How Negative Thoughts Impact Depression and Anxiety

November 2, 2021

 

Negative Thoughts Are Not Only in The Mind

The impact of negative thoughts can have damaging effects. Stress, illness, sleeplessness, depression, and anxiety can be caused by unhelpful or negative feelings. Is there a way to deal with negative thoughts? After all, negative thoughts impact how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. Finding a way to calm unhelpful thoughts is possible by practicing healthier thought patterns. Let’s learn how we can stop negative thoughts and, in turn, improve our mental health.

 

The Challenge of 2020 and 2021

2021 is already fast on its way to becoming a memory. Most of us hoped that, by now, we would be returning to some semblance of normal. Unfortunately, the sad truth is we still find ourselves dealing with a worldwide pandemic. It is still bringing fear, isolation, and for many, some extremely sad circumstances.

Heartbreak and feelings of despair are becoming frequent occurrences. For instance, the pandemic caused many of us have lost someone, even if we were not especially close to them. Others have loved ones in an ICU that they are not allowed to visit due to hospital safety restrictions. As I write this, I have just returned from a funeral, my fourth one in as many weeks.

The last couple of years have been challenging for everyone. However, when we consider the daily struggles of a person dealing with depression, anxiety or a similar disorder, the uphill climb of daily life becomes a steep and treacherous mountain which we may or may not have the strength to climb.

Pandemic of Mental Illness

We can easily find information about the stress and anxiety that has accompanied the situation currently gripping our world. For instance, the loss of loved ones, loss of income, and constant influx of negative information can be too much. Several mental health experts have coined the phrase “pandemic of mental illness” to describe the overwhelming sense of dread that is sweeping across the world. The information age, with all its positive attributes, seems to have become an open door for negative thoughts.

In our isolation, we use TV, radio, and the internet to slake our thirst for social interaction. By the end of the day, we unconsciously fed our souls with more and more negativity. Additionally, a person already struggling with a mental health issue, such as bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety, the effect can seem insurmountable.

How To Own Your Thoughts 

One defense we can use against this seemingly invincible enemy is to realize that your mind is your own. You are the boss of what goes on between your ears and no one else. In fact, many people find this concept totally foreign and quite impossible. A person with a mental health diagnosis of depression or anxiety often feels helpless against the constant roar in their ears. As a result, the paralyzing fear of the next day or the non-stop racing of thoughts seems to transport the victim to mental scenarios and imagery of shame. Difficult as it may seem, with practice (and, if your Dr. prescribes it, with the help of medication), it is possible to take ownership of your thoughts.

While researching for this blog I found it interesting three different sources compared owning your thoughts to tuning a radio. A mind can feel like an AM radio full of static with multiple stations playing at once. When this happens, the first thing to remember is that this is your mind, you are the boss. You decide on what “station” you’re going to listen. Thus, fine tuning your thoughts to that station. If your mind seems to be roaring out of control, you can decide to think pleasant, positive thoughts. You can deliberately tune out everything else. Above all, depression and anxiety can build from these racing thoughts. They should be stopped.

If you know an encouraging song that makes you feel brave and energetic, either listen to it on your favorite electronic device or, if that isn’t possible, play the song in your mind. The idea is to redirect your thoughts intentionally and decide “This is what I’m going to think about now.” When appropriate, an inspiring movie or book can help take you to a much happier place or, if you’re so inclined, prayer and meditation can help.

The Law of Attraction Can Encourage Depression

While focusing on unhealthy thinking, symptoms of depression can develop and can make depression worse. A very interesting article by Candace Plattor on the March 9, 2017, publication of Behavioral Health, Health and Wellness, Living in Recovery illustrates how “whatever we think about, we get more of that to think about.” This, writes Plattor, is The Law of Attraction and it is very proven to be true. Spending your day thinking about your troubles will almost certainly get you thinking about your troubles more and more.

Consider the scenario of working in an office (like we used to do pre-pandemic), for example. You walk into the break room to refill your coffee cup and see a few co-workers talking and laughing. When approaching the group, everyone returns to their workstations leaving you alone in the break room. It’s very likely that they all just needed to get back to work and didn’t intend to snub you. Nevertheless, you feel snubbed. For the rest of the workday, depressing thoughts that no one likes you are plaguing your mind. Therefore, the more you think about it the more you feed the negative feelings and the more you feed them the stronger they grow.

Suddenly, you remember an incident at the last office party or team meeting that validates the negativity growing in your mind. The thoughts that you are unlikable continue to torment you until you decide you’re just not going to be friends with anyone. You may even be considering quitting your job. Who wants to work with a bunch of snobs anyway?

In the same way, positive thoughts feed positive thoughts. If you can make a conscious decision to think good thoughts about your co-workers, even though you weren’t able to join in their conversation this time, those positive thoughts will bring about more positive thoughts. Remember the Proverb, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Healthy thinking can prevent depression and stop negative thoughts.

Coping with Depressing Thoughts

Plattor goes on to say that having a grateful attitude is an excellent way to redirect the dial your thoughts setting them onto the right “frequency.” In the example above, rather than focusing on the way some co-workers didn’t go out of their way to speak to you, be thankful that you have a job, a roof over your head, coffee in the breakroom and so on. As you go along, you will remember more and more blessings in your life, blessings that many less fortunate people would most certainly envy you for.

It’s also a good idea to journal positive and thankful thoughts. Writing them down helps bring them into a more tangible reality that you can use to aid your focus as you read them later. You might even want to journal some positive, thankful thoughts first thing in the morning to set your day on the right path.

Notice and Stop the Negative Thoughts

One of the best therapists I knew once told me that he regularly trained his clients to look fearlessly at whatever thoughts were tormenting them. Then, when it was time, to physically reach out and “grasp” the thought in their hand, turn to the side and set it on an imaginary shelf. The idea was to recognize that “this feeling, this thought, this depressing or distressing thing in my life is very real but I’m not going to deal with it right now. For now, it goes on the shelf. I’m not in any immediate danger and, at least for the moment my physical needs are met and I’m fine.”

Whatever mental health issues you may be facing, it’s not the end of you. It’s just a “thing”. A thing to be dealt with at the right time and with a clear head. It does not have the power to control you. Take ownership and decide for yourself what’s going on in your head. Meanwhile, if you need additional support on how to cope with depression or negative thoughts, ChatOwl is available 24/7.

ChatOwl is a psychologist-designed platform to help cope with specific emotions by providing access to mental health assistance through customized therapy plans for every individual – including sessions and exercises. Further, ChatOwl is a mental health companion that offers timely advice and coping mechanisms rooted in scientifically proven therapy methods for depression and anxiety.

As you work to take control of your thoughts, remember that you have assistance always available to lift your spirits and give support. 

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