My mental health journey has been a roller coaster but I’ve learned a lot from it. On this blog, I’m committing to sharing the lessons I’ve learned and the practices that help me manage my depression and anxiety.
I know this is a controversial blog post to write and I already know I’m going to get emails about.
“I’m depressed, I can’t think positive. You don’t know what depression is!”.
I understand more than anyone that you can’t just think away depression. That’s why I advocate so hard for my readers to talk to their Doctors, hire a therapist, reach out for support, change their diet and start exercising.
However, to pretend that your thoughts don’t have any impact on your depression doesn’t feel right to me. Like it or not the things you think about have a big impact on your emotions. If I sit here and think about things that happened in the past I can make myself get angry. Thinking about another life experience can make me sad or even cry if I think about it for a long time.
To hear the whole story make sure to listen to the podcast episode below.
You’re the Boss
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned about controlling my emotions is that I’m the boss. I used to always act like I was the victim and I didn’t take any ownership of my thoughts or feelings.
If someone was nice to me I felt good if something unpleasant happened I was sad. I was a hostage to my emotions. When I realized that I didn’t have to live this way and I could actually be the BOSS of my thoughts and feelings it was really empowering.
For the first time in my life, I started to take responsibility for the role I was playing in my depression and I committed myself to heal and change my mindset. For the first time, I realized I could actually DECIDE how I wanted to feel.
Practice Holding Positive Emotions
Once I started to realize I could control my thoughts and influence my emotions I still felt crappy most of the time. I realized that I was really good at complaining, pointing out the negative and feeling crappy about my life.
I had spent so many years thinking negative thoughts and feeling emotions it took me a long time to unlearn those patterns. I had to practice intentionally calling up positive emotions into my body.
I had been so depressed for so long that my default state was just kind of numb.
It took a lot of practice to actually be able to FEEL positive emotions like gratitude and happiness in my body. I taught myself to do this by intentionally calling up specific memories or thinking about people I loved very intensely with the intention to call in positive thoughts and feelings.
It was kind of like going to the gym for my mind and over time I got better and better at it. Now I can easily choose to step into gratitude or happiness because I’ve practiced calling those emotions up so many times. Once I feel the feelings in my body I challenge myself to intensify them and make them even stronger.
Tell a Different Narrative
I used to love to complain and tell anyone that would listen about how terrible my life was. I was the first person to point out the negative in any situation.
The truth was I was scared to start telling a positive story because if I let myself believe life could be good I could end up being disappointed. I figured it was better to hide behind my negativity and low expectations than risk believing things could be better and being let down.
The thing is that those negative stories kept me from trying anything that could actually change my situation and make my life better. When you believe life is unfair and everything sucks it’s really hard to gather together any motivation to do anything substantial. I kept myself stuck in my own unhappiness for years before I started to change my inner dialogue and took steps to create a life I actually enjoyed living.
Now I choose to believe that things always work out for my highest good and everything works out for me in the end. Living with this belief and risking being disappointed is a lot more empowering for me than going around thinking about how unfair my entire life has been. I now choose to look for the good.
Choose a Different Thought
I used to have my “greatest hits” list of sad stories and thoughts I would dwell on. I would spend hours thinking about how alone I was and reliving every crappy thing anyone had ever done to me.
Now when these thoughts pop up I choose to redirect them and focus on something else instead.
I try to have positive thoughts qued up that I can switch to when those ugly negative stories pop up. Personally, I like to think about my family, my house and my dog but it can be anything that really makes you feel happy and thankful when you think about it.
It feels a lot better to spend time dwelling on positive things than dwelling on negative thoughts all day long. When I’m really stuck in my negative thinking I will challenge myself to write down 100 things I am thankful for in my journal. This exercise helps me focus on the things I am thankful for instead of letting the negative spiral continue in my mind.
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I am not a licensed therapist or mental health professional. If you are suffering from a major disorder and need treatment please seek the help of a professional. If you need help finding a mental health care provider call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit BetterHelp to talk to a certified therapist online at an affordable price. This post contains affiliate links, you can read my full disclosure policy here.
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