If you haven’t been able to shake your feelings of depression, this article is for you!
Remember, depression is a treatable condition.
Countless people experience and overcome depression each year.
You can too!
In this article we will discuss:
-Section 1: 5 Strategies for Overcoming Depression
- Strategy 1: Shift Your Focus
- Strategy 2: Challenge Your Scripts
- Strategy 3: Engage in Self Care
- Strategy 4: Make Plans
- Strategy 5: Know When to Seek Help
Let’s get started!
Strategy 1: Shift Your Focus
During depression, people become drawn to thoughts, emotions, and memories of a certain type.
Everyone experiences both positive and negative thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
The problem begins when your positive and negative focus screws dramatically to the negative.
Once the habit of hyper-focusing on negative experiences and beliefs has set in, the light gets sucked out of your life, and feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness begin to set in.
The first strategy to defeat depression is to make a new habit of focusing on the positive elements of life.
This does not mean you have to recite hollow affirmations to yourself or pretend negative experiences are not happening at all. Instead, you are retraining yourself to also see the good.
There are good and bad things happening in your life all the time and multiple ways to view even a single event.
Retraining yourself to see the good, even in hard times will help you get more power over your emotions.
Focus on Happy Memories:
Take an inventory of your current thoughts and feelings to see what typically sends you down spirals of negative thinking.
The next time you begin to feel yourself hyper-focusing on all the negative experiences of your life, visualize experiences from your past that brought you the most happiness, peace, joy, etc.
To do this most powerfully, don’t think about the experience from an outsider’s perspective. Close your eyes and RELIVE the experience first person.
- What did you see?
- What did you smell?
- What did you touch and taste?
- How did this experience make you feel?
Spend some time enjoying this experience again.
Commit yourself that each time you feel negative thoughts spiraling out of control, you will use this strategy to interrupt the negative focus.
Over time, these memories can become an anchor that keeps you grounded to the good during hard times.
Why does this work?
The things you think will affect your emotions over time.
Many of the feelings that come with depression are a reflection of the thoughts you have allowed to run wild in your mind.
When you choose to interrupt negative thinking consistently, you begin to fill your mind with thoughts that will turn into good feelings with time.
Focus on what you’re doing right:
When you find your mind beginning to focus on all of the things you’re doing wrong or your supposed failures, it’s time to interrupt them again.
Make it a habit to tell yourself 5 things you are doing right every time you think of 1 thing you are doing wrong.
Focus on the present:
For many people, the past is full of mistakes and regrets. The past can be full of shame, guilt, and condemnation.
When you make a habit of living in the past, you can get down on yourself pretty quickly.
This is also true about the future. The future for many people is full of possible fears and anxieties.
The problem with focusing on the past and the future is that you have NO CONTROL over either of them.
The only moment you can control is right now.
The only thought you have power over is the thought that is lingering in your mind at this moment.
Habitually focusing your mind on any other time will keep you trapped in negative, heavy, and anxious thoughts.
Instead, each time you notice your thoughts shifting to problems in the future or the past, decide to interrupt these thoughts by focusing on what you can control in the present.
Depression is a HUGE PROBLEM made of thousands of individual thoughts and emotions that have run rampant.
These individual thoughts are the problems you can solve in the present.
[To learn more about overcoming anxiety check out our blog: Anxiety In Teens: How To Identify Anxiety & Help Beat It FAST ]
Strategy 2: Challenge Your Scripts
People struggling with depression can often be heard saying things like “I’m stupid”, “I can never do anything right”, “I’m a failure”, etc.
These types of thoughts run through our minds every day, all day, like a recording on a loop.
This is what counselors often call “mental scripts”
When the script is upbeat and positive, you feel great.
But when the script is negative and dark you feel down.
One reason depression is challenging to overcome is because you have powerful scripts that are hard to break free of.
Many people find that their scripts sound like someone who has repeatedly told them negative things about themselves. Maybe it’s a parent or spouse.
Many times we unknowingly begin to believe these messages.
10 of the most common unhealthy thinking patterns and mental scripts include:
- All-or-Nothing Thinking: Thinking in one extreme or the other. “My days are always bad; I can never do anything right.”
- Catastrophizing: Assuming the worst possible outcomes. “Things can not get any worse than this”
- Double Standard: Holding yourself to a different standard than you would those around you. “It may be okay for you to flunk a test, but I have to get straight A’s”
- False Permanence: Believing a negative feeling or situation will never improve. “I’m going to feel this way for the rest of my life.”
