Self-critical thoughts, low self-esteem and general bad feelings are a common characteristic of people who suffer with depression.

However, these thoughts and feelings don’t just ‘happen’ by themselves – there are real physical reasons why you have them.

If you take nothing else from this article, please always remember that when you’re suffering with depression, how you feel, how you act and how you think is not the real you. You are being negatively influenced by a malfunction in your brain.

Because of the way the brain alters when affected by depression, it leads to a highly negative and self-critical version of yourself, but it is not who you really are.

Typical thinking patterns include going over past experiences or perceived mistakes again and again. Being unable to let go of things and over-analysing situations or conversations. Making yourself ill with worry over things which have already happened and can’t be changed.

If you have negative thoughts or feelings that keep going round and round like this, you need to get your brain’s ‘brake’ working again to bring them under control them and slow them down.

These continual ‘loops’ of negative thoughts develop in the brain in an area called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia are meant to control, filter, and stop repetitive or obsessive thoughts and feelings.

If the basal ganglia aren’t working well they won’t stop those repetitive thoughts, and in particular, repetitive negative thoughts. They get burned-out when they become severely overworked and this allows negative thoughts and feelings to run out of control. Training the basal ganglia should feature heavily in the treatment of depression. There are lots of ways this can be done, both directly and indirectly. Virtually all racquet sports will help, as will balancing exercises on a gym ball or Bosu ball. Some medications will also help.

Depression warps your image of yourself and the world. Understanding or accepting this may not be easy, especially if you’ve suffered with depression for a long time. I hope this helps you realise that if you have a negative self-image or low self-esteem, it probably isn’t based on ‘reality’, because your brain won’t let you perceive things normally when you’re depressed.

Another part of the brain which deals with thoughts and feelings is an area called the thalamus. Information from your senses such as sight, sound, taste and touch, (but not smell) goes into the thalamus, along with thoughts and feelings. Just like the basal ganglia, the thalamus is connected to many other areas of the brain. Some of those areas influence how the thalamus perceives the information coming from your senses.

Basically, the thalamus is influenced into ‘feeling’ a certain way by those areas. So, if the areas controlling the thalamus are working normally, the things you see, hear, taste etc will seem ‘normal’.

In other words they won’t affect you either negatively or positively. If those areas are working really well, you’ll perceive things positively – you’ll notice what a lovely day it is, you’ll smile more, not be stressed with road-rage etc.

But if those areas are not working well, you’ll start to perceive things negatively. Someone cuts you up while your driving and you perceive that they’ve done it deliberately. Someone bumps into you coming out of a shop and you take it personally. In other words, it seems like you’re having a ‘bad day’.

In fact your day is like any other, it’s how your brain is functioning which is making you perceive it as ‘better than normal’, ‘normal’, or ‘worse than normal’. For someone suffering with depression, the brain is more often set to ‘worse than normal’ – this is why life becomes so miserable.

This means that once you’re depressed, your brain does an excellent job of keeping you in a depressed state by reinforcing negative perceptions and thought patterns.

To change your quality of life requires real changes in your brain. With the right treatment this will happen gradually. There’s no instant fix, but it can be done.

One thing that medication or any other forms of therapy won’t do is to completely change your personality. If, like me, you’re a fairly reserved person, you’re probably not going to be transformed into the life and soul of the party (even if you want to be). But getting the right treatment will not only stop you suffering the symptoms of depression, it will make it a lot easier for you to live with yourself. By this I mean you can start to let go of negative feelings you’ve had about yourself in the past.

Because we associate our perceived past failings and mistakes with who we are now, we tend to think we’ll be the same ‘failure’ in the future. This leads to a self-fulfilling cycle – because we expect our lives to be as bad in the future as we perceive it to have been in the past, we subconsciously (and sometimes even deliberately) do things to make sure that expectation becomes a reality. We undermine our own future.

Because this link to the past holds us so strongly, once you're able to release yourself from its grip, you’re suddenly open to a life filled with anticipation and opportunity instead of expectation of failure, guilt and feeling bad about yourself.

This doesn’t mean life will immediately and automatically transform from awful to a marvellous, happy experience where nothing ever goes wrong. You still have to deal with day-to-day frustrations, bills, dealing with other people and all the other things that can affect your health.

However, becoming well can transform your quality of life, for the rest of your life. However bad things may seem at the moment, it doesn’t always have to be like this. There is hope, and you can have a better future. A future you deserve, a future free from depression.

Author's Bio: 

Richard Ingall is the author of ‘Depression Beater’ and is a former sufferer of severe depression.

Despite mental health issues being on the increase, Richard explains why most treatments have limited success and reveals exactly what you need to become well in his ground-breaking book.

Click here to discover more =>

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