Dealing with depression and anxiety? Stop underestimating yourself!

April 13, 2013 by  
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Everyone who is dealing with depression and  anxiety underestimates themselves.

Does that sound like a generalisation?

Well, let me tell you a little about how I reached that conclusion…

dealing-with-depression-and-anxiety-happyI started clinical practice in 1995 after I left my post doctoral research fellowship in physiological psychology.

I felt a strong and motivating drive to work with, and hopefully, help people to be happier. 

So that means I now have 18 years of clinical practice now under my belt.

Every day I rejoice in my career choice.It is such a privilege to be helpful to others.

I don’t keep track of it, but without doubt I have worked with hundreds of people over the years.

And over this period I’ve learned some lessons about people and in particular about the invariable characteristics of depression and anxiety and this is one of them.

Everyone who is dealing with depression and  anxiety underestimates themselves

What I mean is that they underestimate their capabilities, strengths, resources and resilience. Most of us do it at different times but if you do it a lot then it makes depression or anxiety more likely to occur and harder to get rid of.

I have seen this in every single client I have worked with and I can guarantee that you do it to.

If you don’t recognise this fact, then that would be a fruitful area for you to focus your Active Self Help work on.

Even with all of my experience as a psychologist I still do it to myself, but at least I can recognise it and that takes away its power.

dealing-with-depression-and-anxietyIt is through self talk that your underestimation is revealed. It is what you say, think or mumble to yourself, just at the edge of consciousness.

The WWII poster that said ‘Careless talk costs lives’ neatly summed it up, if you talk yourself down enough then you will be down; how can it be otherwise.

This is careless because it perpetuates the self myths of failure, fear, lack and loss. And these are the things that are simply not true, but they characterise your underestimation of yourself.

To feel better they must be recognised for what they are (horrible lies) and challenged with a passion.

See yourself as you really are

All I ever want for my clients dealing with depression and anxiety is for them to see themselves as they really are; to cast down the filter that distorts and spoils everything; to stop underestimating themselves.

That is why I often get clients seeking depression and anxiety treatment to use Blues Begone because Blues Begone devotes a lot of time to the challenge and repair of damaging self talk.

The process is deceptively simple really; every time you challenge an underestimation it gets weaker and you get stronger.  And that is powerful therapy.

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Life changing moments: Seven life changing choices to make today and change forever

April 2, 2013 by  
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How can you change your life for the better? This is the single most pressing problem for anyone who believes there can be more to life than seems on offer. It often feels like we are the victim of limits and constraints that seem imposed on us by outside systems such as work, family, economics.

Sad

And yet it is apparent that some people have found the path to greater happiness and fulfillment in life despite the same conditions and apparent limitations we all have.

I have looked deeper into creating success in life and found it often comes down to the simple choices you make. Life changing moments happen all the time. Make the right choice and you are on the path to happiness; choose poorly and misery will stalk you.

Work on these choices and you will have a powerful tool set to help you achieve the life you want.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to give up your self-limiting beliefs

We all have self limiting beliefs. They are, as the name implies, limits to what you believe you can achieve.  The important point about self limiting beliefs is that they always set the bar to what you can do too low. They are a serious underestimation of what you could achieve with a different belief.  Find your most potent self limiting belief and challenge it. Is it really accurate? In my experience it never is. So choose to change it.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to believe in your own control

You have the ability to control your own life to exactly the same degree as everyone else. Many of us give this control away to various internal or external forces. When you learn to recognize the ways you give your control of life away you can much more easily choose to keep hold of it. Look back at the times when you feel you have lost some control and think about how you gave it away. Then simply choose to keep it. You will feel so much more powerful.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to stop making excuses

Every excuse is a lie. When you stop making excuses (and worst believing them) you have a great opportunity to live an authentic life. Real authenticity is having a good match between what you do and who you are. When these things are well aligned you are firmly on the path to happiness and fulfillment. So choose to be ‘real’ and drop the unnecessary lies.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to be satisfied with who you are

Learning to be satisfied with who you are is so potent that it changes everything. It is so potent that it really is a life journey. The truth is that you are a perfectly ordinary human being. Your personal value is not different from mine or anyone else’s. This is the single bottom line that can change your life. There is nothing wrong with you. Instead of finding opportunities to find fault with yourself find opportunities to be satisfied with who you are and what you can do. But first you MUST choose to work towards satisfaction with who you are. Everything follows on from that first choice.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to let go of your fear

Fear is the ground in which anxiety and depression grows.  But think about it…  the things you fear never normally happen do they? Therefore, your fear is an overestimation of threat. Choose to be open to the possibility that you are actually safe in your life and those you love are also as safe as anyone else in your world.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to stop living through the expectations of others

Happy-officeYou can only live your own life. One of the profound secrets of happiness is to stop living your life to the plan of other people. Figure out what you really want from life and use that as your blueprint for living. The expectations of others only distract you from your real path. Living your own life requires your full attention so choose to give it your best shot.

