Depression: Are you hanging out in the negative room or in the positive room?
Wouldn’t life be great if we could just go to another room whenever we feel negative? In this new room we would focus on and only feel good thoughts and feelings. Oh Wait… It is possible! Read on:
I just read a piece about identifying our negative thoughts.
I once tried to do this. Well I have many times, but especially during one particular period in my life.
The idea is we write down the negative thoughts and what triggered them. Then we can notice patterns and core beliefs. Sounds great. The problem is, I could never keep up with them. And I found that sometimes the thoughts went through my mind so quickly that I didn’t acknowledge them. Such as, I would be in a good mood and then notice I suddenly felt sad or dejected. But I had no idea why. I would keep asking myself why? Why? Why? But sometimes there was no answer.
My therapist said I could have over heard a bit of a conversation, or heard a line in a song, something that instantly activated my new mood faster than registering in my mind. She said it happens all the time.
So how can you change something that happens so fast you cannot know what trigger it was?
I still like the idea of looking for patterns and core beliefs because it seems the natural way to be able to make changes. As if I need know what I want to change before I can make adjustments.
And yet, there is a 2nd school of thought.
It goes something like this: when you notice you are in an unwanted mood—
think of something that causes a different emotional response for a minute, then another minute, then another minute.
Eventually focusing on this good feeling thought will take over and you will not just smile but actually feel better inside.
I know what some of “my therapy groupies” are thinking:… this flies in the face of therapy and digging deep to uncover the darkness.
Well I have been digging and digging and digging but that was not changing my mood.
Within minutes of digging and journaling or sharing,… within minutes…, I feel just as crumby again. I have some big T TRAUMAS. I know I do. I don’t pretend they never happened. But focusing on them only makes me sad or angry or like a victim. All of these ugly emotions I do not like feeling. This is because, what we focus on (and choose to feel) feeds on itself and creates more of that feeling.
As for the 2nd model where we just shift our emotions and thoughts…I have been trying this 2nd model, of changing the negative, for 2 years now. The result? After a LOT of hard work, I am a more positive person and look at life mostly optimistically (most days).
This is HUGE since at one point I had the kind of depression where one lays in bed 22 hours a day and contemplates thoughts that are harmful (no need to be explicit and trigger someone else).
My depression was terrible despite the medication and therapy once a week; despite the exercise, despite ALL the self help books, despite using my journal daily, despite sharing my feelings daily with a friend for up to 2 hours a day “to vent and get it off my chest”. Still the negativity and depression remained.
I still work hard (after 2 years) and catch my mood going down in order to change the focus rather than live in the low. This 2nd way of refocusing is less micro managing and not endlessly exhausting and time consuming.
There are many ways of handling a negative mood. I am only offering one of many to add to your toolkit.
* When you are in a negative mood—do not ask why.
* Quickly change your thoughts to something that brings you happiness
* Stay focused on the happy thoughts for a minute. Then another minute. Then try a third.
(You may have to keep drawing your attention back to the happy thought to get your mind off the negativity…but so? It takes practice as does everything else in life)
*Really ask yourself
“what does it FEEL like when I am pleased?”
“When I think about this happy thought…how does it usually make me feel?”
“Can I feel that now?”
“Can I try to remember and feel the happiness of this thought—really feel it just for a minute?”
* Keep practicing.
Like I said I have been doing this for 2 years. Somedays it is really easy. Sometimes I have to get outside or to a different room in order to transfer my feelings to the new happy thought— because sometimes if we stay In the same room the negativity reminders are so strong we just cannot get to the happy feelings with all the distractions and reminders.
This is not a cure all. I do many other things in conjunction with this thought changing in order to keep my mood up. 1 thing rarely solves all negativity on its own. This is just one element that radically changed my perspective.
There are MANY other things that I do along with this to keep my mood up.
ONE THING alone will not change a long term habit nor a real diagnosis (which I do have). I will write on these other elements at a later date.
This is just one thing that really helped: stop digging at the negative/ Stop retelling it…and start immediately changing my focus to something else/ holding my attention on it til I could feel a smile come on. Then keeping my mind from going back to the bad by what ever distraction necessary.
It is like realizing suddenly you are in the negative room in your mind and walking out/ shutting the door/ and going into the positive room in your mind and staying there a while til the mood lifts.
Leave the negative room shut off. Simply hang out in the positive room as much as possible without worrying: WHY?
I would say try it for 3 months then reply– but you might forget to keep using it by then. So How about try it just for today. If you can get into a slightly happy place once, you are more likely to repeat it again. Give yourself a couple moments and keep focusing your thoughts on something or someone that brings you happiness– until you smile and it is genuine. Later try it again (even if you are in a neutral mood). Just practice taking yourself to a happy thought and feeling.
I hope that this tool will be useful to all the other elements you use to lift your mood.
Until Next Time~