Did you know that on most days, the average person has between 25,000 and 50,000 thoughts? That’s an impressive amount of thoughts.
But when happens when the majority of these thoughts are negative? Imagine the impact on your psyche and your life if you had thousands and thousands of negative thoughts each day?
This amount of negative thinking is a hallmark of depression. Negative or pessimistic thinking is depression speaking for you. It is the voice of depression. What many people don’t realize is that depression is manifested in negative thinking before it ever creates a negative thought itself.
This is why it is imperative for those suffering from depression to become acutely aware of their thought patterns. If not checked, negative thinking becomes a habit, one that has the potential to completely shape your life.
Change How You Think
One of the most powerful ways people can lift themselves out of the darkness of depression is to change their thinking patterns. This is why cognitive therapy is such a profound change agent. The approach is based on the fact that thought-processing errors contribute to a depressed mood.
By changing how you think, you automatically change how you feel. Once you become aware that changing your thinking is important, you are presented with an active choice you can take to benefit your mental health.
You will no doubt find that changing your thought patterns can feel about as easy as changing a tire in the rain with nothing more than a hardboiled egg and a paper clip. But it can be done.
Here are some tips on how you can begin to change your negative thoughts:
Keep Track of Your Thoughts
Many people are in denial about their thought patterns. They don’t want to believe they are overly negative or pessimistic. Catching yourself and recording as many negative thoughts as you can will help you to see your own mental patterns.
What will these thoughts look like? You could write things like, “I hate my feet.” “My boss is an idiot.” “I hate spring.” “I hate getting up this early.” “I don’t know what I’m doing.”
Be particularly mindful of making sweeping generalizations from one specific event so that your entire future looks doomed. For example, a generalized thought such as, “My girlfriend broke up with me so I’m doomed to spend the rest of my life alone.” This kind of extreme, black and white thinking is a sure sign of depression.
Once you get an idea for the frequency of your negative thoughts, try and pinpoint the triggers for them. Your journal will also come in handy here, because it will point out certain types of events that set off a chain of negative thoughts. Triggers can include being rejected or ignored, or having an unkind remark said about or to you.
You have so far learned that the human thinking process is habitual. But the good news is, you can create good thinking habits.
To do this you’ve got to start converting all of those negative thoughts into positive ones. It will be hard at first, and you will most likely feel as if you’re lying to yourself and pretending to be a glass-half-full Pollyanna.
But, as they say, “You’ve got to fake it until you make it.” Though thinking positively may feel foreign to you and like a waste of your time, you are retraining your brain to think (and feel) good.
Every time you have a negative thought, stop, recognize it as negative, and immediately flip the switch and create the positive opposite thought in its place. This could look like:
Negative thought: “I’ll never get this report done on time.”
Positive Switch: “I’m making great progress and being careful to always check my work.”
To get the hang of how to do this, go through your negativity journal and create a separate column in which you will write the positive opposites of your many negative thoughts.
If you feel too dark and down to complete these exercises, please consider reaching out to a trained therapist who can prescribe medication, should you require it, and help you work through your negativity.
If you or a loved one are suffering from depression and are interested in exploring treatment options, please contact me. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.
It’s a few days after you’ve given birth, the celebratory phone calls are still coming in all you feel is sadness all the way down to your gut. Although the emotions are unexpected and less than welcome, postpartum depression can be common among new mothers. Up to one in seven women experience PPD after their first child even though it might be the first episode of depression they’ve experienced in their life.
It’s important to remember how much the body changes during pregnancy and immediately after. Postpartum, a hormone imbalance can occur due to losing built up levels of progesterone right after birth, leaving high levels of estrogen and the mental and physical symptoms that accompany the imbalance. Previous experiences or diagnosis’ of depression can also be a risk factor that can lead to new episodes surfacing.
Aside from the physical risk factors of PPD forming, one of the biggest factors is that mothers are overwhelmed by the new challenges of motherhood and having to be physically responsible for a new life. PPD challenges can increase with breastfeeding difficulties and by having a demanding baby. Challenges like these can make you feel as if you’re not connecting with your child and exacerbate symptoms.
