Disrupting Stagnant Symptoms of Depression


When depressed, our negative thoughts and lack of self-worth seem to ring true, but that does not mean they are. We can easily disrupt these thoughts for a few minutes by replacing them with more life-affirming ideas and actions.

It is unnecessary to believe in these life-affirming actions. Doing them may even feel fake, pointless, or annoying, but they will temporarily disrupt stagnant symptoms—and that is whole point.

A Four Step, Five Minute Depression Disrupting Tool

This four-step tool engages your whole self - body, brain, emotions, mind/spirit - to challenge negative thoughts and hopeless feelings. It does not need to be done perfectly. Any effort put forth will be effective.

1. Engage the Brain
Engage your imagination to send the brain a visual and verbal message that it is time to lighten up. For instance, imagine a light switch. The switch is currently in the down position, labeled “depressed.” The up position is labeled “feeling better.” In your mind’s eye, flip the switch from “depressed” to “feeling better.”

2. Relax the Body
Balance your body’s energies and relieve stress with one or two minutes of alternate nostril breathing:

  • inhale, then close the left nostril
  • through the right nostril: slowly exhale, then inhale
  • now, release the left nostril as you close the right one
  • through the left nostril: slowly exhale, then inhale
  • now, release the right nostril as you close the left one
  • continue alternating nostrils as you exhale and inhale

3. Lift Your Emotions
For about two minutes visualize (picture in your mind) an uplifting scene, a place that stirs feelings of awe, excitement, appreciation, tranquility, or comfort. This scene can be imaginary, a place you have visited or would like to, or a favorite place.

As you imagine this setting be attentive to colors, and sounds you would hear if you were really there. Breathe deeply; what do you smell? Feel and taste whatever your mind conjures up for you to savor.

4. Feed the Mind/Spirit
Enjoy some words of encouragement, inspiration, or humor. For example: relive (remember) a compliment someone gave you, say a strengthening prayer, find an uplifting or funny quote, read a short poem, belt out or whisper the chorus of a favorite song.

Another feed-the-mind option is to again think again of the place you just visualized in step 3 and tell yourself, “The beauty (or strength, or comfort) of this place will stay with me as I go about my day.”


Photo credit: grant rambojun (@flickr)


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