Luke: Is the Dark Side stronger?
Yoda: No. Quicker. Easier. More seductive.
From The Empire Strikes Back
It’s easy to think how bad things are. Way too easy. Meanwhile, when all is dark with depression, seeing anything in a positive light seems impossible, right? As soon as those negative thoughts hit, with the accompanying chemical response in our brains, it’s so hard to shift them.
I know. 36 years with depression makes me know this only too well.
It takes a huge effort to find something good.
But that’s what’s needed: effort. I’m making the effort. How about you? It’s not easy – at all. But what’s our alternative? Keep thinking that everything sucks?
If this isn’t a lightbulb for you and your depression, it should be. We have to push back. We know deep down that combating depression requires us to, among other things, tackle the continuous cycle of negative thoughts that are very, VERY hard to shift.
I’m not talking about us just thinking positively and everything will be sunshine and rainbows. We know it’s not that simple.
But maybe there’s something in it. Otherwise, the negativity will win. If we let it.
“Our view of the world tends to tilt toward the negative.”
As psychology professor Alison Ledgerwood explains in the TED talk video below, negative impressions stick in our minds. This applies to all people, not just those of us with depression.
We need to retrain ourselves to consciously focus on positive things, otherwise the negativity will take precedence. “Quicker. Easier. More seductive.”
“It’s pretty easy to go from good to bad, but far harder to shift from bad to good. We literally have to work harder to see the upside of things. Once we think about something as a loss, that way of thinking about it tends to stick in our heads and to resist our attempts to change it.”
Talking things over
How many depression sufferers do you know who think of counselling/therapy sessions as just “talk therapy”? Maybe you think that way. This is a negative view. And it makes you believe that talking with an expert won’t help. You’re screwed before you even get started.
Talking helpful things over
We’ve been told that talking about the bad things in our lives will help us. Well, if that’s all we do, it won’t help us. Complaining isn’t enough. We know bellyaching won’t change anything. This kind of talking only reinforces the negatives.
We have to learn to reframe the negative things.
If all we talk about are sucky things, we won’t get rid of them. Or, more accurately, we won’t balance them. Perhaps balance should be our goal.
To do this, we have to talk about things that are good. Things that went well. Small victories, no matter how small. We have to talk about things we are thankful for.
And… we have to discuss positive ideas for moving forward.
Simple things to do to increase positivity
No doubt you’ve heard these things before. If you think negatively about them (roll your eyes and think “Oh, not this bullshit again!”), the information above reminds you that effort is needed to shift that thinking.
- Keep getting counselling. Ask for tools and triggers to help you find positive things.
- If you are prescribed meds, take them. A little rebalancing of your brain’s chemicals can lay the groundwork for changing your thinking.
- Become aware of your negative thinking/talking. Have somebody point it out, if necessary – somebody you can take it from. Don’t chastise yourself for negativity. That’s a negative approach itself. Instead see it as an opportunity to change and grow.
- Gratitude journal. Gratitude is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Every day, write down three things you are grateful for. Even tiny things. Write them on paper or download a free gratitude journal app. After a few weeks, you can see an enormous list. (Hint: try being grateful for the opportunity to change.)
- Meditate. Learn to quiet your mind, if only for a few minutes a day. There are great free guided meditations on Insight Timer. In the quiet, you can hear your true self and just be.
- Exercise. It doesn’t have to be major. Just move. Get your heart rate up for 20-30 minutes and get your muscles moving. Science says it’s vital because depression wants you to be sedentary and to wallow in negativity. Afterwards, tell yourself, “I did it!” instead of thinking, “That was hard!” or “That sucked!”
- Mantras. Repeat over and over that you are good and worthy. That you are open to receive goodness and abundance. That you are loved. That you are open to growth and change. Don’t let the negative thoughts dominate your day.
- Forgive. Perhaps the hardest of them all, at least for me. But forgiveness represents the Holy Grail of depression. Being able to release the power that negativity and past traumas have over you means being able to release depression’s stranglehold.
Just do these things. And other good things. Even if you don’t believe they will help, make an effort. Every day. We have to work to see the upside.
Otherwise the negative thoughts win. I, for one, am determined to do better.