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Changing our thoughts to change our depression

Yesterday I was reminded of a topic I really love. It’s about how we can see opportunity in really tough situations. Divorce can be seen as a loss…but it can also be seen as an opportunity to rebuild a life that suits us. Letting go of a faith we grew up with can be painful…but it can be an opportunity to ask ourselves what we really believe and stand for. Getting a serious illness can shake us to the core…but it can also help us commit to a healthier lifestyle and align our lives with our core values.


See how there is a different way to see all tough situations? It can be tough to say this to others, “where is the opportunity here?” Because often people feel so low they they might shut you out if you make such a suggestion. I’ve been there…I’ve been the one on the other side of the counseling relationship hearing a suggestion like this.


Let me explain. When I was thinking about this theme of seeing the opportunity in hard situations, I thought back to one of my hard life situations…a deep depression in my early 20s. It feels like a lifetime ago, but since I work with many people who experience depression, I’ve been trying to think back to it so I can better relate. When I was in my low of lows, my counselor said, “stop thinking.” I thought she was crazy. How do you just not think? Did she even know how many thoughts go on in my head every single second?


When I think back to that experience, I know I am not immune to a depression again, but I know I am much more safeguarded because of one main concept; my thoughts have changed. I can look back at how that horrible depression gave me an opportunity to change my thought life and my self-image. Here’s a concept we talked about extensively in my doctoral program: when we are conceptualizing the situation of those we work with, we look at these things:


View of Self

View of Other

View of World

Behavior


How we see ourselves, others, the world, and how we behave influence our wellbeing. If I stick with the topic of depression, view of self is usually really low. You might have no confidence in yourself, are really unsure if you can make wise decisions or if you are loved, valued, or belong. View of others might be off as well…that everyone doesn’t care about you, they are selfish. View of the world might seem really hopeless. You have nothing to look forward to. And behavior…that is changed from the norm. You might feel a lack of motivation to do the normal things you used to do, like shower, workout, or even eat healthy foods.


The part that I often first nudge people to do is to change some of the behavior, if possible. Get out for a walk EVEN IF you don’t feel like it. You might even want to isolate in your bedroom, but find a trusted person you can be around, even if it’s an animal. The part that takes a bit more time is the VOS, VOO, VOW. I try to ask people to try on different views, even if it feels a bit fake. What if you really were good at making decisions, you’re just not giving yourself credit? What if you’re really worth it, you just need to set boundaries and say “no” to teach others how to treat you? What if the world isn’t here to hold you back…can you look for one small good thing in your life each day that happened? At first a lot of these changes seem crazy. But over time, if we keep believing these new thoughts, we find ourselves walking out of our depression.


So in the midst of your depression, I’m asking you to think about becoming your biggest fan. I know, it seems crazy. You’re used to being your biggest critic. But that way of operating really hasn’t served you. If you’re experiencing a depression it could also be important to connect with a trusted friend or therapist who CAN believe these new thoughts for you until you start adopting them for yourself. You can do this. You can change your thoughts. You can get out of your depression, I am fully confident in that!


Happy rooting, friends.

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