Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a highly effective treatment for depression. Here's a simple technique you can easily do at home:
changing unhelpful thinking patterns:
Emotions are always the result of thoughts. Sometimes it can be difficult to identify the thoughts which led to certain emotions, but if you want to feel better, you have to think better. If you think about something unpleasant, you will sooner or later feel bad. People suffering from depression often have focused on negative or limiting thoughts over a longer period of time. You can change the way you feel by identifying what you are repetitively focused upon.
Identify what you are focused upon
To be focused upon something means spending a lot of time and mental energy on a certain topic, a person, a circumstance or something that you desire, but cannot have. A negative focus is a focus that leads to a negative emotion. You can, for example, focus on the negative aspects of a relationship by giving your attention to all the aspects of this relationship which you dislike. By doing this, you will build up a strong negative focus which will sooner or later lead to an unhealthy way of thinking about this relationship. You will have developed an automatic negative thinking pattern, which you can identify by caring about how you feel: If you feel bad, you are always mentally focused in a way that does not serve you. So, when you feel bad, ask yourself: What am I thinking about right now? What was I thinking about the last hour? What am I mostly thinking about at this time of my life? Is there a topic that my thoughts are circling around most of the time? To identify unhealthy thinking patterns, it can help to journal your thoughts, because you can then catch negative patterns easier.
Next step: Reexamine that thought
Once you have identified a negative thought that you are thinking over and over again, try to devise a new way of thinking about whatever is bothering you. Is there an alternative way to see the situation? Sometimes it can help to imagine that you were a different person in this situation. How would that person react? What would the person think about this situation? Consider other points of view about your situation, because this will break the negative feedback loop between your thoughts, your emotions and your behaviour.
Question your thoughts
Our thoughts are not always an accurate reflection of reality. Dysfunctional thought patterns are often interpretations, for example when you tend to quickly draw conclusions which are not necessarily true. The key to identifying negative thoughts is to pay attention to how you feel and to then question the thoughts you are thinking. This can be challenging, especially when you are running on autopilot. You can reframe your thoughts by first accepting that you cannot always control what happens to you, but that you can control how you react to it. It's in your own power to see a situation through a certain frame.
Be mindful of your thoughts
Your thoughts are extremely powerful. Recognise when you start replaying negative thoughts, because your thoughts create the way you feel. If you want to be happy, you have to think happy thoughts - it's as simple as that. Always try to redirect your thoughts to the present moment. If you focus upon the present moment, you cannot be sad. Sadness is fed by negative memories or worst case scenarios. Sadness is often an accumulation of too much cognitive focus on the past, and not enough focus on the present moment. You cannot change the past, but you can always change the way you think about yourself and about the situation you are dealing with right now.
I'm Natalie Marby, an English speaking therapist in Hamburg, Germany. I am half German and half British and I offer psychotherapy in English, especially for expats living in Hamburg. I offer all my sessions face-to-face as well as online. To contact me, you can send me an email or call me: +49040 46090233. (Please don't forget to send me your phone number and the times I can reach you). I look forward to hearing from you!