Given the state of the economy and the world today it’s no surprise that many people are suffering from depression. If the sad mood is the result of a temporary situation or if the mood itself is temporary, this is a perfectly normal response to disappointment or loss. A depressive episode becomes a health problem when it is prolonged, recurs frequently or is so severe that it affects your ability to function normally. If your depression is holding you back you can learn how to take action to get moving again. There are resources to help you; this article will discuss some of them.
As outlined in my article, Depression – Did you learn to be depressed?, depression is often a learned response to negative events. I also stated that habitual negative thinking can cause and prolong the depressed mood, and that harmful pattern of thinking can be replaced with helpful thoughts and behaviors. It took repeated episodes of negativity to engrain the depressive response pattern in your brain; likewise it will take effort and repetition to learn a new way to respond to sadness and disappointments. Your effort will be worth it because it will result in shorter and less frequent episodes of depression over time. These results can be achieved without the help of a professional therapist, but it will take more commitment and will power on your part without the additional help. Even if you choose to enter therapy, your therapist can not solve your problems; you must do the majority of the work. The therapist is there only to guide, encourage you and provide support. If you do not make a conscious effort to solve your own problems, nothing will change.
The type of therapy most often used for depression is called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The term suggests that both cognitive (thought) processes and behavior are involved in depression. Thoughts generally occur before behavior, so the first thing you must focus on is what you are thinking. Many depressed people have unconscious automatic thoughts that that mire them in negativity and prolong their depressed mood. The first step in defeating depression is to become aware of these negative thoughts when they occur. Once you can recognize these automatic thoughts, you must learn how to stop them. Then you can begin to analyze, dispute and replace them with more accurate and more positive thoughts.
Additionally, there are behaviors that accompany and prolong your depressive episodes. These behaviors include moping, indecision, isolation and inactivity. In combination with changes in your thinking pattern, learning how to change these behaviors will set you on the road to defeating depression.
Yes, it’s much easier to write those steps than to do them, but it’s not impossible. I follow these steps often; with practice they can become habitual just as the automatic negative thoughts were. All you really need is the desire to change the way you think, techniques that can help you do it and the commitment to follow through and practice the techniques. To assist you in making this change in your life see my other articles that explain in more detail how to accomplish this feat.
Moore, Richard G., and Garland, Anne. Cognitive Therapy for Chronic and Persistent Depression. Hoboken: Wiley, 2003.