  1. Life changing moments: Choose to let the past not be the future

The past is history and the future a mystery so why travel into the future looking backwards? You have a history as does everyone else. You are shaped, in part, by your history but you are not fully defined by it. You have the power to choose to make your life as you want it to be. So choose to have a future that intrigues and excites you.  Why not?

This is my favourite list of life changing choices. Of course there are others you can make but deal with these first and notice the difference it will make you your life.

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Alexithymia – Can you describe your emotions?

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I recently went to North Canada where I carried out a bit of work with something called Alexithymia.

Alexithymia is basically an inability or difficulty in describing and understanding emotions.

I’d like to share more about this work with you in this video. Alternatively you can read the text below the film.

 

Transcript of the video

Hi, I’m standing here in the middle of a frozen lake in Canada. It’s a beautiful day. The sun is shining and it’s only about minus 10 so it’s a great day to be on the ice. I’m just going to go over to that island, sit down and tell you a little bit about why I’m making this film.

Well, I’ve come over to the island and I’ve found a nice little spot with some shade so that I’m able to film.

While I’m here in Northern Canada and one of the things I’m doing is a little bit of work with something called Alexithymia.

What is Alexithymia?

Alexithymia is basically an inability or difficulty in describing and understanding emotions. And it also has a certain, what you might call an externally oriented thinking style, in that it tends to be quite concrete thinking processes.

Often people with Alexithymia might be very successful because they’re very focused on tasks.  They’re very able to carry things through to completion and not get distracted by fantasy or wild imaginings.

The thing about Alexithymia, though, is that it’s a fairly stable personality trait, or so we believe, and therefore it’s going to continue.

Alexithymia

Symptoms

On one end we have Alexithymia which makes it difficult to recognise and describe emotions and on the other end we have excessive description and recognition of emotions. Someone at the other end of the spectrum would probably be highly anxious and they would recognise that they’re highly anxious and that makes it difficult to live.

Someone on the Alexithymic end has all of the physiology and all of the biological processes that go along with anxiety and stress etc but they don’t tend to recognise it so consequently they can’t do anything about it. Their body therefore experiences the hypertension, the elevated blood pressure, all of the stomach upset that goes with stress and anxiety. But they don’t recognise it as an emotional problem and consequently they interpret these emotional signals as a medical problem.

Tests and more tests

This means that they very often spend a lot of time pursuing their doctor and getting the doctor to do lots of medical and physical checks and that can, if you take it to the extreme, push doctors to do all sorts of weird surgical interventions. The thing is none of that is very useful because it’s not a medical problem, it’s a psychological problem.

Alexithymia is correlated with lots of other problems which are often considered to be quite mysterious by the medical professionals such as irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, migraine, headache and even depression.

Perceptions

So I’m here in Northern Canada and I don’t expect to see any bears or other wild animals creeping up on me but it’s always worth looking around from time to time to be sure because I’m in a completely different environment from my normal comfort zone which is my office in Reading.

The filters I would usually use to clean out every day experiences have been cleansed. The filters or the doors to my perception have been opened so now I’m seeing things that I wouldn’t normally see. I’m paying attention to things that I wouldn’t normally pay attention to.

The emotional experience of everyday life is like that. You get used to filtering out stuff and not paying attention to stuff. You get used to accepting whatever happens as being the norm.

What we need to do sometimes is just refresh those filters just to say, ‘Let me just pay attention to what’s actually happening in my life.’

Understanding your emotions

If you’re feeling not quite right and you have something that’s not quite right in your body or you have something that’s not quite right in the circumstances of your life then just try to refresh your filters and see if there’s anything that can be done to increase your vocabulary about the emotional experiences that you’re having.

Take the challenge

Let me offer a little challenge to you… 

Do you feel that you can adequately describe your emotional experiences to the people that are close to you so that they can adequately enough understand where you’re coming from so they can feel a sense of empathy?

If you can do that then you probably have a good vocabulary for your emotional world.

If you can’t do that or people complain that you don’t share enough of your emotional experiences then you might potentially have what we might think of as an inadequate vocabulary to describe your emotional experiences and that would be something that you need to rectify.

In the end you can only understand what you have language for. If you don’t have language for your emotional world then it’s hard for you to understand it. It’s hard for the people that are close to you to understand it, share it with you and help you process it.

Alexithymia-2

Increasing your vocabulary

So, I’m in a new place and I’m learning a new language. I’m learning about snow and snow showing and cross country skiing, and wild animals that walk around in the snow. I’m looking at tracks and learning the difference between a fox and a racoon. I’m learning a new language.

We always need to increase our vocabulary. That’s true of our emotional vocabulary. Stick with what you’ve got if it works but if it doesn’t work lets learn some new words to describe, understand and process our emotional world.

