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SALT LAKE CITY — Life is a complicated and messy endeavor. In LIFEadvice, Life Coach Kim Giles is here to help you with simple, principle-based solutions to the challenges you face. Coach Kim will empower you to get along with others and become the best you.
I have a 16-year-old son who has depression and feels like life is not worth living sometimes. He is on Effexor, and has been in LDS counseling, but we are seeking more help for him. Could you address this in one of your articles?
Before I answer this question, I have a disclaimer. As a life coach, I always recommend that people who are suffering with severe depression contact a mental health professional who has been trained and is licensed to work with mental illness instead of a life coach. Having said that, I have dealt with depression myself and I do have a couple suggestions that may help:
1.Take better care of yourself It is very important that you eat a healthy diet, because what you eat affects how you feel. Cut out the junk food immediately and choose a diet rich with fruits and vegetables. I would also recommend daily exercise. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy and fit it into your life every day (without fail). These two things will make a significant difference.
2. Change the way you think
Professor of psychology Dr. Daniel Strunk, Melissa Brotman of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Robert DeRubeis of the University of Pennsylvania recently published a study in the journal of Behavioral Research and Therapy, showing that cognitive therapy helps patients with severe depression more than anything else you can do.
This means that if you want to beat depression, you must make some fundamental changes in how you think about yourself and your life. You must take control of your thoughts.
You cannot prevent a negative, fear-based thought from showing up in your head, but when it does, you have a choice. You can embrace it or replace it with something positive, accurate and trust-based.
You can and must learn to do this.
The problem is many people believe their thoughts are out of their control. They give away their power by not taking responsibility for how they think, and they become a victim of their emotions.
You will never get better until you claim the power to choose your thoughts.
With negative thought:You can embrace it or replace it with something positive, accurate and trust-based.
You may get intimidated by the idea of choosing positive thoughts all the time, so just focus on choosing your thoughts in this moment. You can do that right now. Then, remember that there will never be a time when it is not this moment.
If you change your thinking, you can change how you feel.
I realize, of course, that people with severe depression cannot be cured with just positive, accurate thinking. There are chemical imbalances at play here. Some people will need medication to balance out their brain chemistry, along with cognitive therapy to change their thinking.
I highly recommend "The Feeling Good Handbook" by Dr. David D. Burns, M.D. This book will help you identify your inaccurate thought processes and teach you how to think accurately.
Here are some examples of unhealthy, inaccurate thoughts and some positive, accurate thoughts you could replace them with:
- I have to earn my value. Life is about being tested and proving my worth. Every experience is another chance to fail.
- Replace with: I can choose to see life as a classroom where my value isn’t on the line at all. I am a human being in process, learning and growing every day. This is not a test. My value is unconditional.
- Because this bad thing happened, it means everything is going to go wrong for me. (Overgeneralization is a very common thinking error.)
- Replace with: This bad thing is just one event and it doesn't mean anything, unless I apply meaning to it. I can choose to believe that good things are coming my way.
- I must be perfect or I’m not good enough.
- Replace with: I don’t have to be perfect; there is no such thing. I’m right on track in my personal process of growth right now, and that's good enough.
- What other people think of me matters and affects my value.
- Replace with: What other people think of me doesn’t matter at all. I’m still the same me no matter what other people think or say.
- I’ve made too many mistakes and will never have the life I should have had.
- Replace with: My life has been the perfect classroom journey for me and has taught me the exact lessons I needed to learn. I cannot be behind or off track in this personal process. Everything that happens is for my benefit and growth.
- I see other people as better than me. I’m overly focused on my faults and flaws and their talents and gifts.
- Replace with: There is no level where comparing myself with others makes sense. We are different in every way and here to learn different lessons. We are all incomparable and we have the same value. I refuse to compare myself to anyone else. It’s a waste of energy and means nothing.
- My thoughts and emotions are out of my control. I can’t help feeling the way I feel.
- Replace with: I have the power to change how I feel by changing how I think. I can choose positive, accurate thinking in this moment.
Becoming aware of your fear-based, inaccurate thought processes and choosing accurate, positive thoughts is the first step to beating depression. It’s not easy to reclaim this power when you’ve let your emotions control your thinking for so long, but you can do it.
If you are struggling with this, seek out a counselor or coach to help you. But, whatever you do, don’t give up. A brighter future is right around the next corner.
*About the Author: Kimberly Giles
*Kimberly Giles gives her advice in the "LIFEadvice" series every Monday on ksl.com. She is the president of Claritypoint Life Coaching and a sought-after life coach and popular speaker who specializes in repairing self-esteem. Listen to her Self Esteem CPR Workshop at www.claritypointcoaching.com. **