How To Combat Anxiety

How to Combat Anxiety

In the previous video I explained how a terrible event that may have no actual connection to you can increase your sense of threat. A feeling of threat, without an obvious tangible focus for the threat can cause anxiety. If you find that after Paris you are more anxious then you may find the tool I share with you in this video helpful. I have used this with many clients and the simplicity of it comes from the fact that it uses the same processes and the same neuro-chemicals as anxiety but it transforms what they are used for. Turning fear into excitement.

You don’t have to live with anxiety you can choose to do something about it.

Stop being anxious

A link to the previous film

 

 Get the Panic Pit Stop app here

About Dr David Purves

Dr David Purves is a Reading based psychologist providing private CBT in Reading, Berkshire. Dr Purves is the clinical Director of The Berkshire psychology service and former Consultant Psychologist and Head of the NHS Berkshire Traumatic Stress Service. He treats trauma and PTSD at his clinic and writes and speaks internationally on matters of terrorist related trauma.

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How to improve your flexibility and resilience

Untitled

Have you ever wondered how to improve your flexibility? What does flexibility mean? I’m not just talking about physical flexibility but your emotional and cognitive flexibility too.

I believe you should work on building your flexibility and resilience before you really need them and here’s a good illustration of why.

Amy Purdy wanted to escape, see the world and create a life story of adventure.

When I heard the story of this remarkable young woman I felt the emotion well up inside me. I think you will too. But this is not only an inspirational story. It is also a lesson for life because it illustrates the power of flexibility and resilience.

Stick with the video to the end and I defy you not to feel the emotions welling up with pride felt in overcoming obstacles and achieving something great. Let me know what you think.

How to improve your flexibility: It’s what you do with it

I often tell clients that it is not what happens to you that matters it is what you do with it. What I mean by this is that you can rely on life to turn up issues, problems, blocks, barriers, limits and occasionally disasters. That is life! But what are you going to do with these life events when they happen to you?

When something bad happens it is a shock and sometimes it takes a while to recover from the initial shock. You will see that with Amy. After that what you do defines whether your life will be changed in a negative way or in a positive way.  You have an (often untapped) element of choice and control in how you respond any event.

The most beneficial response you can make to almost any event has within it flexibility and resilience. You may have heard me tell the story of the palm tree on the beach after a tidal wave has gone through. The palm is flexible and bends with the force of the water but springs back afterwards.

how-to-improve-your-flexibility-palm-tree

 

This image captures the two most important aspects of reacting as well as you can to life’s problems. Be flexible and bend with the force and then remember that you are the same no matter what happens. Nothing that happens to you can take away your personal value, self worth and power. These give you resilience.

Learn how to improve your flexibility and resilience: Flexibility exercises for men and women

Physical flexibility

Take exercise. Simple.

how-to-improve-your-flexibility-stretch

Emotional flexibility

Practice recognising that feelings are fleeting reactions to events and don’t always mean very much. Furthermore feelings are usually created by your interpretation of the meaning of something that has happened. Some of the time this interpretation is wrong, hence the emotion does not accurately reflect what has happened to you.  When we consider depression and anxiety we can see that interpretations are often wrong and unhelpful.

Cognitive flexibility

Make an effort to see the other person’s point of view, consider alternatives and learn to recognise that your response to any situation is only one of a number of possible responses you could make. This is always true but mostly goes unnoticed.

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Ever wondered ‘how long will I live?’

Will you live to be 100?

Live-to-be-100Have you ever wondered, ‘how long will I live?’ We all have an attraction to the idea that maybe there is a way to see into the future and even to control the future to some extent. One thing is for sure, we are all living longer and as such are going to have more future about which to speculate. Have you thought about living to a hundred?

When you think about how long you can live you’ll realise that living to 100 is not ‘off the wall’ anymore. Many people will do it, maybe even you. Women live longer than men which is nice for them. But we are all likely to live longer than our ancestors, though quantity isn’t everything, there has to be quality of life as well. In fact, in the end, quality might be the most important element. If you are keen to know,’how long will I live’ and find the thought of living to 100 intriguing, then download the attached report and see your probability of living to 100.

I couldn’t resist finding out the answer to ‘how long will I live?’

