I’ve learned over the years that the way out of anxiety and depression always starts with becoming aware that you’re struggling with your attitude. Once you’re aware you are stuck, then you can then make changes. You won’t try to fix something you don’t acknowledge is broken.
Below are some thoughts I sometimes have when I’m discouraged and a tool that helps me recognize, at the moment, when my thinking is off. This tool helps me change my attitude from unhealthy to healthy. So does engaging my 30 Favorite Happiness Building Activities.
My Thoughts When Depressed
- “I’m going to feel down like this for the rest of my life.”
- “Why is my life so much harder than others.”
- “People see me as weak”
- “How can people pay me to help them when I cannot help myself”
- “Every part of my life is a mess”
None of these thoughts are based on reality, but they are MY REALITY when I’m consumed by them. So real at the time they become facts to me. So real I can see how people could make major decisions based on thoughts like these.
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Here’s the truth: Depressed people explain negative circumstances very differently than other people.
Depression “explains” situations as being personal, pervasive, and permanent (The 3 P’s).
The Tool: Recognizing the 3 P’s is the Key
Key #1: I View It As Personal: Nobody can relate to what I’m going through. Something is wrong with me.
Key #2: I See It Pervasive: It’s not just one aspect of my life that isn’t going well, BUT my entire life sucks.
Key #3: I See It As Permanent: What I’m experiencing now will never get any better. I’m DOOMED.
“To live without Hope is to Cease to live.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky
When I’m deeply honest with myself about my irrational perspective, I’m able to get distance from these depressing thoughts. It’s counter-intuitive, but it ALWAYS means choosing to leave the battle (surrender) of rationalization and just accept my thinking rather than punishing myself for it. Then, and only then, does the honesty come. Acceptance is the key to change.
The Honest Truth (Using the 3 P’s)
- “Lots of people struggle”
- “I’m really not alone. I have support.”
- “I can use my challenges to help others.”
- “This is painful, but it’s not permanent. It will get better.”
“Depression is the most unpleasant thing I have ever experienced … It is that absence of being able to envision that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It is a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.” – J.K. Rowling
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. – Maya Angelou
Use the 3 P’s as a tool. They challenge me to recognize that my despair isn’t permanent, that I’m not alone (personal), and that I have many positive aspects of my life (pervasive) and that change will happen (permanent). There is always hope!
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