Self-defeating thoughts and emotions

 The self-help industry abounds with advice on positive thinking. Some is helpful but most is shallow and unhelpful to people stuck in negative thought patterns.

Still, the proverbial adage, "You are what you think," is a fundamental and transformational truth. Habitual negative thoughts and emotions affect physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Inevitably, they erode relationships and every other area of life.

People with clinical depression have little or no control over their thoughts. Mood-altering neurotransmitters control what you think about and how fast you think.

"You only have voluntary control of your limbs if all your nerve cells are working correctly to give you that control in response to a thought of intention," says Dr. Grant Mullen, author of Healthy Moods. "Nerve cells in the brain allow you to form thoughts in the same way they permit movement. This process is subject to malfunction like any other part of the body." 1

That's why people with clinical depression can't control their racing and irrational thoughts or other mental clutter. It is also why they need medical help. Counseling, cognitive therapy and self-help books will be a waste of time and money if you can't control over your thoughts.

As you read in the non-clinical depression introduction, many things can cause non-clinical depressed moods. Those include negative thought patterns and emotional attitudes.

Overcoming unhealthy thought patterns

Cognitive therapy is the most popular approach for treating those with non-medical negative thought patterns. Pioneered by American psychiatrist Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1960's, cognitive therapy focuses on identifying and reframing thoughts and beliefs. The concept is not new. Proverbs 23:7 says, "As a man thinks, so is he."

Cognitive therapy seeks to help a person overcome difficulties by identifying and changing dysfunctional thinking, behavior, and emotional responses. "This involves helping patients develop skills for modifying beliefs, identifying distorted thinking, relating to others in different ways, and changing behaviors," says Dr. Judith Beck, President of the Beck Institute.

"The pessimistic mental set affects his (the depressed person's) mood, his motivation, and his relationships with others, and leads to the full spectrum of psychological and physical symptoms typical of depression." 2

If you are interested in cognitive therapy, a good place to start is Dr. Dave Burns' bestselling book, Feeling Good. The next step would be to find a counselor in your area specializing in cognitive therapy.

Bible reading and meditation have helped many people transform negative thought patterns into positive ones. St. Paul wrote: "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." 3

Overcoming negative emotional attitudes

Emotional attitudes are habitual negative emotions like anger, resentment and bitterness. When these emotions become habits, they affect mood as well as physical and mental health.

Most people with these attitudes want to be free of them, but often feel stuck.

In these cases, talk therapy is usually more effective than cognitive therapy, although the two are sometimes combined. Negative emotional attitudes are often rooted in unresolved pain. A counselor can help you identify the source of your pain and heal from it.

Studies show the most effective therapy combines counseling and prayer. People who pray regularly have better mental health and are less susceptible to depressed and anxious moods. In one study, Florida State psychologist Nathaniel Lambert conducted experiments in which he had a group of men and women pray for a close friend every day for four weeks. Others in the study simply reflected on the relationship, thinking positive thoughts but not praying for their friend's well-being.

The results were published in Psychological Science, a publication for the Association of Psychological Science, and Science Daily News (Prayer Increases Forgiveness). The people who prayed regularly were more able to forgive others and had more selfless concern for all others (not just those they prayed for), than the people who simply thought positive thoughts. 4

More information about overcoming negative mental and emotional patterns will be provided soon. Watch for regular updates.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of depression, see your medical doctor. This website is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or mental health professional. Read disclaimer

Home page
Back to non-clinical depression overview
Situational depression healing strategies
Chronic stress and depression
Clinical Depression

1. Healthy Moods, by Dr. Grant Mullen, Orchardville Medical Media, p. 14-15
2. Judith S. Beck. "Questions and Answers about Cognitive Therapy". About Cognitive Therapy. Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research.
3. Phil. 4:8, The Bible
4. Association for Psychological Science (2010, February 1). Prayer increases forgiveness, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 7, 2013,



 Mental Health News

Neuroplasticity reduced in brains of people with depression
The brains of people with depression show a reduced ability to adapt to their environment, learning and memory. a unique study shows. This is one of the first objective tests to show that depression is linked to decreased neuroplasticity. The magnetic stimulation tests also showed the reduction in neuroplasticity was not related to how much effort the person made. Read more

Doctors urge mental health screenings with physical exams
Most people don't address mental health issues until they drastically interfere with their lives, says a new study. This could be avoided with regular screenings.
Read more - USA Today

Calgary Flames Hockey Coach talks about his battle with OCD and depression
Facing a losing battle with depression, OCD and heavy drinking, Clint Malarchuk put a bullet to his bed. Miraculously, he survivived. Today he tells his story to corporations and high schools. "What makes me any different than a diabetic or someone with high cholesterol or a heart condition. You need medication, you take it."
Read more - Calgary Sun

Canada launches wokplace standards for mental health and safety
The Mental Health Commission of Canada released a standardized tool to help Canadian companies promote mental health, reduce stigma and support employees dealing with mental illness.
Read more

Magnetic helmet "rewires" the brain
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a helmet using magnets to treat depression in patients who have failed to respond to antidepressant medications.
Read more

Toronto's CAMH launches Temerty Centre for Therapeutic Brain Intervention
A $7.2 million donation from the Temerty Family Foundation will fund research into promising new treatments for persistent and severe mental illness, including Canada's first clinic using Magnetic Seizure Therapy (MST). Read more

Calgary researchers could help depression sufferers get well sooner
A pilot project at Foothills Medical Centre and the University of Calgary could one day help people with major depression get well sooner. The study will use blood and urine tests and brain scans to determine if there is a biological marker that will help selecting the most effective medication. Read more


Do you have news items that may be of interest to our visitors? Email us