Depression can be caused by a wide variety of past experiences, life events and medical problems, but negative thinking patterns often play a part in the development and worsening of mental health problems. Learning to challenge these negative thinking patterns is one of the key skills taught by CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) practitioners. If you are experiencing episodes of depression, challenging your thoughts can help to free you from the condition.
Negative thoughts, constant worrying and negative self-talk can all cause or worsen the symptoms of depression. Thoughts, ideas and opinions that you hold about yourself, other people and the world around you can have a major impact on your life, determining how you behave and react in your daily life. Thoughts affect the way you feel, your emotions and your actions, so it's important to examine your thinking patterns.
Many negative thoughts are learned in childhood and will have become deeply ingrained by the time you reach adulthood, making it difficult to identify destructive thinking habits. The best way to get in touch with your thinking patterns is to keep a daily journal of your thoughts, emotions and experiences. Look for recurring patterns that have an impact on your life. If you continually avoid or feel anxious in specific situations, look at the thoughts you are having about these particular situations.
Sometimes, it can help to pinpoint the source of negative thoughts. For example, if you avoid social events because you are afraid of saying the wrong thing, there may be an event in your past that triggers that fearful thought. Knowing the source of negative thought patterns isn't always necessary, but it can sometimes help to clarify deeper fears, such as the fear of rejection or abandonment.
Taking a good look at the validity of your thoughts can be a powerful experience that helps you to break free from your depression. Try to detach from the thoughts and look at them from a different perspective. Ask what you would say to a friend who was having the same thoughts. You can also ask a trusted friend, counsellor or psychotherapist to help you gain a more balanced view.
Identifying and challenging negative thought patterns is only the first part of changing your thinking habits. Once you have discovered a more balanced way of thinking, you need to practise your new thoughts until they become second nature. Thinking patterns can be hard to break, as they often become automatic, so you will need to train your brain to look at life from a different perspective.
Negative thoughts, beliefs and self-talk can be extremely destructive and lead to a variety of mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and panic disorder. Challenging negative thinking patterns can make all the difference for many people. Identifying negative thoughts, looking at their source, challenging old thought patterns and developing new ways of thinking can help to beat depression.