Thanks for taking the time to watch and listen. I’m Dr David Purves in Northern Canada on a frozen lake.

How can you increase your emotional vocabulary?

CBT therapy and Mood Control are excellent ways of helping you to develop the language of emotions.

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Only the Dead Fish go with the Flow

February 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Depression, Home, Self Help

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This is the first of a three part series called, Only the Dead Fish Go with the Flow, that helps explain how human problems come into being. In this film I explore the negative consequences of going with the flow, like the dead fish, and how it ultimately leads to a loss of control. 

I then go onto explain what happens when you move from a comfort zone to a discomfort zone, with common consequences being low mood, depression, anxiety and stress.

The Dead Fish

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT Therapy)

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a very effective strategy for helping you go against the flow, so that you’re not one of the dead fish, once again to regain control of your life and thereby helping you move from your discomfort zone back into your comfort zone.

It is often very surprising for people when they realise the consequences of going with the flow but even more so when they see how little effort it really takes to go against the flow. 

If you suffer depression, anxiety or stress then you have probably been going with the flow like the dead fish. 

The text from the film is here in case you prefer being able to read it.

Hi I’m Dr David Purves

Have you ever wondered how human problems such as stress, anxiety and depression come about?

If you have you’re not alone. 

Virtually every client I’ve ever had in my consulting room has said, "I didn’t think this would happen to me. How did this happen?"

Well if you want to know the answer to that question stay tuned.

Some years ago a client said to me only the dead fish go with the flow which I thought was a very profound statement. 

Only the dead fish go with the flow … and that brings me to the River Thames here in Berkshire where I live.

The River Thames

The River Thames originates in Gloucestershire and goes through some counties, through Berkshire, through London and down in to the sea.

Now, the non tidal part of the Thames always goes the same way. It never goes the other way. If you had a boat on the River Thames and you went with the flow like the dead fish you’d have no control over where you went. You wouldn’t be able to stop and start. You wouldn’t be able to have any control over your destination, like the dead fish. 

To gain control you have to go ever so slightly against the flow and then the rudders and propeller can bite and you can steer and you can do whatever you want.

So the first part of the answer to the question of, “how did I get here” is that going with the flow gives you no control over the destination that you’ll end up in or the quality of your journey.

From Dead Fish to Boiling Frogs

Now a client, a different client, said to me a few years ago, “If you get a frog and you put it in a pan of cold water and you put the pan of cold water on a cooker  and you very slowly heat the water, the frog will stay in the water until it eventually boils to death. Alternatively if you put the frog straight into the boiling water it will jump straight out.”

Now why might a frog stay in the boiling water until it boils to death? What’s the mechanism by which that could happen?

Well, frogs and cats and pretty much all animals and humans have change neurons in the brain.

Now change neurons are designed to notice change on a moment by moment basis. They’re really interested in contrast.

So if you were to put a frog in the water and heat it up very slowly the change from comfort zone to discomfort zone is so slow that the change neurons don’t fire and the frog doesn’t recognise that it’s moving inextricably from a comfort zone to a discomfort zone. And isn’t that the part of the answer to the question of how do human problems occur?

Comfort Zones and Discomfort Zones

We start off in a comfort zone and we say yes that’s OK. I’ll cope, it’s not too bad. But slowly, as the process of change occurs we move from our comfort zone to our discomfort zone. All of a sudden you wake up and say, “How did I get here? I don’t like this at all! Ahhhhhh!”

Now if you find yourself in a discomfort zone you feel low, depressed, anxious or stressed. You’re going to be underestimating your strengths and resources and you’re going to be overestimating your faults and failings.

The present experience that you’re having is not going to be something that you’re really enjoying  and the future just does not look attractive at all.

If you’re anxious you’re feeling unsafe and vulnerable. You’re probably putting quite a lot of effort into trying to stay safe but what that means is you’re squeezing your life down until you have a much much smaller living space that feels a bit more like a comfort zone but actually you’re doing less than you used to do. You’re pushing yourself out less than you did before and you’re actually restricting your life by a substantial extent.

If you’re stressed, the tasks and the things that you need to achieve far exceed your perception of your ability to achieve them; you don’t have enough time, not enough resources to do things adequately. 

So if you find yourself in a discomfort zone what can you do about it?

Well traditionally some form of psychotherapy has always been good to help you to go against the flow and to move back from the discomfort zone towards the comfort zone.

Of course not everyone wants to access face-to-face therapy. Not everyone wants to embark on it. Not everyone wants to go through that process.

If you did, however, cognitive behaviour therapy or CBT therapy is the treatment of choice. It’s what the Government recommends. It’s what the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence recommends but CBT therapy is relatively scarce in some parts of the world. It’s expensive and it’s not something you might want to embark on.

