I read Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy quite some time ago. It helped me with my depression at the time, and it came to my mind again quite recently.
I’m not feeling depressed anymore, but I have some friends who are going through problems like this, and I decided to write about a book that could help them in some way.
In this blog post I’ll try to summarize the book briefly.
Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
This book is simply trying to help you understand what kind of thinking a depressed person might be going through, and then how to start fixing that problem for yourself.
Understanding yourself and what you are like is the first step to recovery from depression, or that’s how it was for at the very least, and this book was a good read at the time when I needed it.
That being said, it’s important to note that depression can be a result of different kinds of factors, and it’s not always a result of your negative thinking (although, I’d say it always leads to that.)
Let’s have a look at the different kinds of thinking that might be causing you trouble.
In this kind of thinking the person sees the world simply as good or bad, or black and white, when in fact there are shades of grey as well.
Sometimes people talk in terms of winners and losers, which is a massive over generalization (we’ll go into this more next). In the business world, which is another one of my interests, most people fail at first, some of them fail a lot, but from all those attempts those same people will learn what not to do, and will correct themselves in the future. The only losers therefore are those that give up when it gets difficult. The winners are everyone who get up after a rough patch.
Another way to look at this is from the angle of perfectionism. Often times we demand too much from ourselves. Let’s say you have 10 tasks you want to accomplish this weekend, but you only manage to do 7 of them. That’s a pretty good score I’d say, but for some people that means it’s a complete failure of a weekend – they didn’t accomplish anything and they can’t get things done like they imagined.
In this kind of thinking you take one negative event that happened, and then apply it to everything.
One of the best examples comes from dating life. Let’s say you get rejected by someone you really liked, and you conclude from that one incident that you’re completely undateable. Unlovable. I’m sorry if you went through an event like that, and it probably doesn’t help your case, but trust me that there are other people out there who will give you their time and attention.
I also hear that some people do this when they fail a test. They think because of this one event where they failed, they are now completely worthless. It’s a massive generalization, and only means you didn’t study enough, or just weren’t interested enough in the subject for that particular test. It’s not the end of the world, trust me.
It isn’t helping you if you think “well, I failed here, again. Everything I do will always result in the same way, in failure – so why even try?” – which is exactly what you shouldn’t do, because even when you do fail, there is always something good that comes out of that experience, even if it isn’t immediately apparent at first.
This is the kind of thinking where you fixate your thoughts on the negative.
This is a result of your brain trying to protect you. The brain, whether you like it or not, will always try to remember the bad experiences, because that way it can protect you better in the future. Once you know this, some things in your thinking should start to make more sense, and yes this is something you need to work to ‘fix’ yourself, because your brain is wired to do it. You want to fix it because, especially for people suffering from depression, this is not the kind of thinking that will make you feel better in the long run.
One example could be: you’re at a party, and you talk to many people and you’re having a good time, until you come across this one person that you end up having an argument with. You will remember that one person rather than all the other people that were at the party, and by doing so, you end up focusing on the negative. It’s okay to let go of these thoughts.
Discounting the Positive
This is somewhat related to the previous one, and follows similar kind of logical pattern when you understand your brain prefers the negative experiences in general.
With this kind of thinking you don’t value the positive events in your life as much as the negative ones.
I’ve had this experience where I’ve done many good things to a friend, but after one negative event they stop talking to me for a while. I won’t get too personal here, but I’m sure we’ve all gone through something similar, as this happens quite often, or maybe I’ve chosen weird friends over the years. Either way, it simply is not a good way to live your life. One negative should not outweigh all the positives.
Jumping to Conclusions
In this kind of thinking the person creates a logical error and assumes a bad or the worst outcome to a situation.
I’m personally am guilty of this kind of thinking. What makes it worse is that I’m not always incorrect when I think like this, but I think the reason why I’m sometimes correct is due to me already thinking like in a negative way.
You shouldn’t jump to conclusions, as we can’t predict the future, and we can’t control people around us. The only person we have full control over is ourselves, and with this kind of thinking, you should be able to ease the situation for yourself at least a little bit.
My recommendation is, don’t assume anything, good or bad, and you won’t be disappointed. Easier said than done, I know.
This is when a person takes a small problem, and then thinks its bigger than it actually is.
Let’s say that you’re late to a meeting, and that makes you think the whole encounter is ruined because of it.
Or you bought the wrong kind of tea for your friend as a gift. Now you think your friend thinks you’re stupid and worthless. Do I even have to point out the mistake in this kind of thinking?
Small problems are small, and that’s it. People get over them, so should you.
This is where the person assumes their feelings are facts.
This is a little difficult to explain, but let’s say a person is feeling sad, and because of that they assume their life must be horrible right now, when in fact those feelings could be tied to something in their past rather than what’s happening right now.
Everyone else acknowledges your feelings and think those are important, but that doesn’t turn your emotions into facts of reality. Emotions aren’t necessarily reflective of what’s going on in our lives currently.
This is when a person sets unrealistics expectations or standards on reality.
This is me in a nutshell, or at least was, and it took me a while to get rid of this habit.
I’m someone who is very honest, and I have always had high expectations of others. This hasn’t always worked in my favour, in fact, it rarely has worked worked for me. So I had to change something about myself. I’m now getting better at it than before.
An example would be, you buy something nice to a person you like, and you expect to get something in return, but that something just doesn’t come. I’m not sure how many of you have been in this situation, but I can tell you from experience that it isn’t a good way to think.
When you do good things, you should simply do them because you like helping others, or you because you enjoy it, not in order to get a reward later.
Another example is, and this is probably the more common one, when you think of yourself as the target of your “should” statements. “I should be earning more money.” “I should be better looking.” “I should have more friends.”
This kind of thinking gets you nowhere. And that’s really all there is to it.
This is where a person oversimplifies reality through faulty description.
I’ve been a guilty of this, in fact, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been guilty of this.
This school is terrible. He is stupid. My work is boring.
All of these are one adjective statements, which may even be true, but labelling someone or something like that isn’t a good way to think your way through life. There are good and bad sides to everything, and labeling something is in the way of you living your life to the fullest.
You could just be living your life without labeling everything and everyone you see, and see what’s happening in the present moment instead.
Personalization and Blame
This is where a person takes the blame on something they had no control.
Let’s say you’re in an abusive relationship where the other person cheats on you, they get caught, and then they say that it’s your fault that they cheated on you. The problem then begins when you take the blame, and accept it as fact, when in reality the other person is clearly to blame for their actions.
Or what about when someone decides to steal money from you, and then later justify it by saying “you didn’t give me enough money!…” This is again something you shouldn’t take the blame on. It’s all on them.
Again, the only person you can control is you, and if someone decides to shift the blame on you, when you had nothing to do with what they did, you shouldn’t just take the blame for it.
Now, this may seem like common sense to some of you, but to a person who is suffering from depression, it might not be that easy to come to the conclusion that they’re not in fact always wrong about something.
What To Do Next?
This is the end of my blog post today. Today I just wanted to bring these different types of negative thinking to your attention. I specifially left out rest of the content in the book, so you can delve more into the topic, and ways how to fix your thinking, by simply reading it for yourself.
You can buy the book here: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy
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