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Changing Your Attitudes to Combat Depression

Depression doesn’t simply occur when tough, difficult or miserable things happen in your life. Plenty of people suffer from serious depression when nothing significant appears to be happening to them, and looking on you may think ‘What have they got to be depressed about?’ On the other hand, perhaps you know someone who overcomes one tragedy after another while remaining positive

So, you may well ask, ‘What’s going on and how do they manage that?’

The answer is what scientists call the attitude effect; in other words, depressed people tend to suffer from depressive attitudes. When something good is happening in their lives, their attitudes may be ‘This isn’t going to last’ or ‘Why can’t I enjoy this?’ Equally, when something negative occurs, they give the event a lot of attention and see it as proof that life is miserable.

In this article, we provide you with suggestions for improving your life skills so, as a result, you can improve your attitudes. I help you to recognise where your attitudes may be holding you back and lead you into encouraging a positive outlook and tackling negativity. Working on these skills begins to put you back on track for a happy and fulfilling life

Making and Maintaining Positive Changes

The truth is that if you want your life to be different, you have to change it. To overcome your depression and get your life back on track, you need to take charge and start to change things, one at a time. You want to rise to new challenges, and planning how you’re going to overcome difficulties helps you to avoid that helpless, hopeless feeling.

Often when you’re depressed, certain aspects of your life are out of balance. In this section, I show you how to rebalance your life more positively. And because you also need encouragement to make changes and stick with them, I detail the advantages of recording your progress so you reinforce your determination to implement positive changes in your life.

If you’re struggling to think how best to respond to a particular situation, ask yourself how a happy, confident person would respond in this situation. Then try taking that action

Balancing your life

One of the most effective antidepressants you can experience doesn’t come in a pill, and you don’t need a doctor to prescribe it for you. Research shows that rebalancing your life with healthy activities is the most effective way to combat depression.

A healthy, balanced life is made up of several aspects:

Food: Ensure that you’re getting a good amount of healthy food and a balance of different foods. Vary your diet instead of just eating the same food every day. And avoid comfort eating – it doesn’t work anyway!

The current guideline daily amounts (in the UK) are 2,000 calories for women, 2,500 calories for men, and 1,800 calories for children aged 5–10

Mental stimulation: Anything that requires mental concentration can help: try a crossword or any puzzle, or challenge yourself to memorise all the planets in the solar system or anything else that interests you. Start small, say ten minutes of concentration, and then work up until you can manage an hour of mental activity every day. Minutes of concentration, and then work up until you can manage an hour of mental activity every day

Physical exercise: This exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym or require fancy equipment but should last for at least one hour each day. The physical activity can be walking, gardening, house work or anything that raises your pulse by at least 30 beats per minute

Sleep: Too much sleep can make you depressed, so aim for eight hours a night. If your depression itself is making you tired, acknowledge this fact as a sign that you don’t have enough activity in your life and as a result the qual- ity of your sleep is poor. A good motto is: ‘When you wake up get up, and when you get up wake up.’ If you follow this simple advice, your sleep will improve and you will eventually restore your sleep– wakefulness balance

Social activity: Everyone needs to feel that they belong somewhere; humans are social animals and without com- pany and someone to talk to can’t be entirely happy. If you feel that the people you know haven’t got time for you, join some social activity and seize the opportunity to make some new friends (I talk more about this aspect in the later section ‘Becoming more friendly’)

Work–life balance: The old saying ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ is good advice. Make sure that you have a good balance of activities in your life. Too much rest and inactivity is even worse than too much work, so get active today. After you’ve earned it, enjoy some restful relaxation (as I describe in the later section ‘Relaxing when you deserve it’)

Keep a diary of pleasurable things you experience every day: look for, write down and remember the small pleasures in life. Don’t fall into the trap of all-or nothing thinking; instead, strive to retain a balanced view of your events and
experiences

Keeping track of the evidence

Depressed people often find that discounting the positive is all too easy. In fact, when you’re depressed you can fail to see any evidence that you’re improving or making progress. Instead, you tend to focus on the negative feelings that you’re

Ask friends or relatives to let you know whether they see any improvement in you. Believe it or not, they often detect progress before you do. Don’t discount their opinions by saying ‘They don’t understand how I feel’ or think that they’re just being fooled because you’re more active. Trust your friends and family to help you

Any progress in the way you’re behaving leads to an improvement in your mood. Just give it time

Accentuating the Positive: Skills to Combat Depression

Managing Depression with Mindfulness is a practical guide to using Mindfulness based CBT

When depressed, you may want to bury your head in the sand and ignore your difficulties in the hope that they will disap- pear – but don’t. This attempt to avoid the problem never works and in fact robs you of valuable experience and the confidence and self-respect that come with that experience. To be happy, you need to experience the full range of opportunities life has to offer. Feelings of success, failure, happiness and misery all add to your life skills and make you a wiser, better person. Overcoming setbacks increases your confidence and your ability to think positively – as long as you’re willing to experience what’s on offer. Many of your life skills and attitudes deteriorate with depression, so rising above this tendency is important, as well as working on rebuilding the parts of your life that have been affected. Practise the positive skills that I describe in this section and get to work on tackling your depression

The activity itself isn’t what’s important, but your attitude while doing it. Make sure that you adopt a positive attitude when practising each skill

On November 11, 2015