For that reason I’ve created the Mood Control CBT System. Mood Control enables you to have the benefits of CBT in your life via your own computer. Mood Control delivers a CBT coaching course to you wherever you are in the world.

Now, I’ll be telling you a little bit more about Mood Control in a later film. This film is part of a series. In the next film I’m going to offer you a very strange thought.

Your brain is not your friend.

Your brain will actually create goals that you wouldn’t sign up for and then it can motivate you to achieve those goals.

Your brain can create anxiety and stress. It can create those experiences for you and then keep you trapped in them.

Well, if you want to know how that happens. If you want to know the means, the mechanism for how that occurs, make sure you watch the next film.

If we have your email address you’ll get it automatically. If not you can sign up below to receive the next film, free.

I hope that you’ve found this film interesting and potentially thought provoking. Whatever problem you struggle with – depression, anxiety, stress, panic, OCD, generalised anxieties – it’s likely that the benefits of CBT therapy will reduce the burden of the problem you have and potentially take you all the way back from the discomfort zone in to your comfort zone.

Thanks for taking the time to listen. 

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Creative Imagination

November 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Self Help

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Ae you looking for a depression and anxiety treatment? If so, you’re not alone. Depression and anxiety problems are so common in society that every human being, including those who are not anxious or down, must share common psychological processes with those who are anxious or down. Any Depression Treatment or Anxiety Therapy always has to address these issues sooner or later.

The ability to become anxious or down must be built into us. There is no other explanation for this phenomenon. I have worked with many hundreds of clients over the years and I have always tried to see the common features  of clients’ problems. Because common features always reveal something of the basic mechanisms of any problem. And understanding the basic mechanism is really useful if you want to create solutions.     The act of Imagination is perhaps one of the most creative experiences we can have. It is powerful stuff. Imagination can motivate you to invent a life changing tool, but it can also take you down to the depths of despair. Imagination can be dangerous if not properly seen for what it is: a raw power that can be harnessed or ignored. Harness it and it can serve you well, giving you a lifetime of interest and engagement. Ignore it and you are at its mercy. It can destroy you.

This film explains a little more about Creative Imagination.  

 

In any Depression and Anxiety treatment which involves therapy a therapist will almost always find elements of problematic imagination. Let me give you two examples that are pretty representative of those commonly seen in a CBT Therapy clinic. The first is a key component of the group of Anxiety Problems focused on social phobia or social anxiety. The sufferer will usually have a powerful set of mental images that show them being embarrassed or exposed as a fool, or a fraud in public. They are being ridiculed and made to look weak and helpless. The use of their imagination to create anxiety provoking mental images that while having never happened nevertheless ‘capture’ their deepest fears about themselves is very damaging and limiting. The emotions evoked by these very negative mental images is so strong that it seems to make sense to avoid situations where these fantasies may come to pass.

The second example will most commonly be seen in the CBT Therapy clinic for a Depression Treatment. This is often represented as an inner dialog where the sufferer imagines themselves in a conversation with another person and in this they are being criticized, found to be at fault and failing to live up to the standards expected of them. The power of this fantasy conversation is in the emotion invested into it by the imagination. The most troubling and damaging emotions are evoked, and this often makes the sufferer feel helpless to act in any positive way.Both of these examples are very commonly seen in many depression and anxiety treatment settings. It is fundamental to the success of the CBT Therapy that they be challenged rigorously.  The sheer power of these fantasy products of the imagination cannot be underestimated. The good news is that they can be challenged successfully and the negative emotions they create consigned to history. In this process the sufferer can experience a freedom from anxiety and depression perhaps never before dreamed of.

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How to change some part of your life… do it yourself depression and anxiety treatments

September 20, 2011 by  
Filed under Natural Treatments for Depression, Self Help, Well-being

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When considering do it yourself depression and anxiety treatments remember – Right Action Equals Right Outcome.

Challenging depression, stress and anxiety problems requires a vigilant determined attitude.

Change mechanisms

The problem, in any situation where you want to change something is that you need to find enough opportunities to exercise the change mechanisms.

Imagine you wanted to improve on any game, but let’s choose golf for the moment. If you want to improve, you have to get out there on the green and practice. Both in actual games, which are probably more pressured situations, and on the practice pitch. Moreover you have to practice all of the different shots you may use, such as a drive, a pitch or a put. It is further complicated by having to practice with all of the different clubs in your bag. This scenario can be expanded to include any skilled activity from learning to write as a child, through to driving a car or flying a plane.

Human relationships are are a further category where practice is likely to be important. Most people go through a series of girlfriends  and/or boyfriends before they find someone they can live with for the longer term.

Of course relationships do break down, often because people change but also the world changes us in many ways that are hard to see. If you are fortunate, and you approach the whole enterprise with a sense of adventure, you acquire the necessary practice in relationships when you are young and overall it does not cause too much trouble to you and your family.

