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Feeling lonely and depressed: the power of the pen
Feeling lonely and depressed is one of the most common human ailments that exists. Well-recorded since the dawn of time, Socrates and Plato referred to depression as “melancholy”. Thankfully, we have made substantial strides in the treatment and diagnosis of depression and loneliness.
Whilst you are reading this sentence I want you to think for a moment about the number of times you have breathed, the number of times your heart has beaten. I bet you weren’t even aware of those processes which are so essential for life until I pointed them out!
Breathing, heartrate, blood circulation: these are all automatic processes and as such we have limited control over them. People with depression, and people who are feeling lonely and depressed, assume that their emotions and negative thoughts are equally as inscrutable.
So called automatic thoughts (these are thoughts that effectively seem to appear in your mind without any encouragement) will typically fall into one of three distinct categories which are listed as follows:
- Perception of self
- Perception of world
- Perception of self in relation to future
Automatic thoughts may seem random, but in actual fact, they are merely learned responses to stimuli that we have developed/cultivated over the duration of our lives. However, because we have become so accustomed to these thoughts, they tend to pass us by.
Therefore, keeping a journal/diary of our thoughts is an invaluable tool for us to identify the thought processes that go through our minds, and from there; permitting us an opportunity to swap automatic thoughts for thoughts that are under our control.
What would be the best way of using the journal? One suggestion would be is to write down and record a trigger (i.e. some event that caused you to feel bad) and then note the response and emotions you felt.
“I was late for work and my boss was mad at me.” (This would be the trigger).
“I felt down and upset, my boss hates me.” (emotional response generated to the trigger).
The next step in the process would be to use rational and logical thinking to counteract the purely visceral and emotional response. What evidence do you have that your boss hates you personally? Is there any evidence that your boss may have had a bad day and overreacted?
This is not some magic solution that will wave away all your negative feelings and feeling lonely and depressed overnight. But in time, it WILL make you feel stronger, make you accountable and more loving to yourself.