5 techniques to help change negative thoughts of depression

Maggie Morrow, counselling, CBT therapy, life coach and psychotherapist London. MSc Integrative Psychotherapy, BSc Psychology, Adv Dip, UKCP.
Author: Maggie Morrow, Award Winning Psychotherapist, Counsellor & Life Coach
Last updated: 17th February 2023

Positive and negative thinking crossword puzzle

According to the mental health charity MIND, one in six people per week report experiencing a mental health problem such as anxiety or depression in England. If you suffer from depression, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you break negative thought patterns and aid recovery.

Research has found that people with depression may inadvertently suppress positive emotions, instead focusing on thoughts such as ‘I don’t deserve to be happy’ or ‘This good feeling won’t last’. This is called ‘dampening’, a negative defence mechanism to protect from potential disappointment.

CBT has been shown to help with treating depression, allowing you and your therapist to work together to break the thinking error cycle and allow happy positive thoughts to remain. With the help of regular CBT sessions and additional self-practice, you can identify negative patterns and work towards leaving them behind. Here are 5 CBT techniques to help you.

1 – Recognise the problem and brainstorm solutions

Both journalling and talking with your therapist can help you to discover the root of your depression. When you’ve hit on something, write down in simple sentences exactly what is bothering you, then think of ways to improve things. One of the tell-tale signs of depression is the feeling that things will never get better. Making a written, or typed, list of things you can do to address the situation – taking steps to join a local club to beat loneliness, for instance – can help ease feelings of depression.

2 – Write down self-statements to counteract each negative thought

Once you’ve identified the root problem of your depression, think of all the negative thoughts you use to dampen any positive thoughts, then write a self-statement to counteract each one – for example ‘It’s OK to have a good day’ to replace ‘I am so depressed right now’. Repeat them back to yourself and commit them to memory, so that you can use them whenever necessary. In time, you will create new associations to replace your negative thought patterns with positive ones.

3 – Look for opportunities to turn negatives into positive thoughts

If your immediate reaction to something is always a negative one, you can retrain your brain to think positively. As an example, rather than thinking ‘I hate the colour of this room’ upon entering, find 5 things in the room that you feel positive about. It’s a good idea to set your alarm three times a day to reframe your thoughts into something positive. If possible, buddy up with someone who is working on the same technique, then celebrate your successes together.

4 – Finish each day with a gratitude journal entry

Starting a gratitude journal is a great habit to get into. Finish each day by writing an entry that focuses on the day’s best bits. By simply focusing on the positives and writing down what you are most grateful for, it can help you form new associations in your mind and create new pathways. Your day may go from ‘Another boring day at the office’ when you wake up to ‘What a beautiful sunny day it was’ when you come to writing your journal entry at bedtime.

5 – Put your disappointments into perspective

Everyone has ups and downs and disappointing situations are a part of normal life. It’s your reaction to each disappointment that can determine how quickly you can move forward. For instance, after a relationship breakup you may be blaming yourself thinking ‘no-one will ever find me attractive again’. A healthier approach would be to allow yourself to feel disappointed about the things you cannot change, but write down your lessons learnt and what you can do differently next time.

At KlearMinds we are aware that people with depression often don’t respond well to self-study, which is why we recommend a course of CBT with one of our trained therapists. That way, your therapist can teach you helpful CBT strategies to counteract negative thinking patterns associated with depression, then help you stay on track with practising the techniques at home. For more information or to book an appointment, please contact us.

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Maggie Morrow, counselling, CBT therapy, life coach and psychotherapist London. MSc Integrative Psychotherapy, BSc Psychology, Adv Dip, UKCP.

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