How To Combat Melancholy And Negative Thinking

negativityWe all get sad sometimes, and some of us more than others. And who is more melancholic than the reclusive writer? Suffice to say, I’ve dealt with my own bouts of thoughtful sadness. But we shouldn’t allow these negative thoughts and feelings to continue rattling in our heads, and sometimes slowing or halting our progress.

As one who’s had to deal with the affliction, I have learned a few things about combating it. In this article, I will give you practical steps you can take to resurrect yourself from the blues. They always work for me. If you give them a chance, they may do the same for you.

Step 1: Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions

What are you really feeling? Why are you feeling that way? We sometimes use anger to mask more vulnerable feelings like guilt, hurt and fear (Psychology Today). Let us get to the bottom of our true feelings. We need to recognise these thoughts and emotions to figure out if they are justified or rational. You should ask yourself if it is rational for you to think of yourself a certain way.

Is it rational for you to think that you’re a hideous beast that no one will look at twice? Is it justified for you to feel that you will die alone? Is it defensible to believe that all your friends live happy fulfilled lives whilst only you got the bad lot? Does it make sense for you to be ashamed that you started a fight with your boss at the office Christmas party, after you had too much to drink?

If the answer to this question is no, then jump to step 5. Recognising your thoughts doesn’t mean you accept them as true. But you must face them it you hope to quash them. If you ignore them, they will find their way back into your head, and sometimes when you least expect or want them.

If the answer is yes, let’s continue through all the steps.

Step 2: Pain Demands To Be Felt

That is a quote lifted from The Fault In Our Stars. That doesn’t make it any less true. Contrary to your instincts, do not ignore the pain, or drown it in drugs and alcohol, otherwise it loses its power to change you, and hopefully for the better. Immerse yourself in it. You will survive it. You will go to the deepest depths for a time, but you will immerge and feel the sun on your face again.

We need to feel this pain, because it reminds us of how we never want to be again, of how we never want to feel again. Pain is instructional (The Fate Of The Furious, oddly enough). If it is regret after doing something you knew was self-destructive, feeling and accepting it will serve as a reminder to not do that stupid, reckless, insensitive or dangerous thing ever again.

If it is fear of your financial security, this will prompt you to stop flushing down your money on frivolous nonsense, and probably look into good investments.

It you drank too much and threw up on your girlfriend, the shame will teach you restraint next time you go to a party. But only if you allow yourself to feel it.

Sometimes these painful emotions alert us of a looming problem before it escalates. If you’re anxious about your children’s future education and your constant negative bank balance, this will incite you to begin living within your means, and to save up for your kids’ future before things get too desperate.

Step 3: Make a plan

You have acknowledged your emotions, and they have taught you how you never want to feel. Now it’s time to ensure that you never do feel that way again. Think up a solution. Come up with a plan.

If you’re ashamed that you’re still financially dependent on your family and friends, decide to look for a job. List down all your education and skills, structure a great CV, and drop off applications. Each of these steps require plans of their own; to do research on crafting a fantastic CV, asking for help from your connections, and knowing the right places to search for job vacancies. But coming up with a plan is always the first step. It gives you direction, focus and confidence. (This is an example. If you have other appropriate ways to make money, go ahead and make a plan for it.)

If you are fearful because of your unhealthy weight, decide on a lifestyle change. List down the foods you want to eat more of, and those you want to eat less. Raid your pantry, and get rid of everything that’s not good for you. Every time you go grocery shopping, go with a list of only the foods that are good for you; commit to sticking to it. Come up with a healthy diet. Work out more – this could be as simple as jogging in the mornings/ evenings, or walking to places you would usually drive. The plan within the plan – research about healthy foods, balanced diets, calories and healthy workouts.

I always find it useful to write down my plan. Don’t just keep it in your head; always have a notebook and pen nearby to write it down. Writing it down gives it substance, makes it more real, and will always serve as a reminder of the work required.

Instead of fixate on the problems, focus on the solutions. The moment you have a solid plan, you will feel your sadness and anxiety slowly evaporate. Plus it will give you something practical to do, which can only move you forward.

Remember that you got to where you are by doing the best you knew at the time. Now you know better. Appreciate yourself as you are now, but know that you’re improving yourself. Everything worthwhile takes time and effort, but you will get where you want to be by putting in the work.

Don’t be bogged down by regret and shame once they have taught you to be a better person.

Step 4: You Are A Survivor

You have emerged on the other side of the pain, and you’re ok. You know that you can survive anything now. The next bout of melancholy will not be as crippling. In a way, you now have a full proof plan to overcome it.

Next time you won’t have to rely on stimulants or depressants, which most times are unhealthy, guarantee very high highs and very low lows, or offer temporary relief. You can now process your negative emotions in a healthy way.

Step 5: You Are Awesome

Some of us are very good at seeing the negatives. We fixate on that one negative thing that’s going on in our life, and forget about all the good things. Why not think positively? As much as you may think that being positive is self-deception, the same can be said of negative thinking, but only in the reverse. So why not save yourself the grief and focus on the positives for once?

Instead of fixate on that one guy or girl who rejected you, why not remind yourself that you have family that loves you, friends who support you, a good education, intellect and/ or career, good health, and the list goes on.

You are more than just your current relationship status, or your looks, or your current job. You are a full human being who has more to offer the world. Start believing it.

We usually have more good than bad things happening in our lives, but we tend to ignore this when the blues set in. We need to remind ourselves just how good we have it. Write down a list of all the good things you have in your life, of all your great characteristics. Take out your trusty notebook, and don’t leave anything out. Now look at how long that list is. Are you not embarrassed that you were wallowing in self-pity only a few minutes or hours ago?

Keep this list as a reminder of how great you are. With time, it will finally sink in. Positive thoughts beget positive experiences – don’t you ever forget it.

 

You have gone through a lot. Time for you to relax. You have your solid plan, and hopefully, the conviction to go through with it (step 5 should have given you a confidence boost). No need to worry yourself anymore. Watch a movie, go out, or talk to a friend. If you still have nagging issues, talking to a friend you can be vulnerable to is incredibly helpful. Just make sure you trust them to understand and support you.

Some interesting reads:

  • Beyond Happiness: The Upside of Feeling Down – A Psychology Today article detailing the benefits of “negative feelings and emotions”; anger, shame, guilt, embarrassment, envy, jealousy, fear, anxiety, regret, disappointment, confusion, frustration, boredom, sadness and grief. It is a long but informative read; wholly worth the patience.
  • Why It’s Okay to Feel Melancholy – The Metro article is uplifting. It made me want to change the title of my post to Learning From Melancholy.
  • Stop Feeling Sad (For No Reason) – The Thought Catalogue article takes a lighter approach to sadness. It is funny, short, and deserves a quick read.

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