3 Ways To Challenge Your Depressive Thoughts
Updated: Apr 18, 2020
On beautiful days outside, the best thing for my mental health is to just go on a walk. On beautiful days outside, when my depression is present, going on a walk is something that I really don't want to do. In fact it's the last thing that I want to do. My thoughts typically will spiral into something like this when this is the case...
Why aren’t I outside appreciating the weather? Everyone else is enjoying these days and having fun. I should be happy because it's so nice outside. I don't want to go outside. I don't want to run into anyone that I know. I just want to stay inside and take a nap. These thoughts are only feeding my depression which doesn’t help. Instead of engaging in my depressive thoughts, I need to challenge them.
However, the thing with depression is that it doesn't like to be challenged. It likes to be heard and comforted. Depression can sometimes feel like a heavy blanket just wanting to be snuggled with. That's what makes depression so scary. It can feel so comforting. I mean, who wouldn't want to snuggle up with a warm and heavy blanket when they're feeling sad?! I get that this isn’t the case for every scenario, but I’ve caught myself in this situation so many times with what depression feels like.
These depressive thoughts can be on repeat for hours until you challenge them. If you don't challenge them and instead engage in them, you may find yourself cooped up at home isolating yourself. This will feel "good" in the moment because it's easier to feed something than it is to challenge something! Think about it. Overtime though, these thoughts will only get bigger which will make it even harder to challenge them.
So how the heck do you challenge your depressive thoughts??
1. LISTEN to them.
Yeah, you read that right. Those needy thoughts want to be heard, so listen to them. Don't engage in them; listen to them. There's a difference. Engaging is you continuing to build these thoughts up by adding even more thoughts that follow along the same pattern. Listening is just simply listening to what they are saying without responding right away. For me a lot of the time, my depressive thoughts give me my answer to get out of the funk without the depression even realizing it. How? By me doing the exact opposite of what it wants to do. Depression wants to be comforted and fed. It's important to listen to what your depression is telling you it doesn't want to do. Because that's the exact thing that you need to do ( in most scenarios ) in order to challenge it. So if my thoughts are telling me that I don't want to go outside or interact with anyone or anything else then it looks like I need to go on a walk throughout my neighborhood!
It's not easy to go against what your thoughts are telling you to do. Believe me. So if you're still not up for the challenge, what else can you do?
2. Vocalize them either to yourself or to someone else.
Once the thoughts are vocalized, they aren't taking up as much space in your mind which will take away that power from them. The more you think about them, the bigger they will get and overpower your other thoughts. Once you vocalize them, it's releasing a little part of that thought. Hopefully this will make you realize the trap depression caught you in and that'll motivate you to challenge it. By doing the opposite of what it wants you to do.
Still not motivated for the challenge?
3. Bribe yourself.
It's probably not the healthiest thing, but I found myself doing this two days ago to get me out of my funk. I typically do not recommend bribing in any other relationship of any kind, besides the relationship you have with depression!
The other day I caught my depression keeping me all cooped up at home, but I wasn't motivated to challenge it. I was okay sitting in those depressive thoughts because they felt comfortable. Until I bribed myself. With a slushy from the gas station. I knew that I really wanted a slushy all day, which is why I told myself that I could get a slushy if I went outside and walked to the gas station. This allowed me to focus more on the slushy than it did on my feelings of not wanting to go on a walk. It kind of distracted my depressive thoughts from realizing this was actually me challenging it. Instead of me thinking I'm going to go outside and go on a walk I was thinking more about how delicious the slushy was going to be.
Feel free to try these ideas when you notice yourself trapped in your depression. It's in no particular order necessarily, but can be used in this order! I would like to also remind you that I am not a medical professional and this advice is coming from my own experience with dealing with depression.