6 Simple Strategies to Break the Cycle of Bipolar’s Negative Thinking
Since those living with bipolar spend more time depressed than elated, having the skills to manage negative thinking is essential.
#1 Distinguish between what you feel and what is real
Your mood can easily blur your vision. Feeling depressed often means feeling life is hopeless, but it’s important to realize these views are symptoms of bipolar and do not reflect reality. “In other words, it’s the depression talking, not an objective picture of your situation,” Psychologist Elizabeth Saenger, PhD, explains. She suggests thinking back to a time when you were optimistic about the future, and tell yourself that what you thought then about your life was more accurate.
#2 Avoid focusing on the negative
When we disregard the positive and instead concentrate on the unfortunate aspects of a situation—dwelling on soccer games lost, and forgetting our victories—we do ourselves a tremendous disservice, asserts Saenger. Instead of focusing on your limitations, think about what a friend would say to you to contradict this negative line of thinking.
#3 Ban over-generalizations
How many times have you concluded, on the basis of a single failure, that you will always fail? Don’t fall prey to overgeneralized thoughts such as “No one cares about me” and “I’m never going to be able to get a job.” Instead, let the words ‘always,’ ‘everybody’, ‘never,’ and ‘nobody’ serve as red flags that you’re probably overgeneralizing.
#4 Create alternatives to mind reading
When we’re depressed, we may be apt to misread or mind read how people feel about us. If we automatically conclude someone does not like us because he didn’t say “hello” rather than considering it was because he didn’t see us, this is mind reading. Saenger says it can help to write down the behavior which discouraged you in one column, your automatic interpretation of it in a second column, and multiple alternative explanations in a third column.
#5 Create a gray continuum when you have black-or-white thinking
Black-or-white, or all-or-nothing, thinking involves inappropriately categorizing objects, situations, or people into one extreme or another. When you are depressed, it is easy to think of yourself as a total failure, or as completely worthless. Remind yourself that the world is made of shades of gray, and people who are all good or all bad are rare.
#6 Break up catastrophizing
Catastrophizing involves noticing one unfavorable fact or unfortunate situation, and making it mushroom in your mind into a chain of hypothetical circumstances ending in disaster. Observed symptoms of a cold lead to an imagined death from pneumonia, or a minor mistake at work results in the nightmare of getting fired. When you predict calamities, ask how probable each event is, and how likely it is they could occur together.