Stop Depressive Thinking! Catch the error of your ways

Here is a very nice, concise review from the CBIS Manual of very common cognitive thinking errors.  The theory goes, if you change how your think, you change how you feel.

In my opinion, this is solid gold.  It is bang on, and very helpful.

If you are ever vigilant, constantly watching how you react to your circumstances, and stop the cognitive errors outlined below, you will stop your depression, in most cases.  To be clear, some people manage depression for years, but the depth and length of any particular depressed mood, can be rapidly shortened when you identify and work (hard!) on changing your mental habits.  They say a mood lasts seven minutes.  It continues if you keep perpetuating it with your thoughts.  In other words, in any given day, when news or an event triggers a depressive emotion, you have seven minutes to endure.  If you work hard to challenge all the negative thoughts, you can stop the wave of sadness, and pull out.

It’s not easy.  It’s worth trying.

Below, courtesy of CBIS Manual, June 2009, British Columbia, by permission:

Depression and Thinking:

  • Common Thinking Errors
  • The situations we find ourselves in don’t cause our depressed feelings — our ways of
  • perceiving the situations do. Here are some distorted ways of thinking that often increase
  • depression. Check the ones that most relate to you.
  • Filtering
  • Everyone’s life has negative aspects. If you focus only on the negative and filter out all
  • positive or neutral aspects, your life will indeed seem depressing.
  • Emotional Reasoning
  • “I feel it so it must be true.” Remember feelings are not facts. Emotions are based on
  • subjective interpretations, not hard evidence.
  • Over-Inclusive
  • You think of one problem or demand, then another and another, until you feel
  • completely overwhelmed.
  • Black or White Thinking
  • You think only in extremes or absolutes, forgetting that most things fall into shades of grey.
  • Jumping to Conclusions
  • You predict a negative outcome without adequate supporting evidence.
  • Mind Reading
  • You believe that others are thinking and feeling negatively about you and you react as if
  • this is true.
  • Predicting The Future
  • You anticipate that things will turn out badly and you feel convinced that your predictions
  • are true.
  • Catastrophizing
  • You blow things out of proportion and imagine the worse case scenario. This intensifies
  • your fear and makes it difficult for you to cope with the actual situation.
  • Should
  • You make rigid rules for yourself and others about how things “should” be. When these
  • rules are not followed you become depressed and angry

Thought Change Process

Thoughts go unnoticed as we automatically go through our day. This often leads to the

belief that an event triggers a feeling or behaviour. In fact it is our interpretation of the

event that creates our feelings and behaviours.


In order to change negative thoughts they first must be noticed.

• Slow down your thinking

• Consciously pay attention to your negative thoughts.

• Be a non-judgmental observer of your thoughts.


Once you are aware of your negative thoughts the next step is to begin changing them.

• Write down your negative thoughts

• Ask yourself “Are these thoughts helpful?”

• R eplace them with more realistic, helpful thoughts

Example 1

Adele gets criticized by her boss. She immediately thinks:

“This is terrible. She thinks I’m a real loser. She’ll put this on my record and she’ll be

watching me closely. I just can’t mess up again.” She feels panicky and broods over the

incident all evening.

If instead, Adele slowed down her thinking and paid attention to her negative thoughts

she would see that these thoughts are not helpful. She may then decide it would be

more helpful to apologize to her boss, carry on working, and make more effort to

concentrate. She could then set aside the incident once it was over.

Example 2

Sam’s son comes home late one evening. Sam feels angry and thinks — “He’s so

inconsiderate! He knows I have an interview tomorrow and I need my sleep.” Sam yells

at his son and is too upset to go back to sleep.

If Sam stopped to notice his thoughts he would have time to consider a more balanced

perspective. “Usually he is considerate. I know he’s busy saying goodbye to friends

before he heads off to university. I’ll talk with him tomorrow. Right now I need my sleep.”

Sam goes back to sleep.

Self Talk (Mean Talk)

Depression brings on a flood of mean talk. Depressed people blame themselves; they

pick out every little flaw; they brood over mistakes, from miniscule to sizeable; they call

themselves names (Stupid! Useless!); they psych themselves into failure or giving up

(“You know you can’t do this; you know you’ll blow it; you always screw up”).

This kind of mean talk to yourself is guaranteed to keep you depressed and will definitely

not help you to be more productive or successful.

To help in your recovery from depression, make a resolution to treat yourself the way you

would treat someone else you valued, such as a friend dealing with some problems, a

child you wanted to help do better in school, or a partner who is coping with a job failure.

The Talk Back Technique

1 Be Aware: Listen to your own self-talk.

2 Evaluate: Decide if your self-talk is helpful or harmful.

3 Catch yourself: Notice your “mean talk.” (You will be surprised how often you do this).

4 Stop: Immediately tell yourself (in a firm gentle voice)


5 Ask yourself: “What would I say in this situation to a friend who was feeling down and

needed encouragement and support?”

6 Support yourself: Say to yourself what you would say to a friend.

7 Practice, practice, practice: The more you challenge your “mean talk” and replace it

with caring respectful talk, the more likely it is that you will improve your mood.



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