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Thinking Makes It So

I’ve worked with people in the past who were suffering from depression, and had an exercise in which I asked them to focus on something enjoyable; a time when they really had fun and a great time. Each time I’ve asked someone to do this, I’ve always noticed the pleasant look on their face, not to mention the smile.

Happy thoughts and memories tend to do that. They take us to our happy place, and when we are in our happy place, our countenance and demeanor changes almost immediately. Just like happy thoughts tend to take us to our happy place, negative or distressing thoughts tend to do the exact opposite.

Dr. Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, who was a professor at Yale University, began studying depression in the 1980s. In studying both children and adults, her research revealed that individuals who focused on distressing events from their past seemed to be depressed more often. She used the term rumination to describe the tendency to repetitively think about problems, distressing situations, and negative experiences which are upsetting. She maintained that women ruminated more often, which accounted for the two-to-one ratio of depressed women to depressed men.

I remind people often not to dwell on painful events from their past, for by doing so allows them to continue to keep the negative experience alive which can then lead to depression and anxiety; especially, if done often. The research on this is very consistent. People who ruminate are much more likely to develop problems with depression and anxiety, and those problems are hard to overcome for someone who fails to change ruminative thought patterns.

In order to overcome rumination, you need to engage in some kind of activity that fully occupies your mind and prevents your thoughts from drifting back to negativity from the past. Reading a book, playing a game, exercising, talking to a friend (but not about the problem!), or watching a movie, are all things you can do to overcome rumination. Those of you who tend to ruminate will notice a significant difference when you begin to not focus on problems or negative experiences from your past.

Life is a gift. Choose to enjoy your life to the fullest and the great pleasures that come with it. If you want to consistently think on something, try taking a lesson from Louis Armstrong, who said in a beautiful song, ” I think to myself, what a wonderful world”.