Medication can help depression. But a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—which focuses on changing behavior, rather than talking about your childhood, for instance—can be an effective adjuvant to or even substitute for drugs. “It’s much more focused on what you seem to be doing and thinking that is keeping you depressed,” Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. Some of its methods can be practiced at home, on yourself, with no special training. So here are some tips for breaking the cycle of negativity.
One way to sabotage yourself is to take a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity. “People who are unemployed do this a lot,” says Rego. “They’ve lost their job because of the economy and they personalize it.”
It’s also unhealthy to catastrophize—focus on the worst imagined outcome, even if it’s irrational. For example, don’t let concerns about money escalate into the conviction you’ll soon be homeless.
Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get another job,” try to say to yourself: “I will get another job. It just may take some time.”
Retire your crystal ball
Very few (if any) of us are blessed with the ability to predict the future. But depressed people will often convince themselves they know what will happen a day, a month, or a year down the line. And it’s usually bad, if not downright catastrophic.
Fortunately, our dire predictions rarely come true.
Try to stay in the present. It’s much more manageable and you’re less likely to blow things out of proportion.
Don’t dwell on the past
It’s pretty pointless to tell yourself you should have done this or shouldn’t have done that. You can’t change the past, but you can live in the present.
Just accept that you made the best decisions you could have made with the information or resources you had at the time. Hindsight is always 20/20, so best to try to just let it go and don’t beat yourself up for perceived missteps.
And do a rumination check; ruminating about the past can generate anxiety, just as worry about the future.
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