Why bother getting up? Today is probably gonna be a terrible day.
I’m sure my coworkers hate me. They probably think I’m stuck up and cold, when really I just don’t talk much because I’m ashamed of myself. I don’t want to bother them.
I forgot to reply to my boss’ last email yesterday. I’m sure he thinks I’m incompetent.
Susan and Jeff are inviting me over on Saturday. They probably do it out of pity for me, it’s not like I’m great company.
I’m sure my parents think I’m such a disappointment. They just hide it from me.
Aaah! The joys of rumination. It goes on and on and on. Notice that the above sentences are all assumptions that we make in our heads. Assumptions about the future, or the past, or about people’s thoughts. We repeat them so often inside our minds that at some point these assumptions paint our view of reality. Next, our brain develops the nasty habit of filtering out all the information that contradicts the view that we’ve created for ourselves. It’s a well known phenomenon called ‘confirmation bias.’
And yet, the truth of the matter is… assumptions are nothing but speculations! They are guesses that we make in our heads. Literrally GUESSES, based off unreliable feelings. There is absolutely NO WAY to know what Susan and Jeff think about you, unless they say it out loud.
I used to think that people find me uninteresting because of my introversion. Turns out that, although I’m not the greatest story-teller, people enjoy the fact that I’m a great listener who actively takes interest in others. I know because that’s what I’ve been told, and I’ve made an effort to notice that people often confide in me.
Your inner dialogue determines how you feel
The thoughts you have directly influence the way you feel; that’s why I emphasize how critical it is to learn how to take a step back and change your mindset.
If you don’t believe me, picture the following situation.
You’re standing in the subway, heading home after a tiring day at work. Suddenly, someone bumps into you from behind. Your blood starts to boil, as you think: “What the hell, what’s wrong with people these days, why can’t these morons pay attention to where they’re going?” But then you turn around and you see a blind man, holding his white cane. Immediately, you cool down, as you tell yourself: “Poor guy, he didn’t have a clue that I was standing in front of him. How hard it must be to live life in his shoes…” Your anger has vanished, and is now replaced by empathy. See? Feelings are the result of your perception – and your perception is influenced, at least partially, by your thoughts.
Sticking to your negative outlook allows you to stay in your comfort zone
Truth be told, assumptions are often comfortable, because a depressed, anxious person will use them as excuses for procrastinating, or sticking to their comfort zones. For instance, back when I was depressed, I had convinced myself that I sucked at everything. “Why work on any project, or try anything new, I’ll probably fail anyways. And people will silently judge me, thinking I’m pathetic.”
Obviously, looking back, my assumption was ridiculous. I’ve managed to build this website from the ground up, haven’t I? I’m able to write articles too. Maybe not the most engaging ones, and my tone might be a bit dry, but I’m working on it! What else have I done? I’ve gone from someone who showered twice a week to someone displaying impeccable hygiene. I’ve slimmed down considerably, to a point where I’m fitter than the vast majority of people. I’ve managed to launch a side business on which I work part-time. I’ve reconnected with old friends, and occasionally hang out with them. That probably means I’m not all that unlikable or undisciplined.
My initial assumption – “I’m a lazy, unlikable, good for nothing” – was just plain wrong.
However, I would have never discovered it was wrong, had I never tried to disprove it.
I recommend that you get into the habit of challenging your negative thoughts. When one of these surfaces in your head, catch yourself ruminating, and immediately ask yourself: is this REALLY 100% the objective truth, or am I speculating? Maybe I’m wrong. Lets act on it to verify if I’m right or wrong.
You’ll realize that we often project stuff in our minds, based on nothing but small details and mere feelings.
That habit of taking a step back and analyzing your thoughts is the essence of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT.) It’s proven to be more efficient than antidepressants at curing depression, and I can attest to that. It has liberated me from the dark clouds of rumination, and I’m confident it will do the same for you if you put in the effort.
To read more tips on overcoming depression naturally, check out my guide.