Depression and low mood are very serious problems.

Active Self Help for Depression and Anxiety

With my Active Self Help for depression and anxiety approach the emphasis is that you have all of the resources to adequately treat and cure yourself, but you may not have the resourcefulness to do it.

Really you may not know what to do nor how to do it. This is where the vast quantity of opportunity that the world constantly throws at you plays its part.

You need opportunities to practice being different in the world to get really good at it.

Imagine if you would one of those old computer games where your cursor which looks like a small basket is at the bottom on the screen and bricks are constantly falling from the top of the screen. To be good at the game all you have to do is to catch as many bricks as you can with your basket cursor. Well I see opportunities for changing your life as those bricks.

Let me complicate the game a little more. The bricks are evil and you only destroy them by catching them. If you don’t catch them they go onto destroy your town, region and eventually your country then  they go onto destroy your town, region and eventually your country then the world.

You have to catch the bricks to survive!

Now let us change those bricks into negative thoughts.

Each negative thought that escapes capture destroys a little more of you, your life and eventually your world. There is now a sad part, but it is changeable. The world offers you, and always has, many many opportunities every day to catch those bricks and stop them destroying you.

Did you know you were even playing this game?

Who told you there even was a game anyway?

It is similar to the halting stop start series of relationships many people have before they settle down, if they do. Who helped you with that…cyour peers were equally confused and yes you may have been able to talk about some stuff with them but probably not the really deep stuff about how you felt about yourself.

I am prepared to bet that you kept that deep inside. Probably because you felt a real need to protect yourself from hurt. It seems incredibly that we managed at all. All stumbling around in a process that is largely hidden and silent, it is a good job that it was also fun at times.

You are in this game, whether you recognise it or not.

Try this exercise…

Every day negative self destructive thoughts flow in a constant stream to attack your mood and sense of security and safety. If you find that hard to believe, simply take one hour of your normal day and put a mark on a slip of paper every time you think or feel or say anything negative about yourself.

I have had clients do this exercise and while it is hard to keep focused for an hour it is do-able. What I have found is that people seem able to recognise an average of between 3 – 7 negative events in that hour; (let us decide on 4 average per hour) Of course you will only ever recognise the conscious events not those that slip under the radar of your awareness. If you think about the waking day as 16 hours that gives 64 bricks that go through each day. This yields 448 bricks for the entire week.

This month is 1,792 and the year is 21,504.

Now I hope you can see two things.

First, I hope you can see why these negative thought bricks destroy you, your life and your world.

Secondly, I hope you will see that the world also provides masses of opportunities to change your life for the better. Remember, it is only the bricks that get through that destroy you.

Those you catch are defeated. They are rendered useless.

Catch it… Challenge it… Change it

I have coined the term: Catch it …challenge it…change it

This is tool is one of the very useful do it yourself depression and anxiety treatments that you can use to deal with the bricks.

Every time you recognise a negative thought, catch it, challenge it for truth and accuracy (not how you feel, that is no guide at all) and change it. Make every negative thought account for itself. Every one you catch that you previously would have missed is a success.

Depression is what missing a lot of bricks brings you.

Catch the bricks and change things for the better.

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The warning signs of depression

The warning signs of depression

Reading based Psychologist Dr David Purves from Berkshire Psychology Service outlines the warning signs of depression. If you believe you struggle with low mood then please read this report. Depression is usually a treatable illness. The first thing to do is gather good information.

Depression is a word that covers a wide range of mental health problems but the main characteristic is a loss of good, positive feelings and an accompanying loss of interest or enjoyment in things, people and activities. Often the first people to see the warning signs of depression are those closest to the sufferer.

It may seem a paradox but there can be value and even comfort in knowing and naming a problem. If you know and name you also have access to the knowledge based that has accumulated on how to understand and treat that problem. And this is a necessary precursor to being able to move forward. Knowledge and an attitude of action towards the problem of low mood and depression is a very positive first step in starting to feel better. Let’s map the warning signs of depression onto a CBT understanding of low mood and depression.

Understanding the CBT understanding of depression

We will now develop the very important fact that thoughts, feelings and behaviors are linked in creating your low mood. Indeed, there is a constant interplay between your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.

If you think negative thoughts about yourself you will feel negative emotions.

And, if you feel low you will find more opportunities to undermine yourself creating even more negative thoughts.

This two way relationship always works in this way.

In addition, if you think negative thoughts about yourself and feel down you will do less of the things that previously helped sustain your good mood (behaviors). You will go out less, keep in touch with friends less and, get less pleasure from what you do try. Reducing your activity repertoire only depresses you further.

Despite having the warning signs of depression: How can I control my emotions?

It is very hard to directly control your emotions, sometimes you feel low and at other times you feel better.

