Highlights from Jonathan Otto's interview with cognitive behavioural therapist (CBT), Amanda Anguish, for the Depression & Anxiety Series.
Amanda: 05:27 One is lifestyle choices. If I'm around a bunch of negative people, what are my thoughts likely to be? They say we're what percent of the people that we spend time with. I don't know what's a big percent. But if we spend time with negative people, that's going to affect whether we're depressed or not, and sometimes, we've grown up in depressed homes. Our mom's depressed, dad's depressed, so we're going to be likely to be depressed too. So even just getting outside of that circle of people that we've always been around can be really helpful.
Amanda: 06:01 And then as we do that, when we're around healthier people, then it can often be sometimes easier to even notice what our own thoughts are, because all these healthy people don't have the same thoughts. I can see a new gauge for what my thoughts are, but exercise is huge for depression and anxiety. Lots of exercise is really good for that. Eating ...
Interviewer: 06:26 When you say, "Lots," help me to define lots of exercise.
Amanda: 06:28 Well not just getting up and walking from the car and to the grocery store doesn't count as exercise, like, real concerted effort. At least an hour of exercise a day, if you're depressed or have anxiety. I recommend doing it with somebody else too. It's always nice to have a buddy. But if you can't do it, there are other ways. You don't have to do it with somebody, but it's nice because sometimes that person can keep you from going into that negative place. But I think one of the biggest things that we often think is helpful with people who have depression and anxiety. As we say, we'll just listen.
Amanda: 07:04 But sometimes you're actually just reinforcing those negative thoughts by listening to them. And so, the best thing that we can do is have healthy people who are willing to share the truth with us or at least call us out when we're saying something that's not healthy. That can be another good thing too that we can do.
Interviewer: 07:22 Okay.
Amanda: 07:22 Breathing. Yeah, just slowing down our breathing when we're anxious. Taking notes. If you're in a situation, sometimes, it's hard to pay attention, because we're thinking about a whole bunch of stuff going on in our head. But just making a concerted effort to take notes about what people are saying around us. If we're in a class or in a meeting or something like that, just to keep our mind off of our depression or anxiety and focused on the right things.
If you have negative thoughts, if you have negative self-talk, if you have negative beliefs about things, you'll keep going down that because it's easy. It's a habit.
Amanda: 09:23 Any habits we have, we keep doing often. Whether it's addictions or other things. And so, sometimes, we're addicted to our own thoughts. We keep going back to them. But if we develop a new path, then that one grows up, and then we have a new one that becomes the path of least resistance. So, in essence, I'm helping people develop a new path of least resistance, but it takes a little resistance until you get to the least resistance.
Interviewer: 09:49 Yeah. Let's start calling out some of these negative thought patterns because it sounds like it's very crucial. If I understand correctly, it would be almost impossibly to be mentally well if you've got everything else right in your life, but your thought patterns are off.
Amanda: 10:06 Yeah, I've met a lot of people who have great behaviors, but their thoughts are awful so they still feel bad. But I've never been anybody that has the right thinking that also feels bad and has bad behaviors in response to that. If your thoughts are right, everything else will come out of that.
Interviewer: 10:26 And then, with those people, I would imagine that some of them theoretically can tell you what they're supposed to say, right? For example, they say, "Life and love is unconditional," but then when you say, "Okay, be deeply honest with me right now. Do you feel that you're worth something if you haven't got enough accomplished in a day?" And then if they say, "Well, honestly, I guess I don't." Be honest. "No, I don't think I'm worthwhile if I don't get enough done." And so, then, you found something. And so, I suppose that what I would like you to do is help me to find some distorted thoughts that you hear from your patients.
Interviewer: 11:05 Maybe distorted thoughts you've even thought yourself or just things at a very common place, so we can start calling them out to somebody watching right now. It can be like, "Okay, I'm thinking that. I'm thinking that." What are some of the thought patterns?
Amanda: 11:14 Okay. So an example would be an all-or-nothing thought. We have different categories that we have that our thinking falls into general categories. One is all-or-nothing thinking. So, if I don't do well on this test, I think that I'm a total failure. That's all-or-nothing thinking. Well this test is not an example of all of my life. It's just one piece of all of the things that I have an opportunity to do in my life. And so, just by this one failure or this one not doing well on the test doesn't mean I'm a total failure. I've just made myself either a total failure or a total success.
Amanda: 11:55 And I just put myself in the total failure category, but this test is not indicative of being a total failure. There are other things that I could look at. And I can ask myself the question at that point, "If I feel like a total failure, well what haven't I been a total failure in besides this thing?" to kind of put that wedge in and start to open it and open it and open it until I can see, "Okay. I'm not a total failure. I get it."
Interviewer: 12:20 Okay. Excellent. So that's an example. What are some other thoughts or sayings that people are either saying verbally in their mind? Some of the things that I'm thinking of is something that gets used a lot relationally. You always do that.
Amanda: 12:38 Yeah, that's an overgeneralization. Overgeneralizations are when we say always, never or every time, when we talk about something or someone. And so, to look for the exceptions, when like maybe my husband never takes out the trash. Well, I have to start looking then, if I believe that the times that he did take out the trash. Or even if he threw something away, then I go, "Okay. It's not that he doesn't ever take out the trash. I'm kind of overgeneralizing and stuff." Or, "I always forget something when I'm leaving the house." Well, I don't always forget that thing when I leave the house. Sometimes I do remember it, and just calling myself out when I noticed that there is an exception to that always, never or every time.
Interviewer: 13:36 It's destructive, isn't it? Using these words?
Amanda: 13:36 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Interviewer: 13:36 Yeah, it's like suicide to a relationship when you're using these words constantly. And constantly can also be a word not to use as well, right?
Amanda: 13:43 Yeah. Even saying like ... I say that sometimes too, like, "Oh I'm so stupid. I can't believe I did that." Well I might have just forgotten something. What human being doesn't forget things? It doesn't mean I'm so stupid because I forgot that. It just means sometimes we have these self-deprecating things that we say that are transitional phrases in our everyday talk, but they're not helpful. They hurt us. They put us down, and some of us are more sensitive to those things, and it can really hold us back.