- Magical Thinking: Believing that everything would be better if you were ___. (prettier, smarter, thinner, etc.) “I would be happier if I could just lose weight”
- Mental Filter: Minimizing the positive and maximizing the negative. “The whole day was awful because I stubbed my toe”
- Mind Reading: Assuming you know the thoughts and feelings of others. “I can just tell they don’t like me.”
- Overgeneralization: Interpreting a single event as the norm. “He broke up with me so no one could ever love me.”
- Should Statements: Holding yourself to a standard of how things should be. “I should be further along by now.”
- Mislabeling: labeling yourself based on your actions.“I fumbled my words, I’m such a loser.”
[For a deeper look into unhealthy mental scripts check out the video What are Cognitive Distortions -> HERE]
Challenge the Script:
Once you feel you better understand your scripts and where they came from, it’s time to rewrite them.
For Example: Get a pen and paper and write down a list of things you know to be good about yourself.
These can be big things or little things. If you have trouble thinking of some to begin with, keep at it.
You have TONS of great qualities, it’s just hard to find them amidst all of the negative thoughts.
- What are you naturally gifted at?
- What qualities do you embody?
Once you have a list of at least 10 things you love about yourself, write them down on some sticky notes and put them in places where you will see them every day.
You can also choose to affirm 2 of these great qualities to yourself each time a negative mental script begins to intrude on your thoughts.
[To learn more about self-love and vulnerability check out this video by Brene Brown, a researcher on shame and vulnerability -> HERE]
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Strategy 3: Engage in Self Care
In a lot of ways, we operate like a computer and printer: we can only print what was first put into the computer.
Engaging in self-care can exponentially alter your mood and create the tools you need to overcome depression.
Diet & Exercise:
When we eat junk foods and don’t use our bodies the way they were intended to be used, we begin to feel junky too.
Make sure you are eating right. Reduce sugars and fatty foods and increase your intake of healthy, unprocessed foods.
Be sure you are getting outside in the sun every day, and that you’re getting your heart rate up for at least 15 minutes.
When you eat right and exercise, your brain will begin to release more chemicals (like dopamine) that make you feel good about yourself.
Get Enough Sleep:
Working on changing all of the habits we have discussed so far takes effort & energy.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you don’t have the energy to sustain the focus you need to make this happen.
When you lack sleep, your mind and body revert to using “the path of least resistance” to save energy.
This means that to save energy, your body will do what comes most natural – which means eating what you’re used to, thinking what you’re used to, and focusing on what you’re used to.
If you want the energy and will-power to overcome depression, make sure you are meeting your needs!
Stay in the present moment:
As we discussed earlier, the past is often a negative place to be. If you allow these memories to dominate your mind, you will get the same feelings in your life.
One way you can stay in the moment is by doing deep-breathing and mindfulness exercises.
These exercises help you to develop the skill of choosing which thoughts to keep, and which ones belong in the garbage instead of your mind.
[If you would like to get started on mindfulness exercises check out our free guided mindfulness recordings -> HERE]
Don’t try to do it alone:
Humans are social creatures.
Like everyone else, you are hard-wired to thrive in relationships.
This means that just being around other people, especially supportive ones can help you overcome depression.
Strategy 4: Make Plans
Sitting inside and thinking about the past is gloomy.
People get a positive emotional boost when thinking about things they look forward to in the future.
Make plans to do something you enjoy. The more you get out of the house and do, the better you’re going to begin to feel.
Be aware that you probably are not going to FEEL like doing anything.
Depression creates a nasty cycle that can quickly spiral out of control. When you feel bad, you don’t want to go out. When you don’t go out, you feel worse. Then the cycle repeats.
Despite how you might feel, choose to get out there and do something you love.
Ideas: Find small ways to serve others, spend some time in nature, go mini-golfing, attend a religious service, take a painting class, or go to lunch with some friends.
Strategy 5: Know When to Seek Help
Sometimes you can feel completely crushed beneath the depression you are facing.
If you feel you’re not able to get any control over your situation, it may be time to reach out for professional guidance.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and other specific therapies have been shown to have highly effective results for people struggling with depression.
Therapists can also help you:
- Identify beliefs and experiences that your depression may be stemming from and how to change these things.
- See things differently.
- Create a plan moving forward that will help you overcome depression.
- Learn and use new skills to address depressive mental patterns.
That about sums it up for Overcoming Depression: 5 Most Powerful Strategies To Beat Depression In 2021.
Remember: Depression is not forever and you can overcome it!
Question: Which habit will you work on first? Challenging your scripts or taking care of your needs. Let us know in the comments!