I was fascinated to see my likelihood of living to be 100. It is about 10% but if you look at the numbers of people living to be 100 it is increasing a very great deal. By the time I get there it is estimated that there will be over 200,000 women at 100 and about 100,000 men. That is a massive increase of today’s rate.

When you think you want to live a long life remember living a long time is not the only concern…it is how you live.

I often make a distinction between destination and journey. You may have a lot more years but you also want them to contribute to a satisfying and enjoyable journey towards 100.

Taking responsibility for your journey

The truth is we cannot know the answer to the question, ‘how long will I live’ nor can we know what will happen to us on our journey. But that does not prevent us from taking what control we can over aspects of our journey. Every day is full of choices and the way we choose them determines our path.

A few years ago a user of the Blues Begone program said… ‘it is amazing I realized that you are only as depressed as your last thought.’  This is an empowering idea because it reveals some of the profound truth behind CBT therapy, when you change the way you think about yourself then you can change your life trajectory.

It is self evident that you have the potential to have more control over your internal world, if you know how to get it and exercise it. And yet anxiety problems and depression problems, which are both very common reveal a loss of psychological control. So, following this theme of taking what control you can how might we have an enjoyable and meaningful life journey?

Look after your mental health

CBT Therapy_1
As a psychologist this is my primary concern. Without good mood then everything else seems much less valuable. Mood disorders like anxiety and depression are very common and yet they are also very treatable. There are various treatment options available but in general I favour those that create a greater knowledge and sense of control over the whole process. Which is why CBT therapy is my favoured approach for helping people to have a good quality of life, it directly focuses on those profound elements that deliver meaningful life.

Meaning in life

Curiously it is not entirely clear if there is a particular type of thought that shortens your life. You might think catastrophic thoughts or worrying thoughts could potentially shorten you life as they create stress and spoil your present moment. However I am not at all sure the data supports this viewpoint. What does seem to be important is creating and maintaining a sense of meaning in life. It does not seem to matter how you do it but strive to find life a meaningful endeavour. The loss of meaning that accompanies depression is therefore problematic. And this is probably why depression can be a life shortening disorder.

Humans come into this life pre-programmed to find meaning in life. We seek it out and we create it from the things we see and do. If you find yourself without meaning in life then this is likely to be a consequence of some faulty thought processes and can be addressed and worked with. Depression treatment, especially in CBT therapy has powerful tools for doing this (for more information see The Mood Control System.

Excessive fearfulness always seen in anxiety problems can also be adequately treated by a comprehensive anxiety therapy (to start you off you’ll want to watch my film, What is anxiety? How does it affect you? below:

Psychological research has put a lot of resources into figuring out how to be happy and live a worthwhile life. Here are some of the things we know for sure.

Do work you find meaningful

(Bear in mind that no one ever lay on their deathbed and said ‘I wish I had worked harder’)

Make an effort to derive meaning and purpose from your work. If at all possible enjoy what you do, This usually follows from taking a sense of satisfaction from the work. However what it really means is to take a certain amount of responsibility for what you do. It is possible you work in a horrible job that you hate. But this is not conducive to a long and happy life. It is stressful and fills your days with time spent in an environment you dislike. Therefore change it. If necessary invest in yourself and your education or skills to enable to you do something you really find fulfilling. There are many careers in the world that people find engaging and life enhancing, or at the very least interesting and stimulating. These surely are the goals of a working life. But only you can take the necessary steps to ensure it happens. So be responsible for you working life.

A bit of my story

When I was a teenager I took my first job which was an apprenticeship, in a heavy industry. I really disliked the job but what I disliked even more was the sense that the management was responsible for everything and the worker was there to do as much as possible for as little as possible. This was a perspective that both disempowered the worker but also made it hard for people to develop their skills and expertise; although many did, but it made it hard to enjoy the process of being expert and knowledgeable. In essence I don’t think it matters too much what you do but make sure you gain some satisfaction and a sense of mastery from it.

Stay as fit as practical but don’t overdo it!

First things first. A lot of exercise can be bad for you!

I have spoken about studies in the past that have documented the beneficial effects of moderate exercise on longevity. The days of most of us doing manual jobs are gone and if you, like me sit down for most of the day then you like me have a problem. The trouble for me is that what we call exercise now is institutionalized. We use gyms and have workouts when perhaps what we need to do is to incorporate exercise into our daily lives. Walking as much as possible and using our muscles as much as we can within the environment in which we live. In the UK gardening is a great fair weather exercise and combines both movement and interest so it is fantastic.

