Friday, February 26, 2010

The Best Advice in the world for Good Mental Health

If you were to sum up the best psychological advice for Depression and related problems such as anxiety and anger in one sentence what would it be. Some statements come to mind such as Think Positive or roll with the punches. One comes to mind which was said to me about a dysfunctional thought pattern, And it was simply to stop doing it. This seems ridiculously simple, easy to say and very difficult to do but recently it has worked for me.
How is this achieved ?
First of all you need to know what you are doing wrong and when you are doing it. Consider this example, A stressful interaction occurs with another person and after the event you start ruminating or visualising an argument or response and after a some time your mood becomes depressed or irritable and angry. If you put 2 and 2 together here you will see that the ruminating and visualizing has caused the change in mood. This is the cause and effect of thoughts and mood respectively.
When you realise that the ruminating is causing the subsequent dip in mood this is the first step but it can take years to establish this feedback system
The first step is realising that you are thinking in a way that is going to depress your mood or cause anger. You have to become familiar with this form of thinking to realise that you are doing it. After a while you can become highly tuned to these thought processes.
The next step after you realise your thoughts are leading you astray is to simply stop thinking this way. Now you will not achieve perfection in this regard. If you have reacted with an habitual thought pattern all your life to certain stressful events you not going to be able to stop them with 100% success overnight but the point is even if you reduced it by say 40% this would produce a remarkable improvement to your quality of life
Typically what happens is first you recognise you are doing it then you say to yourself stop and a few minutes later the thoughts come back so you keep saying stop until you find that you feel better. Once you try it a couple of times and you experience success the positive feedback will encourage you to keep trying it. Remember you can’t stop your thoughts from starting but you can stop them for persisting
This process when it works won’t so much make you feel better, rather it will stop you feeling bad in the first place. Think of all those times you feel angry and snap at people or when you seem to drift into a low mood and wonder how you got there. People sometimes say about depression that it just comes out of the blue but in reality it doesn’t. There is always a cause and effect. It feels like it comes out of the blue but in reality it’s just your dysfunctional thought detector isn’t tuned in or active enough. Once the mood hits it feels like it came from nowhere and you can’t remember your thoughts preceding it. To summarise there are basically 2 steps to the process

1.    Recognise dysfunctional thoughts when they occur
2.    Mentally tell yourself to Stop
3.    The thoughts come back. Tell yourself to stop again

Simple, but it works.