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Depression: Recognising the positive

Written by on February 28, 2019

Over the last few weeks I have been writing about how musicians, from stalwarts like Bruce Springsteen, to current global pop stars like Ariana Grande, have combatted mental health issues that they have struggled with. One thing that all these performers have in common is recognising the positive things that occur in their lives. The common factor with everyone was, and is, sharing their passion with an audience. Obviously, we do not tour and perform in front of an audience regularly so need to have other positive outlets. (If you do play in a band, please post a comment as I’m always on the lookout for new artists or bands to watch!)

A few weeks ago I posted a lyric from the group Bad Brains regarding keeping a positive mental attitude. I try and keep a PMA throughout any low moods, anxiety or depression that may occur. It can be tough and sometimes I fail., but more often than not, having a PMA can lift me out of depression.

“Don’t care what they may say
We got that attitude!
Don’t care what you may do
We got that attitude!

Hey, we got that PMA!
Hey, we got the PMA!”

Keeping track of good things.

Unfortunately, with regards to depression, an unfair symptom of it is that your brain deals with positive and negative information very differently. This means that having a PMA when a majority of your emotions are negative can be difficult. If someone criticises you, you are likely to believe it as being true but if someone says something good to you, the positive comment could be ignored or be thought of as a joke. You could also forget about the positive comment which leads to only remembering the negative, therefore building up an overwhelmingly negative picture about yourself.

To combat this, an easy method is to keep track of all of the good things that happen to you. Make this a regular thing. This will develop a realistic, fairer and positive view of yourself. This might sound hard, and at first, it could well be, but try not to be discouraged. When you start you might think to yourself that what you are writing is trivial or stupid but just get them down on paper! As time progresses, you may see that you have more positive traits and do more positive things than you think.

Examples could include:-

  • When you manage to get something done, eg, hoovering after ignoring it for too long. (Yes, this was one of mine!)
  • Something that you have done goes to plan.
  • Something you do goes better than expected.
  • You do something worthwhile, eg, donate to charity.
  • Somebody contacts you.
  • Somebody compliments you.
  • Leaving your home and venturing outside.

If you note down any positive things that happen to you, no matter how small, your well-being will increase in no time.

Reward yourself

Once you have got into the habit of doing this, it is important to reward yourself. Taking time out to do this is important as tackling depression is hard work and you deserve to reward yourself for any accomplishments that you might make or positive changes that you make. A better mood, more positive thinking, or a better routine. Buy that record or concert ticket, go on, you deserve it! When you are treated well, you feel better, even if the person treating you well is yourself. Giving yourself the message that you are a good person can be tough, but once you realise you are, you feel much happier, which is very important.

Keeping a record of any successes and positive changes that may occur, even if it was just the effort to change, along with the any rewards you give yourself is a good way of seeing how you are beating depression. Be mindful of any negative thoughts that may occur, for example “I don’t deserve a reward for this, I should be doing this anyway”, as that is reverting to negativity.

Remember, everyday things are more difficult when you are depressed and any effort to change your thought patterns or behaviour can be hard work. Be careful not to fall into the trap of having (very common) general depressive thoughts like “I don’t deserve anything nice or I shouldn’t waste money on myself”.

You most definitely do.

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