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Dealing with depression and anxiety requires a lifelong commitment to modifying the thought and behavioral patterns that contribute to it.
It’s not an easy path, and will require a level of commitment to new ways of thinking and living, particularly if you decide to go the therapy route as opposed to the medication route. Despite that fact that antidepressants have provided relief for many people, we don’t know entirely how they work, they don’t always work, and they don’t provide long lasting effects. The placebo effect has recently been well documented. This suggests in many cases when antidepressants do work they only work because we think they will. Yet we suffer side effects and possible brain changes.
Commitment to being healthy and happy requires that every day, you refocus on your intention to be healthy and free from the patterns that contribute to depression. Many people forget to do this, and therefore fall back into old habitual patterns and have a relapse.
Regardless of whether or not you elect to take antidepressants, dealing with depression and anxiety really requires a radical shift in the way you perceive the world. To a large extent thinking patterns have contributed to your depression (and vice versa) and those thinking patterns are responsible for the life choices that you make (behavior).
What if the things you thought were important, really aren’t, and what your mind paid attention to, wasn’t?
People who are depressed or have anxiety often spend time thinking
things that are not true about the present or have happened in the past.
Teaching yourself how to recognize what you are thinking and question whether
it’s even true is important.
For example, clients who are afraid of failure are often depressed and anxious. Their thoughts become such that the dominant issue in their lives, the most important one, is whether or not they fail. Sometimes this can become so paralyzing, that they are unable to set or meet goals, have rewarding relationships or enjoy things in life that are available to them. This is all because their mind has decided that it’s true that the most valuable and important thing is that they don’t put themselves in a position where they fail, or that if they true new things they will fail.
Similarly clients who have past experiences they regret or feel guilt over, often become unable to move on past those experiences and enjoy life in the present. Their mind decides that they need to pay attention to the mistakes they made, over what’s presently happening. This almost always leads to depression or anxiety.
People who have anxiety are often paralyzed by fear of the future. They focus on everything that could potentially go wrong, and make emotionally driven choices based on their fear.
Dealing with a focus on the past or future consists of learning mindfulness skills and living in the present moment. Click here to learn more about that.
Thinking errors or mistakes in understanding what’s real is at the root of most anxiety and depression
Below are some thinking errors that are characteristic of people with anxiety:
Personalizing is a thinking error in which you believe events are about you and don’t consider the other factors involved.
Filtering is a thinking error where you focusing on the negative parts of a situation and ignoring all the positives
Black and white thinking
This is a thinking error where you see everything as one way or another, without and consideration to alternative shades. For example everything is either good or bad, or you are either good or bad.
This is the thinking error of assuming you know what other people are thinking. Usually if you are depressed or anxious these are not good assumptions.
This is a thinking error where you confusing what you feel with fact
A thinking error where you believe one characteristic becomes who you are or someone else is. For example, believing that because you have an experience with anger, that you are an angry person.
A thinking error where you imagine the worst will happen and acting as if it will.
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This page is about how self-compassion and mindfulness and skills such as forgiveness, kindness and compassion can help us with depression and anxiety.