Depression is one of the most frightening forms of mental illness to encounter, both as a person experiencing it, and as a person who is watching someone else experience it. When you are suffering from depression, you see no hope, even if people are available to help you. And when you see someone suffering from depression, you may try to help, but they are unwilling to accept help.
To learn how to train your brain to avoid depression, you must throw out the idea that you can only help those who can help themselves. Sometimes, we aren’t able to help ourselves and we need a helping hand to lift us up. Asking for help can be difficult. Depression can kill when it becomes bad enough for a person to consider suicide, so please take symptoms of depression in yourself and others very seriously.
If you or someone you know needs help now, text ‘GO’ or ‘HELP’ to 741741 for free, confidential help immediately. The text Crisis Helpline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The crisis line is prepared to help with issues of abuse, depression, anxiety, grief, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts and other problems that you may consider a crisis in your own personal life.
Beginning to train your brain to avoid depression
When you think about feelings of sadness, you are most likely thinking about something that has happened in the past and you just can’t seem to get past it. To move forward, we have to shift our focus to the future, even if the past has got a hold on us. What has already happened cannot be changed. We can relive it or think about how we wish it could have been different, but right now we are continuing to relive the negative events of the past.
How do we move past the past? We have to process what happened and move to take action right now in the present moment, which will lead us to a better future. For example, if we are dealing with a divorce, there are many negative aspects to focus on and none of it will change the fact that we are divorcing. Instead of focusing on that negative, make a list of positive traits that your perfect partner should have. That’s one positive step in the right direction. Keep the momentum going.
Picture the movie of your depression starring: You
Tell the story of your depression. What events led up to this current mindset of sadness? If your life story were only 15 minutes long, how much time would this current depressed episode last? There was your childhood, teenage years, adulthood and the major epic moments that would be important chapters in your story. And then this bad thing happened. Now write the next scene where you overcome seemingly insurmountable hardship to go forward victoriously toward your own happy ending.
Avoid trying to be the best
Researchers at The British Psychological Society say that competition and the drive to be the best may lead to depressed thoughts when or if we are unsuccessful in fulfilling our own high expectations for ourselves. The research shows that ‘When people feel insecure in their social environments, it can focus them on a hierarchical view of themselves and others, with a fear of rejection if they feel they have become too inferior or subordinate. This may increase vulnerability to depression, anxiety and stress.’ Feeling like you’re less than someone else? Quit making comparisons. You are a unique and beautiful snowflake and no one has had exactly the same experiences that you have had.
Train your brain not to repress thoughts and feelings
Negative thoughts and emotions are normal, but some people think that if they avoid all negative thoughts then they will avoid depression. Research shows that the opposite may actually be true. Researchers in the Journal of Personality found that an ‘inclination toward thought suppression is associated with obsessive thinking and emotional reactivity.’ To avoid depressed thoughts, try to learn to observe negative emotions and thoughts as they happen, while saying to yourself, ‘that negative thought is one opinion, but it is not about me.’