Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 5


In this blog I am revisiting the unhelpful thinking styles identified in Part 4. Here you can find suggestions for beginning to change depressed thinking and behaviour that you may have recognized. These are simplistic examples but they illustrate contrasting ways of seeing things. Perhaps you could focus on one area every week to see what difference it will make?


When you are depressed you tend to catastrophize – focusing on the worst imagined outcome, even if it’s irrational. For example, if you are made redundant, don’t allow yourself to become convinced that you are on the scrap heap. Problems can be sorted out when you take action, one step at a time. Instead of thinking, ‘I’ll never get another job’, you can say to yourself: ‘I will get another job. It may just take some time.’


Reflection can be a good thing as it may help you find solutions, but rumination tends to maintain the problem. Recognise when you are ruminating and do something – distract yourself, meditate, or redirect your thoughts to something helpful.

Crystal Ball Gazing

No one has the ability to predict the future and our worst predictions rarely come true. Rather than worry about what might happen, it’s more helpful to stay in the present where you are less likely to blow things out of proportion.

Dwelling on the Past

You can’t ever change what has already happened. It is gone. Instead of wishing for a different outcome and perhaps replaying past events (a sign of rumination), it is more helpful to accept that you made the best decisions you could have made with the information or resources you had at that time.

Isolating Yourself

As humans we are social creatures. We all have networks of people and relationships around us and they provide the opportunity for support. Remember those basic emotional needs I mentioned in Part 3 of this blog? You probably already have a team of ‘supporters’ around you but you don’t recognize them as such right now. Think about those official posed photos of sports teams for example – standing beside the athletes you can see the coach, the trainer and other staff members – all the people who support the athletes and help them to perform well. Putting yourself at the centre of your own imaginary team photo – who would be there with you? When you start reconnecting with people, you can begin to feel understood. You allow yourself to get positive advice and encouragement and it’s often done in activities that end up being fun. Staying home alone will maintain the depression. Getting out with other people – even a little bit – will lift your spirits.

Structured Routine

Even when you don’t feel like it, set an alarm and get up at the same time every day. Eat meals regularly at set times. Avoid lounging around during the day, as it will probably prevent you from sleeping well at night. Even if you’re unemployed or feeling down, it’s really important to set and establish a daily routine as best you can. This provides a sense of regularity that can help lift a depressed mood. Include socializing in your routine too.

All or Nothing Thinking

It’s important to recognise that your thought patterns can get you into a rut or keep you there. When you feel low or sad, this negatively affects the way you think about yourself. Thinking in extremes can paralyze you – stop you from doing the things that will make you feel better. Instead of thinking in black and white terms, look for the shades of grey. Instead of thinking ‘no one loves me’, think ‘there are people who care about me’.

Reality Check your Thoughts

A depressed mind state breeds negative thoughts. However, they are rarely grounded in reality. Once you’ve identified a negative thought, begin to challenge your thinking. For example, ‘Where is the evidence that I’m the worst person in the world?’ It‘s not helpful to keep sabotaging your happiness with untruths. To accept something as true, you have to come up with some really solid evidence to back it up, not just guesswork.

Choosing Unrealistic Goals

When you want to achieve something, select a few simple, straightforward goals you can easily set and follow. Realistic goals should be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Rewarding, and Time-limited. For example, if you are job hunting you could make a plan to post three CVs to companies who are hiring before the end of the working week.

Giving Up Everything you Enjoy

Are you aware of what you have stopped doing that you used to enjoy? It’s helpful to write down all the things you used to like doing that you’ve stopped because you’re sad and feeling low. Perhaps it’s going out somewhere in particular, playing a sport, socializing with friends, or simply going for a walk and enjoying nature. Start with the easiest activity and one by one, start adding them back into your life, even if you’re feeling unenthusiastic about it. Begin to focus on tasks that give you a sense of mastery or accomplishment, whether it’s a household chore, doing something creative or even paying an outstanding bill.

Denying Depression

When you accept that depression has taken hold of you, you begin to relieve the suffering. If your present situation is terrible, then denying it will only make things worse. In general, knowing and accepting that you have depression will allow you to take steps to make it better (with or without the help of a therapist), rather than pretending that everything’s okay.

