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.
Having trouble controlling your negative thoughts? Feeling anxious or depressed and wish you could switch off those thoughts? Sometimes, it’s those thoughts, rather than a particular situation or incident that may be causing anxiety or depression.
What are Cognitive Distortions/Errors?
Thinking errors happen when your thoughts and reality don’t match up, often without you even realising. These are also called ‘cognitive distortions’. They’re faulty patterns of thinking that are self-defeating, meaning it’s possible to get caught in a loop of negative thinking that can end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. And they happen to all of us, for example:
I’ve just failed that test. I’m a useless student and should never study again
Holding this thought might prevent you studying again or doing anything where testing is involved.
If the initial thinking error is dealt with appropriately, the negative cycle (see diagram below) and any resulting depression or anxiety could be avoided.
The diagram below shows how the thinking error cycle could get triggered after someone is invited to a party, when the day of the party arrives:
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help you recognise your distorted thoughts and learn to question them. With practice, you can learn to break the cycle of negativity that could be triggered by negative thinking, and replace it with a healthier, more balanced way of thinking.
Here are 7 common thinking errors that can be helped by CBT.
1 “All or Nothing” Thinking
If you are routinely thinking of things in terms of ‘never’ or ‘always’, you may be tempted to view anything less than perfect as a failure. Try to find the ‘in between’ and learn to accept that there is a wide range of possible outcomes between complete disaster and total perfection.
If you get 85 per cent correct on a test, you think you are a complete failure because you missed 15 per cent.
If you don’t look like a model, you decide you are really ugly.
You’re passed up for a promotion at work, so you think that means the company is planning to make you redundant.
Try to find the “in between”. Remind yourself that there is usually a broad spectrum of outcomes between absolute perfection and complete disaster. Very few situations are truly all-or-nothing.
If you are thinking of something in terms of “never” or “always”, can you think of an exception? If so, that means it’s not truly “never” or “always.”
- Is it really that bad or am I being extreme?
- What other ways are there of looking at this situation?
2 Mental Filter
Are you dwelling on the negative aspects of any given situation, disregarding the positive side? If so, you may need to shift your mindset to acknowledge the good things that exist and learn not to let your negative thinking dominate.
Your presentation was well received by your superiors at work, but you noticed a typo in one of the slides. Instead of enjoying the compliments your boss gave you, you’re only thinking about the typo and expecting to get terminated soon for paying poor attention to detail.
Focus on the concrete facts. In the example above, your boss said you did a great job. That’s a concrete fact. Don’t waste time thinking about the unknowns; the possibility of you getting sacked is an unknown.
Try to rewrite the problem or situation as though you were telling it to a sensitive child. Only include the positive parts of the story. Then read it when you’re feeling overly anxious.
- What are the positives in this situation? Try to focus on them more.
3 Fortune telling
Do you tend to jump to conclusions based on your negative thinking, convinced that a certain situation or opportunity is bound to turn out badly? Rather than letting foregone conclusions limit your thinking, learn that you do have control over the outcome.
“If I apply for this job, they will laugh at me and toss my CV.”
“If I ask this girl out, she will definitely turn me down.”
- How do you know it will turn out this way?
- What facts do you have that prove this negative outcome will inevitably occur?
- How do you benefit from reaching this conclusion?
- What will happen to you if you continue thinking this way?
4 Mind Reading
Similarly, you may be making negative assumptions about a person’s intentions or thoughts. While you engage in a thinking error known as ‘mind reading’, you are assuming people focus on your flaws through their responses, even though that may not be the case at all.
“My friend didn’t answer the phone. She must be trying to avoid me because I annoy her.”
“My son’s teacher must think I’m stupid because I forgot to sign his permission slip.”
- How do you know that?
- Does assuming something make it true?
Even though the conclusions reached from mind reading are often incorrect, it is still helpful to try to let go of your need for approval and accept that you can’t please everyone all the time.
Another type of negative of thinking error is the habit of creating a broad generalisation out of a single isolated incident. But an unpleasant situation that occurred once doesn’t mean that the same thing will happen every time.
Your spouse got mad because you spilled wine on the carpet. You start to think, “He’s mad at me. He always gets mad at me. That probably means he hates me and wants to divorce me. I must be the worst wife in the world.”
You failed your driving test on the first try. You tell yourself you’ll never get your license and you’ll be stuck riding the bus for the rest of your life.
Try to think of times in your life when a particular negative situation did not end up being a sign of things to come or have a long-term outcome.