Find things you can do that are interesting to you as opposed to simply being exercise. Surely if you can engage in a hobby activity that is also exercising then so much the better. The fact is that the alternative of not staying as fit as practical is you lose some of your longevity but as with all things in life moderation is the key. If you enjoy hard exercise like marathons then good for you. But if you’re concerned with the question, ‘how long will I live,’ they will not lengthen your life and may even cause you longer term problems.

Relationships are important

People usually say that the most important things in their lives are relationships with others. We are social animals and what we value is the quality of the time spent with people who mean something to us. If you think about what makes an experience meaningful to you it is likely to be the sense of emotion you get from it. A film that engages your emotions is much more easily remembered than one that does not. The same is true for relationships and the experiences we have when in relationships.

Relationships are the most meaningful processes we have and they enrich our lives. Of course they have to be decent relationships to do that. We don’t want massively stressful ones or ones that are burdensome to us. Therefore following the theme to taking responsibility for our lives see what you can you do today to make your relationship deeper and richer. And if you don’t have one put some effort in engaging another human being in a conversation that is meaningful (not just greetings and stock phrases.)

There is also one important relationship we must not overlook. It is the relationship you have with yourself. Many clients I have seen over the years have been very conflicted within themselves. They may hold two or more positions about what they think about themselves, the world and even their own future. They are both highly competent and yet very self critical causing a lot of anger and internal conflict. If you experience this it is often a precursor to symptoms of depression and anxiety but is entirely amenable to a comprehensive depression treatment or anxiety therapy such as CBT therapy so while it may feel impossible to resolve it’s actually very resolvable. 

Every day you can make choices that change the trajectory of your life’s journey for the better. This is empowering information but only if you take the choices that are presented almost every moment of every day. Taking more control of your life is simply about seeing what is already there and making informed choices rather than letting chance determine what happens next.

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CBT therapy helps dismantle borders

Did you know that you can use CBT therapy to dismantle borders? Let’s start at the beginning…

Keeping your borders up

Every border is porous to some degree. The border of North and South Korea is probably the most patrolled and guarded but even then people can move across it if they are willing to take the risk. There is a correlation between how closely borders are guarded and how motivated governments are to keep out ideas, goods and services. I often think that contamination with new ideas is the thing most feared by repressive governments.

We also have borders

Humans also have borders, although we often call them boundaries. Your skin is the first one encountered by germs, but even your skin is porous. It lets all sorts of things in and out but only those things that are sanctioned by your body as ‘not challenging’.

We also have psychological boundaries or borders. We actively seek to keep out ideas, information and knowledge that is incompatible with who we think we are. And the more challenging a piece of information is the more we seek to ban it from entry into our cognitive system.

Just think for a moment if we abolished our psychological borders for a while. What would happen? Well, we would be exposed to new ideas and knowledge. We could appraise this new information and judge it for validity and usefulness then we could reject it or accept it as required.

We would not place a blanket ban on new information but would exercise a careful evaluation based upon utility. Perhaps this exercise in evaluation may lead to changes in what we understand and how we do things.

This is not mere idle speculation. Every client seen in CBT therapy for a depression treatment or an anxiety therapy has a strong border patrol that actively seeks to hold the border; both keeping information in and rejecting new information. Struggling to keep things in to maintain the status quo takes a lot of effort particularly if what is trapped in is unpleasant, damaging and negative. You may wonder why anyone would put effort to keeping this kind of thing inside but that is the nature or borders. What is inside is not questioned and what is outside is rejected.

Learn how CBT therapy helps dismantle borders

After CBT therapy has started and the borders are slowly weakened and dismantled people always realise that their border guards did not need to be so tough, maybe not really needed after all.  The things kept in were illusions of safety and the things kept out were only normal reality and so no real threat at all.

When the border guards are largely made redundant the whole ecology of the body works more easily and the whole land is more at peace with itself.

Please watch my film below for a further explanation on why borders are so heavily guarded.

I made it on the border between Canada and the USA. If you can watch to the end you can see me fly over the frozen border between these countries (called The Thousand Islands) and see a small ice breaker as it ploughs between the lands.

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Alexithymia – Can you describe your emotions?

 

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

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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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.

Contact Dr David Purves NOW

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