5 Things To Say to Yourself When You're Depressed
What you tell yourself matters.
Feeling depressed for two weeks or longer may reflect a disorder, which you should disclose to a professional.
Self-talk refers to one’s running inner dialogue, and one can engage in either positive or negative self-talk.
Flexible, fluid thinking may be helpful if one’s depressed thoughts have become too intense or rigid.
The term “depressed” is often used loosely but has clear clinical implications when it refers to clinical depression, or what is known in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013) as major depressive disorder. For individuals who have depressed mood for two or more weeks to the point that it interferes with daily functioning, it’s important to embark on a healthy action plan to do what is possible to reduce the depressive feelings.
Positive self-talk, or mantras, you can say to yourself, can help a depressed person to feel a little more in control of what they think and how they feel. Consider each of the self-talk reminders below and ask yourself which ones resonate the most with you.
“What I say to myself about my depression can make a difference.”
If you were to choose only one quote to tell yourself, make it this one. Saying this to yourself is helpful because it reminds you that you have choices and that the choices you make matter. While it can often feel as if there is no choice when you feel depressed, the reality is that one always has choices—even if they are not quickly apparent.
“I am teachable through this process.”
Feeling depressed is complicated by much of the distorted thinking that presents with it. Feelings often get misinterpreted as facts to the degree that the depressed person becomes certain that their thoughts and feelings are not only true, but will also last forever. Telling yourself that you remain teachable while going through a depressed period can reduce much of the all-or-nothing, rigid thinking that often goes along with depression. Remaining teachable means that you will consider the coping advice of trusted, emotionally stable individuals and that you will seek out a variety of healthy techniques to help combat depression, including reading articles like this one.
“I have gotten through difficult times before.”
Because depression impacts one’s thinking, it makes sense that the rush of thoughts and feelings swimming around in the mind while depressed can be overwhelming. When you feel overwhelmed, you’re less likely to look rationally at your present circumstances and to make sense of them with a positive or even neutral perspective. One specific technique that can be helpful is to make a list of other difficult periods you have experienced in the past, and to estimate the length of time that difficult period lasted. For example, if you lost a job and had to find a new one, did your difficult period last a few weeks or perhaps a couple of months? Remember that you survived each of these periods, even though you probably were afraid that you couldn’t get through it at the time.
“I can sometimes pleasantly surprise myself.”
Nothing can help a person get unstuck like flexible thinking, which allows for the changeable, fluid nature of everyday life. And while individuals come with their own set of personality traits, people can also surprise themselves occasionally. If you are someone who defaults to a pessimistic mindset, at times, try to express an optimistic thought with someone the next time your automatic thought is to say something negative. If you’re talking to someone who knows you well, you may get some positive feedback for surprising them with your rosy perspective. What’s most important is that you can also surprise yourself and that the best way to do so is to catch yourself from slipping into easy, old behavior and to engage in the opposite, more positive behavior option instead.
“I’m striking a balance between patience with my depression and taking action to deal with it.”
This final reminder captures why telling yourself positive things when you’re depressed is so important. The goal is to accept that you are experiencing difficult circumstances but to simultaneously take healthy action to do what you can to make the experience more bearable. In other words, you can still feel low in energy and have a depressed mood while also reminding yourself that these feelings will pass eventually and that you may as well use today to try one or two behaviors you enjoy doing anyhow.
While confiding in a health professional and sharing your depressed feelings is important and helpful, it’s also important to practice mental discipline yourself by engaging in positive self-talk and reminding yourself of healthy, positive messages. Feeling depressed doesn’t have to take complete control over your life, so adjusting some of the intensity of depression with self-compassion and flexible thinking can help make the experience of feeling depressed less overwhelming.