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an illness that makes a person feel sad and hopeless much of the time. It's
different from feeling a little sad or down. Depression can be treated with
counseling or medicine, or both.
Healthy thinking also can help
prevent or control depression.
Healthy thinking is a way to help you stay well by changing how you think.
It's based on research that shows that you can change how you think. And how
you think affects how you feel and act.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, can help you know what thoughts of yours—both helpful and not helpful—affect problems or feelings that trouble you. With practice, you can replace negative thoughts that discourage you with accurate thoughts that encourage you.
Working on your own or with a
counselor, you can practice these three steps:
The goal is to have accurate, encouraging thoughts come naturally. It
may take some time to change the way you think. So you will need to practice
healthy thinking every day.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of
therapy that can help change how you think about yourself.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type
of therapy that can help change how you think about yourself.
You need to see a counselor to do CBT.
You don't need to see a counselor to do CBT.
There are techniques you can learn and practice on your own.
Continue to Why?
Changing the way you think can help you replace
negative thoughts with helpful ones. This can help you cope with depression and
may help keep it from coming back.
Maybe you weren't able to close a sale or get a big project done at work. Or
perhaps a relationship has ended. It's normal to feel down. But you've had
trouble sleeping. You can't enjoy many of your usual activities. And you're
blaming yourself. "I'm a failure at everything," you tell yourself.
The more you think about yourself in a negative way, the harder it is to
feel hopeful. The negative thinking makes you feel bad. And that
can make you feel more depressed, which leads to more bad thoughts about
yourself. It's a cycle that's hard to break.
But with practice,
you can retrain your brain. After all, you weren't born telling yourself
negative things. You learned how to do it. So there's no reason you can't teach
your brain to unlearn it and replace negative thinking with more helpful
Healthy thinking also can help you manage
stress. Stress can increase symptoms of depression. And depression can make your outlook on life negative and daily tasks more stressful. Too much stress can raise your blood pressure
and make your heart work harder, which can increase your risk for a heart
attack. Stress also can weaken your
immune system, which can make you more open to
infection and disease.
Although you can use CBT on your own, it's
important to talk to your doctor or a counselor if you feel that your mood is
getting worse. You may need more help.
Healthy thinking can help you stop negative thoughts
that make depression worse.
Healthy thinking can help you stop negative
thoughts that make depression worse. It also can help you replace those
negative thoughts with more helpful ones.
Healthy thinking can help your health in other
Healthy thinking can lower stress. And less
stress can lower your blood pressure and make your immune system
Continue to How?
The first step is to notice and stop your negative thoughts or "self-talk." Self-talk is what you think and believe about
yourself and your experiences. It's like a running commentary in your head.
Your self-talk may be rational and helpful. Or it may be negative and not
The next step is to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. Does
the evidence support your negative thought? Some of your self-talk may be true.
Or it may be partly true but exaggerated. There are several kinds of irrational
thoughts. Here are a few types to look for:
The next step is to choose a more helpful thought to replace the unhelpful one.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts
is one of the best ways to practice stopping, asking, and choosing your thoughts. It makes you aware of your self-talk. Write down any negative or
unhelpful thoughts you had during the day. If you think you might not remember
at the end of your day, keep a notepad with you so you can write down any
irrational thoughts as they happen. Then write down a helpful message to
correct the unhelpful thought.
If you do this every day, accurate and helpful
thoughts will soon come naturally to you.
But there may
be some truth in some of your negative thoughts. You may have some things you
want to work on. If you didn't perform as well as you would like on something,
write that down. You can work on a plan to correct or improve that area.
If you want, you also could write down what kind of irrational thought
you had. Journal entries might look something like this:
Stop your negative thought
Ask what type of negative thought you had
Choose an accurate, helpful thought
"I'm sad that I don't have
many friends. People must not like me."
"I have some friends, so I know I can make
"I should get married before
I'm 30. If I don't, it means I'm a loser."
"There's no guarantee that I'll meet the
right person by the time I'm 30. If I don't get married by then, I still have
time to find a good relationship."
"I got laid off. I'll never get
"Our company ran into financial trouble, so
I got laid off. It may take some time to get another job, but I know I
"If I don't get a big raise at
my next review, then it means I have no future with this company."
All or nothing
"I would love to get a big raise. But it
might not be in the company's budget this year."
Which of these thoughts is an example of healthy
This is an example of an irrational thought
called overgeneralizing. You may have had some relationships that didn't last.
But that doesn't mean that you will never meet someone and have a loving
This is an accurate thought. You admit that you
feel bad about something, but you're not blaming yourself. You're taking action
to see if there is anything you can do to improve your chances next time.
How can a daily journal help you have more accurate, rational
A daily journal can
help you be aware of your self-talk and have more helpful thoughts. As soon as
you write down an unhelpful thought, you can write an accurate, encouraging thought to
Writing in the journal
every day will help healthy thinking come naturally to you. It takes some
practice. It took a long time for negative thinking to become automatic. So it
may take some time to get used to having accurate, realistic thoughts.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you are ready to practice healthy thinking to help cope with
If you would like more information, see:
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Other Works Consulted
Hart SL, Hart TA (2010). The future of cognitive behavioral interventions within behavioral medicine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(4): 344–353.
Layous K, et al. (2011). Delivering happiness: Translating positive psychology intervention research for treating major and minor depressive disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(8): 675–683.
Lightsey OR, et al. (2012). Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26(1): 71–88.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Changing patterns of limited thinking. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 27–45. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Coping with panic. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 85–104. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Uncovering automatic thoughts. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 15–25. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Newman CF, Beck AT (2009). Cognitive therapy. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 2., pp. 2857–2873. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
August 3, 2012
Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health & Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
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