For many, the emotions vary from anxiety to depression, anger and resentment towards the child and family. You might fear the idea of not being a good enough mother for your child or might feel that your newborn is taking your time away from other people that you should be spending time with.
Symptoms can start a few days after birth, and last days, weeks, or longer depending on how long it goes untreated. As with other things like PPD, symptoms vary and can be highly unique to you. PPD is treatable with individual counseling, therapy, and medication, like other forms of depression. Medication usually involves anti-depressants which can take a few weeks to become effective in regulating mood.
Many women find strength in connecting with other mothers who also share their experiences. Finding others who have also experienced PPD can help shrink feelings of isolation and bring a degree of normalcy back to your life.
If you or your partner is struggling with PPD, please contact me today as therapy can be immensely helpful. Remember that experiences of PPD can be very unique and it’s important to address how you’re feeling with a professional, even if you think they might not understand.
Dr. Neha Patel & Dr. Seibert are adjunct professors at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Washington DC. They are teaching doctoral students in the PsyD program. Dr. Patel is currently teaching Professional Ethics and Issues. Dr. Seibert is currently teaching Introduction to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Last semester she taught an advanced intervention course in Acceptance & Commitment Therapy.
December 10, 2017
MBH Staff enjoying our holiday brunch at Founding Farmers!
November 29, 2017
We are thrilled to announce that Mind Body Health was recognized by Arlington Economic Development as one of the Fast Four companies in Arlington! Read more below:
How often are you telling yourself you should be doing something or things should be a certain way otherwise it’s terrible? When you use the words should, you limit your psychological flexibility. Instead, you become psychologically rigid. When it comes to making changes in your life, it’s important to have psychological flexibility.
If you’re telling yourself things should be a certain way, ask yourself who came up with that rule? Where did that “should” statement come from? And most importantly as yourself if thinking this way is serving you well… in the long run. If not, change the rule…change the language you’re using with yourself so that it starts helping you move in the direction you want to be heading in in life.
Changing the rule and the language won’t be easy. We begin to form certain thought patterns and over time, they gain power. They become automatic. Start with mindfulness and just begin to become aware of all the rules your mind creates throughout your day. Start writing them down. Start noticing how those rules make you feel. How do they affect your mood? Your behaviors?
You may not be able to stop the old thought patterns from showing up, but with practice you’ll be able to catch it quicker, turn it around, and change it whatever new language you have found to be more helpful.
Let’s take an example:
“I should exercise vigorously for an hour a day, 5 times a week.”
How do you feel when this thought comes up?
“Ugggghh! Working out that much sounds exhausting. How will I even fit that in? There are not enough hours in the day. I’m making excuses. I’m lazy.”
How do you behave in response to this thought?
Avoidance, putting it off, “I will start tomorrow. I’m too tired right now.”
Seems like this little dance your mind does isn’t serving you well in terms of your health-related goals of being active. So what can you replace this exercise rule with?
“Health is important to me and part of health is being active in enjoyable ways. What sounds like a fun way to move today or a relaxing way to move my body?”
Try walking, stretching, yoga, dancing around your living space. You’re doing something to move towards your health values instead of avoiding movement all together.
Give it a shot!
When talking about depression, a lot of people forget that depression is an illness that requires proper attention and treatment. If you’re depressed, it can be incredibly frustrating to hear things like “Just get over it”, “You’re being really dramatic”, “You have to be strong”, “Learn to deal with it”, “Happiness is a choice”. You might start to think of things like ‘Why can’t I just get over it’? We can stop ourselves from doing destructive things like putting our hand in a fire, but when it comes to depression, it’s a bit difficult to just ‘stop’. There are a number of reasons why ‘get over it’ statements like this don’t help. Here are some of the best reasons why.
- It’s an illness– Depression is an illness, an illness that you have little control over, just like any other illness. Nobody tells people with broken bones to get over their pain. So why should depressed people be forced to ‘get over’ theirs? Always remember that your pain is valid, and as long as you’re getting help by speaking to a mental health professional, you’re on the path to healing.