It can be hard to know why your mood fluctuates as it does and finding these missing links takes time and effort.

Depression feel like the life is being squeezed from you.

Depression feel like the life is being squeezed from you.

It is very common for people with depressed mood to say, ‘I wake up and I do not know why I feel down’.

But, you may also not know that you can change how you feel.

Indeed, how you feel often has little to do with ‘who you are’ (your personal identity) and more to do with an habitual negative way of thinking that has somehow gotten out of control (balance).

It can be very hard to pull yourself out of a low mood simply by willing yourself to feel better.

But, research has shown that a very effective way of reversing low mood is to pay more attention to the thoughts that accompany the mood and to challenge them for accuracy.

Depression is like having a blue mood distort every experience you have.

Depression is like having a blue mood distort every experience you have.

What both clinical and research experience tells us, and what it is often possible to identify for yourself, is that the thoughts you have lead to the mood you experience.

What you really need to understand is that you cannot have good and positive thoughts yet feel down.

You always have thoughts that flow in the same direction as the mood you experience. While you cannot easily control your mood you can much more easily control your thoughts.

This is the principle of the cognitive aspect of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). If you control/manage your thoughts then you can much more easily control your mood.

Physical symptoms are often noteworthy warning signs of depression

Negative thoughts and feelings often give rise to troubling physical symptoms, such as those below.

  • feelings of stress
  • feelings of fear or dread
  • numbness (which means there are no feelings that you can recognize)
  • hunger
  • agitation
  • dullness
  • anger
  • sleepiness
  • anxiety
  • fear of people
  • fear of challenges
  • unexplained pain
  • irritable bowel
  • headaches

Physical symptoms can often seem unrelated to your negative thoughts or mood. You may find that you have an upset stomach or pain that seems to have no good reason for being there. Alternatively, if you have been injured the pain seems to be worse on some days and leads to you feeling hopeless and even helpless to combat it. You may find that you experience headaches that leave you unable to attempt any activity at all.

Whatever your experience of physical symptoms these are often linked to the way that you think about yourself and hence how you feel about yourself.

The bottom line is this:

When you think negative thoughts and feel low your body responds by being more troublesome!

The important point is this:

How your body reacts, how you feel, how you think and what you do are all interrelated.

When one is down they are all troublesome.

When one is up they are all more manageable. These big four aspects of your experience are all intimately connected and cannot be experienced separately.

Mike’s Story of depression

Mike had been feeling down about his work. He was behind in processing applications and he thought that his boss was now watching him for mistakes. These feelings made it harder for him to concentrate and do a good job. On Tuesday night, Mike had trouble going to sleep because he was worrying that

Stress at work is a common cause of depression

Stress at work is a common cause of depression

In the morning, Mike slept through his alarm clock and when his wife Julia questioned something he did he just lost it!

He shouted. She thought he was over-reacting. He then left the house without shaving or tidying himself up, he missed his breakfast; all day at work Mike felt out of sorts and conspicuous.

Stress at work is a common cause of depression

This case is not at all untypical of someone who is feeling strain from work or some other place, and that strain is expressed at home maybe towards someone who might not be responsible for causing it in the first place. Perhaps you’ve been there yourself?

You are sensitive to how other people treat you.

It is a social world where you interact with other people in differing situations.

While you are sensitive to the ways that other people treat you, you also interpret the world around you in line with the ways you think about yourself and how the world works.

It is obvious that the social environment, or context, in which you live directly impacts on how you think, feel and act.

This was clearly the case for Mike.

The context of his work stress was enough to make him feel uncertain and watched and spoil the quality of his home life. Later when Mike went to his regular therapy session, to help combat his depression, he was able to describe what he was thinking and feeling and how this affected his behaviour on Wednesday morning.

Mike said that his work had been much less enjoyable lately. A new boss had made things that he normally felt were easy, now quite stressful. This made him question a lot of things he previously took for granted.

Clearly, this was not a comfortable situation for Mike.

So on Wednesday morning, all of this was on his mind. All of the stress and strain that Mike’s job was taking on him made it difficult to sleep and left him feeling drained. This in turn lowered his resistance to further stressors, such as a last minute job at work, or an offhand comment from a colleague.

Your Thoughts can be depressive

What can you do if you think you have depression warning signs?

It is not always easy to identify the thoughts you have about things when you are actually doing them. It is much easier to look back on situations and identify them later. But if you try hard enough it is often possible to find some key negative thoughts that influence your mood and behaviour.

Mike could identify one thought that really increased his stress levels: “If I don’t get to work on time my boss will think I am a failure again.”

Your emotions are the direct experience of depression

Mike felt a complex set of emotions on Wednesday morning, but one feeling that he was able to identify was that he was irritated or maybe even angry at his wife for making him late (although she was not to blame).

He later recognized and felt sorry about his outburst.