- Just because this happened once, does that really mean that it’s going to happen every time, or are other outcomes also possible?
6 Disqualifying the positive
Are you constantly dismissing good things, compliments you receive or positive things people say? With this thinking error, you are discounting the good, while looking for a negative message or ulterior motive.
A friend compliments your hair. You decide she is not saying it because it’s true but rather because she wants something from you or is just being polite.
Make a list of your positive attributes and accomplishments.
Try to accept compliments when people give them to you with a simple “thank you”.
- If that doesn’t count, what does count?
- Who decides what counts and what doesn’t?
- Why do you think good things can’t happen to you?
Are you in danger of seeing yourself as the cause of everything negative that happens, even though you are not responsible? You may be feeling guilt or shame as a result of something that is not your fault.
“My daughter didn’t make the soccer team. I’m sure it’s because I didn’t practice enough with her. ”
“My husband hit me because I’m a bad wife.”
- How do you know that? (In the examples above, how do you know your daughter didn’t make the soccer team because of you? Did the coach say so? How do you know you are a bad wife?)
- Challenge yourself to find out just how much responsibility you could truly have for what occurred.
- Try to think of external factors that could have also contributed to the situation.
If you are suffering from thinking errors, you’ll be pleased to hear that recognising cognitive distortions is the first step towards correcting them. Your negative thought patterns can be changed.
At KlearMinds, we have experienced cognitive behavioural therapists that can help you address your individual issues and give you the tools to change your thoughts for the better. Please feel free to contact us.
Beck, J. S. 2010. Cognitive Therapy. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–3.
Burns, David D., MD. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.
15 Common Cognitive Distortions
How Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Can Help With Depression
How CBT Can Help with Anxiety
After more than a year of isolation, regularly hearing messages like “stay home and stay safe”, from 19th July 2021 some big changes are taking place. Many activities that were restricted or closed will now resume and the wearing of face masks will become voluntary. For some, these changes will cause an increase in tension and some may feel more socially anxious than ever. You are not the only one and if you are experiencing higher levels of anxiety, it’s understandable.
For some people, lockdown has increased a sense of security with life seeming more certain and predictable than usual. However as changes start you may feel anxious about what is an uncertain and at times unsafe world. For example questions such as:- Could I still contract the virus? Will my vaccinations protect me? What if colleagues or friends want to hug? Others may appear far more relaxed about the changing rules and not adhere to any distancing. Some may be feeling a pressure to return to work with uncertainty about how safe that environment will be.
On a practical level the last year may have offered advantages that you are reluctant to give up. You may have loved not having to go beyond sweat pants or pyjamas whereas now the work clothes are coming out of the wardrobe again. Not having to navigate a commute and saving money all seem like positive outcomes of lockdown which we may be reticent to give up.
Do I have any Choice?
One of the big changes which perhaps garners less attention is the fact that the pandemic has raised choices. Prior to lockdown, we worked and lived in particular ways which we though were fixed. Lockdown has shown that there is more flexibility. For example, the way we work has been significantly altered, with many not returning to their offices and working in a blended way. It’s possible that some of the things we regarded as fixed, may actually have more flexibility post Covid. Recognising you have choices and exploring these choices can be helpful as we make post 19th July adjustments.
Other techniques which can help us navigate these changes include, taking time, recognising you’re not alone and taking things a step at a time. Lots of people will be feeling anxious about the changes and many will fear returning to their workplace and old routines. Talk about this transition, recognise that you’re not alone and if you need additional help with anxiety, seek it. Make time to relax too – we need breaks and many things we could take for granted before Covid may have changed. That’s taxing, so taking breaks is vital.
We all do it. Whenever you’re out for dinner or drinks with friends, chatting away and catching up on old times, where’s your phone? That’s right – it’s either in your hand already or sitting face up on the table, waiting to spark into life when that next social media notification comes in.
While social media can be a great thing, as success stories like the ALS #IceBucketChallenge prove, it can also be problematic – especially when it comes to our mental health. We as a society are now more interconnected than ever, but we are becoming over-reliant on social media. Recent research has even found that the average Brit checks their phones an 10,000 times a year, or 28 times a day. That is an obsessive level. We are addicted and most of us don’t even know it.
It’s not just the addictive side of it we have to worry about either. Social media often gets described as a ‘showing off contest’, due to people being able to upload images that seemingly glamourise their life. When you compare your own life to other people’s filtered photos, it’s easy to start wishing your life was better, or equal to theirs, which knocks your self-esteem.
