Mental Tricks to Turn It Around

Medication can help depression. But a type of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—which focuses on changing behavior, rather than talking about your childhood, for instance—can be an effective adjuvant to or even substitute for drugs. “It’s much more focused on what you seem to be doing and thinking that is keeping you depressed,” Simon Rego, PsyD, director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
Some of its methods can be practiced at home, on yourself, with no special training. So here are some tips for breaking the cycle of negativity.

One way to sabotage yourself is to take a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity. “People who are unemployed do this a lot,” says Rego. “They’ve lost their job because of the economy and they personalize it.”

It’s also unhealthy to catastrophize—focus on the worst imagined outcome, even if it’s irrational. For example, don’t let concerns about money escalate into the conviction you’ll soon be homeless.

Instead of thinking, “I’ll never get another job,” try to say to yourself: “I will get another job. It just may take some time.”

Ever clash with a colleague or fight with a friend and then keep obsessively thinking about it, amplifying the anger, stress, and anxiety associated with the memory? Known as rumination, this type of thinking is linked to a greater risk of becoming or staying depressed.

While reflection is a good thing, and may help you solve problems, rumination does the opposite.

If you catch yourself ruminating, studies suggest it may help if you try to distract yourself, meditate, or redirect your thoughts. Cognitive behavioral therapy often targets rumination because it can be so damaging to mental health.