Although, feeling guilty about this actually did not help Mike.

Your behaviours really affect depression

A combination of all of the above led Mike to act the way he did.

The cumulative effect of his job stress (context), his poor sleep and stressed state (physical sensations), the belief that his boss would think of him as a failure (thought), the outburst of anger (emotion), made him leave the house

Relationship problems are a common source of stress and even depression

Relationship problems are a common source of stress and even depression

unprepared (behaviour).

He may have felt a sense of righteous indignation when the front door slammed.Yet, for the rest of the day, unshaven, he felt conspicuous and worse than the day before.

His actions did not help to solve his perceived problem, in fact in his mind it just made it worse.

It is not hard to imagine how he would feel when he went back home again on Wednesday night!

Mapping the forces of depression

 

Depression is caused by the interaction of 5 processes.

Depression is caused by the interaction of 5 processes.

We can map out the forces that led to Mike acting as he did.

How it all interacts

We can think of physical sensations, thoughts, feelings, and behaviours as all interacting within the context of the environment. These factors are pictured above in the ‘Map of Forces’.

The important point to gain from this example is that for Mike’s all five of these factors interacted to lead to his self-defeating actions. They were all linked together.

A good personal relationship is a great way to fight low mood.

A good personal relationship is a great way to fight low mood.

It is usual to have one main factor with all of the others interacting with it in some way. So when one thing changes all others also change to accommodate it.

This has to happen because the whole system is connected.

This means that if Mike wanted to change some aspect of his life he would have some choice in deciding where to place his efforts and gain the change he wanted.

This is equally true for you!

Even if you have the warning signs of depression you can change any aspect of the five domains outlined above and then every other aspect must change in some way to react to the deliberate effort you have made.

So what’s the best treatment for depression?

The cognitive behaviour therapy method of treatment of depression generally focuses on three aspects of your experience that are more under your conscious control than the other two.

The things you have the most control over are:

The context of depression

You can change aspects of you work experience, your home experience, your relationship with a partner or with other members of your family.

Doing one thing differently affects everything else; remember this: subtle and small changes only need to be made at first.

Thoughts related to depression

You may not feel that you have much control over negative and self-defeating thoughts but you can learn to take much more conscious control over these.

The important point about negative thoughts is that they seem to occur automatically.

In CBT they are actually called automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) because they come to mind so readily. Actually, the ability of ANTs to pop into your mind increases dramatically as your mood gets lower. ANTs are usually personally negative and are always inaccurate. They are the worst possible interpretation of anything! Consequently, they are very good at being depressing.

The behaviour of depression

When you think about something you have done and you feel you failed at it, you are less likely to do that activity again. This makes sense and as a general rule is probably a good thing. It means that you tend to focus your efforts into areas where you may have more ability.When you feel low however, you have a tendency to misinterpret signals from the world around you.

You may feel bad about something you have not done, when actually everything is the same as it was previously.

To quote Mark Twain,I have suffered many misfortunes in my life, most of which did not happen.’

You generalise from specific examples to more general ones and feel defeated.
You see obstacles where previously you saw opportunities.
You feel overwhelmed (feeling), tell yourself that ‘it is too hard’ (thought) and do not bother to try (behaviour)!

One of the depression warning  signs and a very important and serious consequence of depression is that your activity level decreases.

Does this make you feel better or worse?

The answer is always worse!

As you decrease your level of activity the opportunities to interact with the world and to test the reality of your negative thoughts reduce. Hence the negative thoughts about yourself seem to gain in strength and validity. You actually behave as if you believed the negative things you think and say about yourself. Hence depression!

Conclusion

The three main areas where you can start to recognize and change the aspects of your experience that create low mood. Have been outlined. If the first instance it is hugely important to get an assessment by an expert. Thereafter there is a reliable and effective path out of depression. All you have to do is take the steps as they are explained and laid out for you.

Dr David Purves and Berkshire Psychology Service  provides a complete cognitive behavioral therapy treatment program. Dr Purves provides you with all the tools you need to help you create the life you want and to take more control over depression.

An anti-depressant tool to use now

Dr Purves recommends a self help exercise to fight negative thoughts

Dr Purves recommends a self help exercise to fight negative thoughts

Here is a tool that you can use to start the battle against the falsehoods your brain creates to depress your mood and spoil your experience of life. The most fundamental step in defeating depression is recognizing the negative thoughts themselves and then challenging them to account for their accuracy.

