the consequences that their speach has on others.
It amazes me that negative people can have such impact, such power on the lives of everyone around them. We all know who they are. Why do we allow them to influence our lives in the ways that we do?
I believe it is because often, those that are impacting our lives most negatively are the people who are closest too us, our family. Our family is too frequently bringing us down and depressing us. Why are we allowing it to happen? Don't let family members get you down. Connect with your friends and other positive social groups if you need access to healthy emotional resources.
Marano, H. (2001, July 1). Depression Doing the Thinking. Retrieved December 21, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200308/depression-doing-the-thinking
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