- The brain is in control– Studies have shown that people experiencing depression have symptoms controlled by an unconscious emotional process that is usually beyond their control. Remember that depression is an incredibly complex disease caused by a combination of biological, psychological and sociological factors.
- The symptoms can be debilitating– Depressed people exhibit both physical and emotional symptoms. These symptoms include things like nausea, headaches, restlessness, fatigue and insomnia.
- You can’t wish it away– Nobody likes being depressed. Just because you want to feel better doesn’t mean you can wave a wand and get rid of it. You can desire to feel better, but until you work with a therapist, there is no magical route to getting better.
- You can’t always pretend– People always act like depressed people should plaster a huge smile on their face and pretend like everything is perfect. You can’t just shove your emotions down and pretend like they don’t exist. The mind keeps replaying them. This is its way of reminding you that you have an ongoing issue that needs to be handled by a professional.
- Depression isn’t ‘one size fits all’– People experience depression in different ways and exhibit different symptoms. Just because they can go about their daily activities efficiently doesn’t mean they’re not ill. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Depression changes everything and there’s no universal treatment. A therapist can help you find a treatment perfectly suited to you.
Depression is real and painful. Just because you can’t see or touch it doesn’t make it any less real. If you suffer from depression or know someone who does, working with a therapist is a good start to overcoming your depression. I am available to help. Contact me to book a therapy session.
If I asked whether you were the victim of childhood emotional neglect (CEN), would you know how to answer? Probably not. CEN is often misunderstood and therefor, misdiagnosed.
Childhood emotional neglect means an individual was not provided the emotional support from parents and other adults that is required to grow up to be a confident person with a healthy self-esteem. Though a parent may never physically harm the child and provide them with food, healthcare, clothing and shelter, they may still emotionally neglect their child causing psychological harm.
Symptoms of CEN
In her book “Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect”, Dr. Jonice Webb outlined some of the most commonsymptoms of CEN:
- Feeling numb or cut off from your own feelings
- Feeling like something has always been missing
- Feeling hollow
- Having a low self-esteem
- Feeling the need to be perfect
- Being overly-sensitive
- Lack of self-care while taking care of everyone else
That last symptom is a biggie. Have you found that for most of your life, your needs always came second (if not third or fourth?). If yes, it’s time to recognize that your feelings and needs matter.
With this in mind, here are some ways you can begin to treat yourself better:
Take Baby Steps
You’ve spent years believing your needs didn’t matter, don’t expect that putting yourself first will come easy to you. It won’t. It will feel awkward and downright wrong to put yourself first. The important thing is that you take baby steps each day to show yourself you matter.
Ask Yourself What You Need
If you’ve experienced CEN, you’re most likely unaware you even haveneeds, so you probably won’t be able to identify them right away. Take some time to get to know yourself. Ask yourself what you need and be sure to listen!
You have a big and exciting journey ahead of you, one in which you will be exploring your inner world and getting to finally know yourself. This is going to require strength and energy. Be sure to avoid processed foods and opt instead for whole foods focusing on fruits and veggies.
Also, be sure to get plenty of exercise and enough rest. Adults generally require seven to nine hours of sleep each night, so don’t cheat your body. And avoid using the TV, computer, or your smartphone before bed.
Learn to Say No
Guess what? If you want to put yourself first more often, you’re going to sometimes have to say “no” to other people. Don’t feel guilty about doing this. Having boundaries is healthy. It’s not only your right to say no to others sometimes, it’s your personal responsibility.
As wonderful as your self-discovery journey will be, it will be fraught with bumps in the road. It’s important that you have someone who will support your efforts without judgements or criticism.
Consider seeking guidance from a professional therapist who can help you navigate your complex emotions and offer tools to manage stress in the future. A therapist will help you prioritize your needs moving forward and recognize your emotions and needs matter.
If you’d like to explore treatment options, please be in touch with me. I’d love to discuss how I may be able to help you on your journey.