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How to Think Positive When Depressed

Knowing how to think positive when depressed can feel impossible.

Obviously, negative emotions are a natural (and very important) part of life and not something you should beat yourself up about.

However, sometimes it goes beyond that.

Everyone tells you to ‘cheer up’ and to ‘look at the bright side’. But when you feel like you’re wading through mental fog and battling just to stay afloat, this is a lot easier said than done.

For me, I found that it IS possible though.

Although I do still suffer from depression and anxiety, with the help of these steps, positive thinking has gradually become easier and easier.

How to stay positive – even if you have depression

#1. Seek therapy for depression

Right off the bat, I want to point out that if you believe you’re suffering from depression or currently have poor mental health in general, please PLEASE speak to a professional.

Even if your mental health feels otherwise fine, seeking out talking therapy can be really helpful.

A person standing on top of a mountain with their arms out

#2. Make your bed to help your mindset in the morning

No matter how down you’re feeling, try to make your bed as soon as you get up in the morning.

Not only will this make you feel a little more put together when you’re not at your best (and hopefully encourage you not to climb back under the covers), it means you’ve accomplished something for the day. No matter how small.

#3. Practise self-care to improve mental health

Self-care is important for your mindset in general. However, if you suffer from depression and are struggling with positive thinking, it’s crucial.

Keep on top of a regular self-care routine, which includes practising personal hygiene (often the first thing to fall by the wayside when we’re experiencing depression), getting dressed, taking your medication, attending therapy sessions, eating properly and getting enough sleep.

It’s imperative that you make time for self-care. No-one else can do this but you. You have to take responsibility for your own mental health.

When you’re taking care of your own needs, your self-worth and self-esteem will gradually improve, which means that, in time, positive thinking will come easier, even when you suffer with depression.

#4. Challenge negative thoughts for improved mindset

When you find yourself automatically thinking of the worst possible outcome, no matter the situation, you need to ensure you don’t leave these negative thoughts unchallenged.

When they pop into your head, acknowledge them (since we don’t want to BURY our feelings), and then rationalise them.

How realistic is the negative outcome? Honestly? The chances are, not very.

Affirmation art that says "you got this"

One symptom of depression is a feeling hopeless and this can seep into our mindset SO easily.

Don’t let it.

Challenge negative thoughts and turn them on their heads.

You’ll probably still experience negative thoughts and emotions when you’re depression – that’s expected. You may even feel like a bit of a fraud by trying to think positively, but fake it until you make it and it’ll come much, much more naturally.

Stopping negative self-talk is all about unlearning this bad, destructive habit and replacing it with a positive one.

#5. Remember that this feeling of depression isn’t permanent – better times are ahead

I’m not going to lie and tell you that you won’t struggle with depression ever again just by following these tips.

I’m not going to tell you that just by doing x,y and z, you’ll automatically become a positive thinker overnight.

What I AM going to tell you, and what I want you to remember when you’re in the depths of your depression, is it can get better.

You won’t always feel like this.

Better times are ahead.

Just hang in there and ride this wave.

You’ll come out the other end even stronger.

#6. Set goals to motivate you

Setting goals can be AMAZING for your mindset. Particularly when you’re depressed and lacking motivation to do just about anything.

This lack of motivation makes it really difficult to be productive.

Setting goals can combat depression by giving you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, giving you drive, and boosting your self-esteem because you have goals to look forward to smashing.

A meadow at sunrise

#7. Start the day in a positive way to boost positivity

Try to stick to a solid morning routine so that you can start each day off on the right foot.

I often find that, if I’m depressed, it manifests in the morning or early afternoon.

If I start my morning off with a workout, good breakfast and walk with the dog, I can often combat the worst symptoms of depression, such as a lack of motivation and feeling of hopelessness.

I basically get the jump on my mental illness, which is invaluable.

#8. Practise positive affirmations

Affirmations aren’t for everyone. I’m a complete introvert and tend to feel a bit silly standing there talking to myself.

However, affirmations don’t have to mean standing in front of the mirror telling yourself that you’re awesome (although it totally can, if that works for you).

Positive affirmations can simply mean giving yourself a pep talk, which I do ALL the time.

If my depression is preventing me from getting out of bed, I tell myself that everything will feel 10x better when I do. I tell myself that I’ve got this and that what I do with the day is my responsibility.

I can allow my depression to rule (and usually ruin) my day, or I can push past it.

Recognise how strong you are, acknowledge that you suffer from a sh***y mental illness, but know that you can get past it.

TELL yourself that and believe it.

#9. Don’t dwell on the past

Depression can trigger you us dwell on basically everything that’s ever gone wrong in our lives – our fault or otherwise.

This doesn’t help at all. In fact, it can cause you to sink further into your depression.

Try not to dwell on the past, focus on the present and redirect any negative thoughts you have about past situations.

If there are past experiences and trauma that you’re still struggling to deal with, please see a therapist to help you unpack them so that you can move on.

A signage board that says "good vibes only"

#10. Surround yourself with positive people + enforce boundaries

You can be the most positive person in the world but as soon as you encounter a negative individual, they can drag you down.

Just like positive thinking breeds positive thinking, negative breeds negative. Therefore, if you surround yourself with negative, toxic people, PLUS you suffer with depression, you’re seriously going to struggle to cultivate a positive mindset.

Cut negative people out of your life or, if you can’t do this (maybe they’re family), create strict boundaries in your mind or in person to restrict the exposure you have to their negative attitude.

#11. Practise gratitude

Being grateful and practising gratitude has been proven to boost your mindset and improve positive thinking.

It encourages you to focus on what you’re grateful and happy for in your life, even if you’re depressed.

With time, it will become [almost] second nature.

I used to always see the negative in everything and it not only made my depression worse, it pushed the people I love away. So I stopped. I made a conscious decision to switch up my mindset.

Even though being grateful isn’t a magic wand for depression, I found that it definitely relieves the symptoms.

How can I lift my mood instantly?

Cultivating a positive mindset, particularly after a depressive episode, can take a while. In fact, you’ll probably need to work on it for the rest of your life.

Therefore, it’s good to have a little mental health toolkit to immediately lift your mood when you’re feeling really low.

Your mental health toolkit has to be specific and tailored to you. You need to find what helps lift your depression as it’s really personal.

For me, three things that usually help alleviate my depression are:

  • Yoga
  • Speaking with a friend
  • Funny YouTube videos

If I’m feeling especially low, these three things are my go-to to lift my mood at least enough to get out of bed and make a cup of coffee.

It’s important that you find your own self-care activities that help you, write them down, and go back to them any time you need them.

A message board that says "today was good, today was fun, tomorrow is another one"

Why is positive thinking not working?

If you’re trying to think more positively but it doesn’t seem to be doing anything for your depression, there are a couple of reasons for this.

1: Cultivating a positive mindset takes time, patience and perseverance. It’s an ongoing journey and you won’t reach the destination over night. You’re basically rewiring thought patterns from negative self-talk to positive. This takes time.

2: Depression is a serious mental illness. While many people find that a combination of self-care, self-awareness and positive thinking can help improve the symptoms – myself included – you also need to see a professional and get some therapy.

Please don’t use the tips in this blog post as a replacement for professional treatment.