How thinking better can reduce depression and anxiety

Feeling Bad? I can help you change the way you feel.

If you believe that you cannot change the way you feel you are doing yourself a huge injustice and you are wrong. With this way of thinking you ensure you are a victim of circumstance and you are fooling yourself – quite willingly – because you can change the way you feel.

Your thoughts and attitudes, not external events, or other people, create your feelings. When you understand the underlying processes that your thoughts create your moods, you can start thinking differently and thereby feeling differently. The messages you give yourself have an enormous impact on your emotions; so mid your language.

When you feel depressed or anxious you are thinking about yourself and your life in a pessimistic and self-critical way. Negative thinking patterns actually cause you to feel depressed and anxious.

  • Sadness and depression result from thoughts of loss or failure to achieve an important personal goal
  • Frustration results from unfulfilled expectations
  • Anxiety and panic result from thoughts of danger or something bad might happen
  • Guilt results from thoughts that you are bad, you’ve hurt someone, or you’ve failed to live up to your own moral standards.
  • Feelings of inferiority results from thoughts that you’re inadequate in comparison with others
  • Anger results from feelings of unfairness or someone taking advantage of you
  • Frustration comes from feelings of what should be
  • Loneliness from thoughts of being alone and you are not getting enough love and attention from others
  • Hopelessness from thoughts that your problems will go on forever

 

 “As I hear myself talk I learn what I believe”

Self-Perception Theory

 Your thoughts – not external events or people create your moods

Specific kinds of negative thoughts cause specific kinds of negative emotions

The negative thoughts that make you depressed, anxious, angry, guilty or frustrated are frequently distorted and unrealistic, even though they appear absolutely valid

Recognising the vital connection between your thoughts and your emotions is the first step in breaking out of a bad mood

 

Irrational Thinking Errors

 

All-or-nothing thinking

You see things in black-or-white categories. If a situation falls short of perfect you see it as a total failure. When a young woman on a diet ate a spoonful of ice cream, she told herself “I’ve blown my diet completely”. This thought upset her so much she ate the entire contents of the ice cream container.

Overgeneralisation

You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection, or a carer reversal, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as ‘always’ or ‘never’ when you think about it.

Mental Filter

You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively, so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened. Like the drop of ink that discolours a beaker of water. Example: you receive many positive comments about your presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess about his reaction fir days and ignore the positive feedback.

Discounting the positives

You reject positive experiences insisting that “don’t count”. If you do a good job you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well. Discounting the positive takes the joy out of life and makes you feel inadequate and unrewarded.

Jumping to conclusions

You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion.

Mind-reading: Without checking it out you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively against you

Fortune Telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. Before a test you may well tell yourself. “I’m really going to blow it> What if I flunk?” If you are depressed you may tell yourself “I’ll never get better”

Magnification

You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimise importance of your desirable qualities.

Emotional Reasoning

You assume your negative emotions reflect the way things really are. “I feel terrified about going on airplanes. It must be very dangerous to fly”. Or,“I feel guilty. I must be a terrible person.” Or,“I feel angry. This proves I’m being treated unfairly”. Or,I feel so inferior. This means I’m a second-rate person. Or,“I feel hopeless. I must really be hopeless.”

“Should statements”

You tell yourself that things should be the way you hoped or expected them to be. After playing a difficult piece on the piano. A gifted pianist told herself “I shouldn’t have made so many mistakes”. This made her feel so disgusted that she quit practicing for several days. “Musts”, “Oughts” and “have tos” are similar offendersShould factors that are directed against yourself lead to guilt and frustration. Should statements that are directed against other people or the world in general lead to anger and frustration: “He shouldn’t be so rubbish and argumentative”.

Labelling

Labelling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. Instead of saying “I made a mistake” you attach a negative label to yourself – “I’m a loser”’ You might also label yourself “a fool” or “a failure” or “a jerk”. Labelling is quite irrational because you are not the same as what you do.’ Judge the action – not the person’, is a good phrase to remember.

Personalisation and blaming

Personalisation occurs when you hold yourself personally responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. When a woman receives a note that her child was having difficulties at school she told herself, “This shows what a bad mother I am”. Instead of trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem so that she could be helpful to her child. When another woman’s husband beat her she told herself “If I only I was better at…then he wouldn’t beat me” Personalisation leads to guilt, shame and feelings of inadequacy.

 

 

 

Reference: The Feeling Good Handbook. David Burns