Therefore, while social media can be a great tool, its overuse can have some harmful consequences. Here are four more ways in which using social media could be negatively affecting your mental health:
1 – Productivity
Let’s face it, social media is a massive distraction. Even while I’m writing this blog, I’m looking at my phone every now and then, so it’s affecting my productivity. It’ll affect your efficiency too, taking your attention away from the task at hand. This will not only affect the quality and accuracy of your work, but it will also waste time that could have been used to complete other tasks more quickly.
2 – Inadequacy
Having untapped access to social media means that you are always plugged into and looking at what everyone else is doing. Whether it be friends, family or celebrities, you are constantly comparing yourself to others all of the time, measuring your own life against a glamourised version of theirs. It’s not really a fair comparison, so don’t get yourself down if you feel like someone else’s life appears better than yours on social media.
3 – Inactivity
If you spend all of your free time glued to social media, flicking through feeds and replying to friends, when will you find the time to go outside and do something more active?
Being outdoors and getting some fresh air is vital to both your mental and physical health. The relentlessness of social media makes it difficult to break away from social networks, creating enough time to exercise. However, doing this is imperative, as exercise increases endorphin and blood flow to the brain, which keeps you healthy.
4 – Isolation
Talking to your friends through social media is not the same as meeting them in person. While life may get in the way, making it not possible to see friends face-to-face all the time, social media shouldn’t be a replacement for a true friendship.
Thanks to social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, interacting with others has become effortless – you can now even wave to your friends on messenger instead of saying hello. As a result of this though, we are now spending less and less time actually with other people, meaning we miss out on face-to-face communication and physical connection. This, in turn, makes us feel isolated – our only way of communicating coming through our phones.
Here at KlearMinds, we understand more than most about the power social media can have on mental health. If you suffer from feelings of inadequacy, isolation or unhappiness, get in touch with us today and we’ll be able to help you through it.
When a loved one dies, it can feel like the end of the world as we know it. The natural response of grieving for our loss is a hard and extremely painful process to go through, and we all have a different and unique response to losing someone close.
Bereavement counselling is there for you when it seems like you’re drowning in sorrow, unable to move forward. That’s when it can be enormously beneficial to work with a trained therapist who can help you through the stages of grieving to enable you to acknowledge and process what has happened. With the benefit of counselling, you will in time allow life to continue with adaptation and change while preserving the memory of the person who passed away.
There are 5 generally recognised stages of grieving that we all go through when learning to cope with personal loss. As you move through the bereavement process, you may experience some or all of these stages and in any order. It is an important part of the healing process to allow yourself to experience and accept all the feelings as they occur.
- Shock and Disbelief
The first response to a bereavement is typically one of disbelief and shock, even if the death did not come as a surprise. Numbness is often a natural reaction to an immediate loss – it’s our body’s way to shield us from the intensity of the event, and can be useful when action needs to be taken, for instance to make funeral arrangements. As we slowly acknowledge what has happened, the feelings of shock and denial will diminish.
- Guilt and Bargaining
This stage involves an intense preoccupation with what might have been, if only some other course of events had occurred. It’s easy to obsess endlessly about how things could have been better, what could have been done to prevent the worst outcome. That’s why it is important to resolve this stage, so that guilt and remorse don’t get in the way of the long-term healing process.
Many people will experience anger over their personal loss which may feel unfair and untimely. Strong feelings of anger can be a result of perceived helplessness and powerlessness, either as a result of having somehow been ‘abandoned’ by the deceased or because a higher power was at play.
- Depression and Loneliness
Once the full extent of the loss is realised, sadness and loneliness begin to set in. Normal responses may develop into depression as it becomes difficult to ease the pain. Sleeplessness, low mood, appetite disturbances, lack of energy, self-pity, social withdrawal and physical pains are all symptomatic of this stage of grieving.
In the final stages of bereavement, we begin to fully accept that the death has occurred and we are slowly allowing ourselves the ability to manage its effect on us. Healing can begin once the loss becomes integrated into our life experiences and we are able to move forward with our life.
If you feel that it would be helpful to speak to an experienced bereavement counselor to share your personal circumstances, please contact us to arrange an appointment at one of our London clinics.
If you are suffering from depression, you might want to consider enlisting the help of a cognitive behavioural therapist to help you cope.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective psychological treatments for moderate to severe depression and can be just as effective as antidepressants.