Treating Yourself Badly

Have you noticed the language you use when you think about or talk to yourself? Compare it to the way you talk to other people. If there’s a difference, decide to treat yourself in a kinder, gentler way. We can often be kind and compassionate to everybody else but we beat ourselves up. Don’t bully yourself.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) recognizes that our thoughts, feelings and behaviour all work together. When you learn to change the way you think about things and the way you act in certain situations then it is inevitable that your feelings or emotions will change too. Over a number of weeks a therapist can help you to challenge your negative thoughts and subsequently change the way you act and behave. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help. Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at:

If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:

Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90

In Part 6 of this blog on depression you can read about changing the unhelpful thinking and behaviour which maintains that depression.


Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 4


In the previous blogs in this series I talked about how your feelings of #depression are just a reflection of your current brain state. Depression is created by exhaustion brought about by too much emotionally arousing ruminating, worrying and introspection. The brain is actually working in a different way when you are depressed. With a clearer picture of what depression is and what causes it, you can set about lifting it more rapidly.

When I work with clients who tell me they are experiencing the symptoms of depression we always start very gently. Once you understand what depression is and how it is maintained (how your negative ruminations are creating problems with getting the right quality of sleep) it is easy to see the importance of getting the rest you need and recouping your lost energy. Therefore, one of the first things I do is teach you how to calm down the emotional arousal that keeps you in a stressed state and prevents you relaxing and getting enough sleep. I use #hypnotherapy to show you how you can achieve a relaxed and calm state of mind for yourself very simply and easily. Using #self-hypnosis or #mindfulness techniques allows you to practice gaining control over feelings of stress and anxiety that help to maintain your depressed mind state. Once you train yourself to stand back from this type of emotional thinking, you allow your rational mind to work for you and you can begin to recognize and challenge the negative thinking that maintains the depression.

It’s relatively easy to make yourself depressed or prolong a depressed state of mind. If you’re reading this blog then you may already be an expert! See how many of these unhelpful ways of thinking you recognize:

  • Do you dwell on a single event and treat it as an ongoing source of negativity? For example, people who are unemployed often do this – you lose your job because of the economy but you personalise it
  • Do you ever argue with a colleague, friend or family member and then keep obsessively thinking about it, amplifying the anger, stress, and anxiety associated with it? This type of thinking, called rumination, is linked to a greater risk of becoming or staying depressed
  • Do you convince yourself that you know what will happen a day, a month, or a year ahead and that it is usually bad, if not catastrophic? Do you jump to conclusions? Do you mind read other people?
  • Do you dwell on the past, telling yourself you should have done this or shouldn’t have done that?
  • Do you isolate yourself from other people? It can happen easily if you’re not working, or you’re avoiding people because you’re depressed
  • Do you tend to eat or sleep inconsistently?
  • Do you think in extremes? For example – ‘I’m a loser’. ‘No one loves me’. ‘I’ll never get a job’
  • Do your thoughts reflect reality as other people see it? Are you accused of being negative all the time?
  • Do you make things too difficult to achieve? For example, if you are unemployed then setting yourself the goal of getting a job by the end of the week is probably unrealistic
  • Have you stopped doing things you used to enjoy?
  • Do you refuse to accept that you are depressed but beat yourself up about the way you feel? Do you think you are crazy or weak?
  • Do you use negative language when you think about or talk to yourself? Do you treat yourself badly?

Well, how many did you recognize? When you think like this you are sabotaging your own well being. These unhelpful thinking styles demonstrate the ways you become adept at using negative self-hypnosis every day of your life.

In Part 5 of this blog on depression I will return to these thinking styles and offer suggestions to help you consider changing such unhelpful thinking and behaviour. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help.

If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:

Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90

Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at:


Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 3


An important aspect to understanding #depression is the function of sleep and dreaming. We naturally dream for about two hours each night, even though we may not be aware of the dreams when we awaken. Dreaming usually occurs during REM sleep (about 25% of the sleep cycle) and it allows the metaphorical acting out of unexpressed, emotionally arousing thoughts. The remaining 75% of the sleep cycle (slow wave sleep) boosts the energy levels in the brain. Dreaming allows emotional arousal to be discharged, and frees up the brain’s resources ready for the following day.

However, when you are depressed this process is out of balance. Slow wave sleep is reduced, as periods of REM sleep increase dramatically. The constant rumination and introspection that characterizes depression creates high levels of emotional arousal, which takes much more time to discharge by dreaming, and this exhausts the brain. People who have been depressed tell me they feel exhausted on waking and lack the motivation to get up and get moving. The mornings are often the hardest part of the day.