If you’ve identified with some of the depression warning signs. Start to overcome depression here:-

    1. Take a piece of A4 paper and at the top write the most damaging negative thought you have about yourself in black ink. This works well if it is the thought that really drags your mood down. Examples that are common are: I am a fraud, useless, odd, damaged, unlovable,  etc. Make sure there is only one thought here. If you have more than one thought that comes to mind put the others on different sheets of paper for later on.
    2. Now you need to rate how much you believe this thought, the best thing to do is to rate how true it feels to you at this very moment in time the scale is ‘0’ not at all true and ‘10’ as true as it can possibly be.
    3. Next use the rest of the paper to make a list of as many reasons as you can find that show the thought to be untrue and use a coloured pen for this. Examples might be: I have friends, I can complete tasks, I try hard, I do my best, I am not responsible for others, I can manage my money, I can listen to people, I can read a book, I can play, I can cook, I have been successful before, I passed my driving test (note: that examples do not have to be substantial they only have to disconfirm the negative thought).
    4. Use as much of the paper as you can, spread out, write things even if you don’t fully believe them. Use your imagination, allow yourself to go back in memory and find examples that disconfirm the negative thought. Things have not always been as they are now; remember the way things are when you feel better. Give yourself over to a flight of fancy, allow yourself to be liberated for a moment from the negative thought and create the alternatives to it. Really challenge the negative thought, find as many alternatives to it as you are able.
    5. After you have spent no less than 10 minutes challenging the negative thought re-rate how true it feels 0….10 once again. The rating of how true the thought feels is likely to changed and even gone down from the previous score. The less true something feels the less bothersome it is to you.

What you have demonstrated is that the way you think about something determines how you feel about it. Change the thought and you change the feeling. This is the key to using CBT therapy to change your life. It is not a trivial enterprise; it is one of the most important things you can do to ensure a good life. But it really works.

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The benefits of thinking about our ancestors

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Self Help

I have quite a number of family members who practice geneology; piecing together the detective story that makes up our individual family histories. I also know quite a few people who could not care less who their distant ancesters where, what they did or where they came from.

Yet our ancesters gave us our genetic heritage.

Who we can be is down to them.

And, the good news is that it seems they can continue to give to us.

The link below takes you to a short article that illustrates some of the valuable side effects from simply spending a little time (5 minutes) thinking about your ancestors. But let’s widen this viewpoint. I also consider that there are benefits from stretching our thinking beyond our ‘normal’ viewpoint.

This in my view could include thinking about other cultures. Which brings me to the logical point that we probably don’t have enough relationships with people from other countries.

Many mental health problems can be characterised by a narrowing of attention coupled with a cognitive bias. This leads to the potential for distortions and down right errors in our thought processes about the world; the wider world as well as our own small part of the globe.

Are we isolated and insular in our own country, and in our own internal lives? If so thinking about ancestors could be the answer.

The benefits of thinking about our ancestors

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Assume you have no will power

June 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Self Help

Bill Buckley and Dr David Purves at BBC Radio Berkshire

I had a quiet New Year’s Eve because I was booked to appear on the BBC radio on New Year’s morning. I talked about how to keep resolutions. Many of us make resolutions but only about 28% of us manage to keep them for more than about 30 days. Making a resolution is the same as making a goal and I am a fan of good goals.

So what is that makes goals and resolutions so hard to keep? Research carried out by Professor Riachard Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire has shown that the way we go about making and then implimenting goals is the problem.

People who manage to keep goals go about things differently from those who do not manage to keep their goals. I have made the positive factors into a neat list of 5 do’s and the unhelpful factors into a list of 5 don’ts.

5 Do’s

1. Make a step by step plan
2. Tell others about your goals
3. Think about good things that will happen if you achieve your goals
4. Reward yourself for making progress towards your goals
5. Record progress in a journal

5 Don’ts

1. Motivate yourself by focusing on a role model
2. Think about bad things that will happen if you don’t achieve your goal
3. Try to suppress unhelpful thoughts (don’t think about food, drink or cigarettes)
4. Rely on will power
5. Fantasize how good life will be when you achieve your goal.

Your environment

Finally, what can you do to make the envrionment you live in work to your advantage. By environement I mean your work, home of leisure contexts and the places you spend time in.  Let me use the example of wanting to quit smoking. If you still go to the same places and do the same things while you are in the early stages of trying to quit then all of the habitual associations found in those places will work against you. Will you go to the same place you have your first cigarette of the day and expect to use only will power to overcome the cravings? If so you are setting things badly against yourself.

The enviroment captures associative strength from the behaviour you perform in that environment. Put simply, go someplace you always smoke and you will want to smoke more than if you go someplace you don’t smoke. The old places make you think about smoking and it makes it easier to have a cigarette even if you are committed to quitting. You have to change the places you go to help ease the burden of habit.

Eventually, you have to create new routines in new places where you spend time and where habits have NO SMOKING, HEALTH AND FITNESS as their associated message rather than the other way around. Keep your resolution always in mind. If it is important enough to be a resolution or a life goal then give yourself the best shot you can at realizing it.
Use all the tools at your disposal, that way you have a chance of not being the 78% of people who fall the first hurdle in the New Year’s Resolution stakes.

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