"There's no law against my listening to this thrush beyond the barn,
the song so loud it echoes like a bell,
then, it's further off beyond the lawn
Whatever else there is, there's this as well"
We know that when people experience low mood or depression, there are changes in their brain. Without wilfully doing anything, they find that negative thoughts seem to be endless, that they notice everything they perceive to be going wrong, and that painful feelings and memories pre-dominate. Clients describe it like their being a fog that dampens everything and leaves them feeling dark or empty. It's like the joy has been sucked out of life, some will say.
So, what can be done? Knowing that the mind is acting like a magnet for the negative, it's important that we re-balance it with what is possible. We're not making it up, or trying to put a shine on something that is dull, what we're doing is re-opening old ways of thinking that have got obscured in the mist while the magnet is drawing the negative towards us.
Here are some ways of helping your mind to recover it's balance:
A Every hour or so, stop what you are doing, and spend a few moments just being in the moment. Notice exactly what is around you - what you can see, and what you can hear. Ask yourself what sensations you are feeling, and really take note. When we do this we often find there are pleasant things to notice - the sound of birds, the colours of plants, or pictures in the room, warmth, people we are with, just be aware of whatever it is you surrounded by.
B Each day, count ten things you are grateful for on your hands. You may start with big things, but by the time you reach ten usually you will have started to notice finer detail as well. The idea of this exercise is to remind us of all the small things that we can be thankful for, no matter what else is going on in our lives that may have knocked us off centre.
C Focus on what is possible. Each day, write down three things that are now possible, given where you now are. They can be tiny e.g. I can get dressed 5 minutes earlier, the important thing is to build gradually from where you are and notice what is within your grasp, just.
Re-balancing our thoughts when we have been low takes time, and persistence. It is a gradual process, not of trying to blot out the negative, but of re-balancing with the possibilities that were there anyway, but that our minds stopped us noticing. Don't worry if negative thoughts come up, you can challenge them, or remind yourself of possibilities that balance them out.