When you spend all your time worrying and ruminating, your levels of emotional arousal are extremely high. Thinking like this, using your emotional brain, inhibits your thinking brain so you are unable to think rationally or objectively about your experiences. Have you ever tried to rationalise with a depressed person? It is virtually impossible to get them to see beyond their emotional thinking – everything is seen in extremes: black or white; right or wrong; good or bad; all or nothing. They are unable to see any shades of grey from this very constrained viewpoint. I explain this to my clients as negative #self-hypnosis. Just as we can use our imaginations to help us in a positive way using #hypnotherapy, we spontaneously and unintentionally use negative self-hypnosis to keep us stuck in unhelpful states of mind. Do you constantly find yourself analysing the negative aspects of your life? Do you catastrophise things making everything that happens seem overwhelming? Do you always jump to conclusions? Do you worry all the time about what other people think about you? If so, then you are already an expert in spontaneous and unintentional negative self-hypnosis!

It is also helpful to consider the insights provided by the Human Givens approach to depression, which states that when you are getting your needs met in a balanced way it is impossible to have any form of mental illness. As well as having physical needs that you are driven to satisfy such as hunger, thirst and sex, you also have natural emotional needs. When these emotional needs or ‘human givens’ are not met, you experience considerable mental distress — most commonly anxiety and/or depression.

To be emotionally healthy you need:

  • to feel safe and secure
  • to regularly give and receive love and attention
  • to feel a sense of influence or control over your life
  • to feel part of a wider community
  • to enjoy friendship, love and fun with significant people
  • to feel a sense of status – have a role in life – sense of achievement
  • to feel stretched but not stressed to alleviate boredom and enhance self esteem

Depression happens when you negatively ruminate on what is lacking in your life. What do you need to make your life easier, more enjoyable, or give it meaning?

In Part 4 of this blog you can read about some of the things I do to help people start to feel better and help you to recognize some of the unhelpful thinking styles you may use when you are depressed. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help.

If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:

Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90

Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at:


Depression – why do I feel so bad? Part 2


Many people who have been depressed tell me that the depression makes them:

  • Feel exhausted in the morning
  • Have difficulty sleeping or sleep too much
  • Dream more often and have restless sleep
  • See things in all or nothing, black and white terms
  • Lose enjoyment in things they used to enjoy
  • Feel emotional or angry about insignificant things (flat but emotional inside)

Whilst you may find it easy to recognise these symptoms, it may be more difficult to understand what is happening to you and why it is happening. Families and friends of people who have been depressed also struggle to understand the way depression affects their loved ones. This is because the general understanding of depression is often clouded by various myths and inaccuracies. What do you believe depression is? A quick straw poll of people in the street would probably throw up various common explanations:

  • it’s a disease
  • it’s a chemical imbalance in the brain
  • it’s inherited
  • it’s anger turned on yourself
  • it’s from a bad childhood

These misunderstandings can lead to inappropriate treatment. So what is current thinking telling us about depression?

We know that depression is not a genetic disease. It is not something you are born with. It is also not caused by life events. For example, many people experience trauma or difficult childhoods and do not become depressed. Over 30 years of research has demonstrated that most depression is learned through the way you interact with your environment. Whilst the experience of certain life events do not cause depression, your response to those events – how you think and cope – does determine the likelihood of becoming depressed.

So what is depression?

In biological terms, depression is a normal part of how your brain works. It is a brain pattern programmed in by evolution to function as a protection mechanism and it automatically kicks in when you are very highly stressed. Many people with depression describe feeling flat, but this is really only on the outside. We know that when you have depression, you are stressed out on the inside – there are high levels of the stress hormone cortisol circulating in your system. So depression works like a safety switch that trips when you are overloaded. A particular brain pattern is triggered and your brain works in a different way. When you are feeling depressed you automatically focus on the negative aspects of a situation and your emotional thinking assumes the worst outcome, forcing you to withdraw. In biological terms, this withdrawal serves a purpose – it conserves your energy and keeps you safe. This way of functioning isn’t unusual – in a similar way, your pain system automatically alerts you to problems and triggers specific behaviour. Thinking about depression in this way can help you to see how and why it functions – it is how your brain and body responds to stress and in that sense it is not your fault! However, maintaining the depressive brain state creates problems and you can learn to take control and responsibility for changing it.

You can read more about this in Part 3 of this blog. If you are suffering with depression, please consider getting professional help.

If you are in the UK and need to talk to somebody as soon as possible:

Samaritans UK – 08457 90 90 90

Samaritans ROI – 1850 60 90 90

Your doctor can help refer you to a therapist or you can seek help directly. I specialize in working to help people overcome depression and anxiety and I’m based in #York. If you need some help I can be reached via my website at: