Jan 07

How to Declutter Negative Thought Patterns for the New Year

By Vickie | Uncategorised

It must be hard-rubbish collection time around here.

Out walking the dog yesterday, we passed many piles of junk sitting on the nature strip; boxes, broken chairs and side-tables, worn out electricals, and couches, lots of couches!

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IMG_3333.jpg negative thought patterns

Clear out the old for a brand New Year!

In my city the local council designates dates for hard-rubbish collection and households take advantage of the free removal by getting rid their worn out, broken down, now useless large pieces of junk.

It reminded me that in China there is a tradition of cleaning the house from top to bottom before New Year’s (known as Spring Festival), which occurs roughly mid-January to mid-February. This is to sweep away any remaining bad luck and to be ready to welcome in good fortune for the coming year.

After a thorough clean, brooms and dust pans are carefully stored so that the newly arriving good luck cannot be swept away.

Some people refresh their homes, doors and window-frames a new coat of red paint and decorate them with red paper cut-outs of Chinese auspicious phrases.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Guangzhou-and-guillin-030.jpg negative thought patterns

Elaborate Spring Festival decorations at a business in Guanzhou, China.

Purchasing new clothing and shoes, and having a new hair cut also symbolize a new start.

It’s amazing how small changes can really lift our mood. Arranging fresh flowers in a nice vase can change the entire atmosphere of a room. Wearing a bright scarf or a pretty beaded necklace can make us feel special. Clearing a small area, such as table or bench-top, in the midst of the chaos of a cluttered room can do wonders for how we feel when we enter that space.

In fact, the Chinese tradition of feng shui allows an easier flow of energy around the home. I’m not sure about energy, but I certainly feel a lot better when I can move easily around my home without encountering piles of junk! I’m usually more productive at my desk if there are not small objects littered about, distracting me.

It’s the same with our thought patterns.

If you’ve been chronically distressed for some years, you’ve probably developed negative thought patterns;  focussing on  many of the same things over and over. Old conversations, events, incidents and memories that are of little use to us today. We churn over these thoughts with little progress. Our brains have created neural pathways that have become our default settings.

Negative Thought Pattern 1: Rumination

The tendency to go over the same old negative thought patterns is known as rumination. Rumination is also the term used to describe how cows eat; they chew the grass for a long time to make it digestible. For cows, however, rumination has a purpose.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IMG_3340.jpg negative thought patterns

Rumination goes here!

For us, rumination may feel like it has a purpose (to help us find a solution to some problem we think we are facing) but in fact, there is little that is constructive that comes from rumination. Thinking through a problem and coming up with a solution is known as ‘problem solving’.  Rumination is not problem solving. For a more in-depth look at rumination, click here.

In fact, rumination can maintain depression, so it’s a good idea to stop that habit.

Let’s put rumination on the nature strip with the worn out electrical goods.

You can keep track of your rumination with a stop watch. Yes, set an alarm to ring after each 60 minutes. When the alarm goes off, stop and reflect on your thoughts. If you were actively engaged in something and not ruminating, great!

If you were ruminating, what were you doing at the time of rumination? It often occurs when we are doing something which requires our attention. Note what might have triggered the rumination and plan for if that situation arises again. For example, if you were ruminating while waiting for the kettle to boil, make sure you are doing something next time you make a cup of tea, like wiping the benches or emptying the dishwasher.

What other negative thought patterns to let go of for the New Year?

Negative Thought Pattern 2: Judging ourselves and comparing ourselves to others?

This is another nasty thought pattern that depression helps to maintain.

We tend to believe the nasty lies we tell ourselves about ourselves.

‘You’re not good enough, you’re unlovable, you’re stupid, you’re too fat/too old/too ugly, you don’t deserve better’, we whisper constantly to ourselves.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IMG_3339.jpg negative thought patterns

Lies about ourselves belong here!

These thoughts are lies and need to be thrown out with the torn and dusty curtains and the ancient computer and that old filing cabinet nobody can close properly.

We need to find ways to counter them.

One good way is to engage our thinking brain, the prefrontal cortex, which can be less active in depression and do a little detective work on ourselves.

Find the evidence!

Think about your day. List everything you did today or yesterday. Every activity from making coffee to doing the shopping to going to work to visiting your Mum.  

Now, think about what those activities say about you.

For example, ‘I took old Mrs Jones’ groceries inside for her’.  What does that say about you? ‘I’m helpful, friendly and a good neighbour’. 

Another example, ‘I gave the dog his dinner’. What does that say about you? ‘I’m a responsible dog owner who cares about animals’. 

This might seem faintly ridiculous, but if we’ve been belittling ourselves and the things we do for so long that you have to put on your detective hat or scientist’s lab coat and find the evidence that proves you are not the kind of person you believe.

I also wrote about looking for evidence here.

Negative Thought Pattern 2: Mind-reading

When I say ‘mind-reading’, I’m not talking about a magic trick or a superhuman ability. I’m referring to a social skill that we use all the time to show we empathise with another human being.

 ‘Mind-reading’ helps us know when a joke has gone too far, when that fine line between gentle teasing and bullying has been crossed, when the level of competitiveness has risen or whether someone has laughed at our humorous comment because he found it funny or is just being polite. We pick up cues from our own experiences and memories, our ability to reason and our own emotional life.

For example, you note your friend is acting a bit down today. You remember she is going through a hard time a work. You assume that her mood is related to that situation and so you ask her how things are going at work, because you want to be sympathetic and offer her support.

When our emotions are dysregulated, our ability to pick up on social cues is distorted by the negative thought patterns we have developed.

Suddenly, your friend is not ‘down’; she’s upset and what’s more, she’s upset with you! You know this because she is always happy and upbeat with you. What have you done to make her upset with you today? In fact, she’s not just unhappy, she’s downright angry with you!

Can you see what’s happening? Our negative thought patterns make us believe that other people’s moods are all about us, that we can see into their internal mental landscape and interpret it.

Emotional dysregulation makes us believe we can see into other people's internal mental landscape. Click To Tweet

We cannot possibly know what other people are thinking and feeling and it is only our depression which tells us that 1/ they are thinking about us 2/ they are thinking badly of us.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IMG_3336.jpg negative thought patterns

Inappropriate mind reading goes out here with the broken fan and kiddie couch!

Really, what we see are our own negative thought patterns about ourselves projected onto others.

Let’s put out mind-reading with the jammed up paint tins and rusty old garden tools. 

As with rumination and negative thoughts about ourselves, the first step in stopping mind-reading is to be aware of when it’s happening. Being mindful of what the person is actually saying to you and their body language will help you get out of your own head. Focus on their words and body language. Listen actively. Ask questions. Confirm what they are saying. Offer sympathy.

Our low mood can infect our thinking with many different negative thought patterns.

We’ve touched on the broken-record of rumination, toxic lies about our self-worth and the problems with mind-reading.

I think that’s enough for one post!

Clear out these negative thought patterns with mindfulness. Be aware of when these thoughts arise, thank them for dropping by and then deliberately let them go.

Just like with that old couch you bought years ago. It’s done its job but now it’s stained, dirty and torn. It’s time to let it go!

…and I think the sales are on…so maybe you could treat yourself to a new one???

De-clutter your mind and decide to live more joyously in 2017.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/sparkler-677774_1280.jpg negative thought patterns

Happy New Year everyone!

What negative thought patterns are you putting out in the rubbish this year? Would you like to share them? Please leave a comment below. Thanks!



http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/woman-918981_1920.jpg Christmas depression
Jan 03

Feeling Deflated: Christmas In Depression

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Christmas is over, we’ve waved goodbye to 2016 and 2017 is upon us.

How are you feeling?

I was walking the dog just before Christmas and I came across two houses, each with an inflatable Santa Clause by the front door.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IMG_3119.jpg Christmas depression

Ho, Ho, Ho and a Merry Christmas!

The first stood tall and impressive; he was big and round and jolly in his red suit and enormous beard. He carried a bright green sack and waved joyfully at passers-by.

The second was a deflated pile of plastic by the front door.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/IMG_3121.jpg Christmas depression

Oh, Oh, Oh what a heavy Christmas…

It was such a contrast, I couldn’t help having a chuckle!

The end of the year is a busy time. We frantically try to get those projects completed, stock up on festive goodies, last-minute Christmas shopping and holiday planning. If you’re in Australia, it’s the end of the academic year as well, with children and teenagers pouring out of school and into the shops, cinemas, restaurants and onto the playgrounds and beaches. It’s a fun, energetic and exciting time of year.

But if you’re depressed, it can be miserable.

You may be finding it hard to get the energy to go to all the social occasions of the Silly Season and be longing for the invitations (and expectations of your presence) to stop. Or you may be wondering why you never seem to get invited to anything…

You may find it hard facing your family on Christmas Day because you have this illness which sucks all the fun out of life. It’s hard to keep that ‘happy face’ in place when you’d rather just sneak away somewhere and hide.

You may find it even harder facing your family if they have little understanding of your feelings and just want you to ‘snap out of it’ and ‘don’t bring the mood down’.

Are you a deflated Santa this Christmas?

I remember Christmasses when I felt really miserable and couldn’t see that changing…ever…

I always gave meaningless gifts I picked up last minute because I could never make decisions about what to buy for people. I wanted to give nice things, useful and pretty things, but ended up with cheap hand lotion or a box of chocolates. Nobody ever, ever said anything, but I was always ashamed. I had little money and absolutely no energy to make anything.

I used to weep on and off throughout the day and found myself hiding my tears in the bathroom behind face powder and eye drops.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/girl-690327_1280.jpg Christmas depression

Do you find yourself weeping for no particular reason?

I cried often when depressed and usually there was no reason (hey, when you’ve experienced low mood for years do you need a reason?) but on Christmas Day I’d think irrational thoughts like ‘What if all my family died and I had to have Christmas Day on my own?’ or ‘What if this is the last Christmas with Mum?’

Then I’d weep with shame at having such a lovely supportive family that I never saw. I never had the energy to catch up with them during the year. I became angry at myself for not keeping in contact.

I’d cry in church at the fact that Jesus was born in a stable. I’d cry because millions of other people around the world have no homes either. I’d cry because I didn’t think I deserved all the goodness that was in my life.

I’d cry for young me, when the emotional dysregulation hadn’t surfaced. The young me who looked forward with happy anticipation to the bulging stocking at the end of my bed, carols and the Christmas Story, the parcels under the tree, the silly jokes in the crackers, Mum’s wonderful roast turkey with all the trimmings, playing games with my brother and cousins.

What happened to all those happy feelings?

Yes, Christmas with low mood was a weepy, deflating time for me.

You see, it doesn’t matter about what you have…low mood isn’t about not having family, food or gifts around Christmas. I had all those things in abundance and yet I felt unworthy, guilty, ashamed and pathetic.

And then I’d feel unworthy, guilty, ashamed and pathetic about feeling unworthy, guilty, ashamed and pathetic!

The thing about emotional dysregulation is that it hijacks your sense of reason, logic and sound judgement.

These are functions of the prefrontal cortex, that ‘thinking’ part of the brain which is typically less active in depression.

Instead, our emotional circuits – thalamus, amygdala and hippocampus (among others) – work overtime to exaggerate our feelings and disable our ability to think clearly.

Hence my Christmas bouts of weepiness over situations which were entirely improbable and entirely of my own imagination.  Hence my focus on the troubles of the world and my lack of ability to do anything about it.

If this was you during Christmas just gone, you’ll be feeling a bit deflated too.

A new year brings new opportunities. A new year can fill you with hope, that maybe next Christmas you’ll be able to stand above your depression and fill your sack with great gifts and greet your family joyfully.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/sprout-1136131_1280.jpg Christmas depression

For now, if you’re feeling frazzled and deflated, give yourself a break.

What gifts can you give yourself to make yourself feel a little better?

Here are some of my favourite instant mood-lifters:

  • A cup of tea or coffee in the morning sunshine. Relax and notice what’s around you. Can you hear birds, cars, people talking? What does the air feel like? Is there a slight breeze? What can you smell? Just notice what’s around you and how your body reacts.
  • A walk in dog park. Watching dogs happily run about – chasing balls, playing, rolling in the grass – never fails to make me smile.
  • A bath or shower. Use some delicious-smelling soap or body lotion to pamper yourself.
  • Put on some classical music (slow but not mournful) and do some stretches. Follow this with some upbeat music and dance about the living room for a while.
  • Grab a favourite book and go to a nearby café. Greet the staff with a friendly smile and ‘Happy New Year!’ and order your favourite coffee. Even better, leave the book and take a friend!

Listen, your past is not your future. Yes, not very original but still very true. Last Christmas might have been a nightmare, next Christmas need not be.

This year, take baby steps to lift your mood.

Make 2017 your year for moving away from feeling deflated, hopeless and exhausted to resilient, optimistic and energetic.

If you’re not sure where to start, I can help.

Let’s do this thing. You deserve it. Life is precious.

Let’s make 2017 your depression-free year!


Jan 01

Will the Mediterranean Diet Treat Depression?

By Vickie | Mediterranean Diet , Uncategorised

Ahh, the Mediterranean! Have you ever been there? Do you long to visit its sunny shores, to swim in its warm water, visit its ancient places or try its delicious and varied cuisines?

Do you see this when you look out of your window?



The beautiful Greek island of Santorini…essential Mediterranean!

No? Well, not to worry. You can still enjoy the wonderful cuisine of this part of the world no matter where you live!

It was after the Second World War, when life was pretty tough for southern Mediterranean countries, that an interesting phenomenon was discovered. People living in this region, particularly Greece, Crete and Southern Italy, appeared to be enjoying longer and healthier lives than those in affluent North America.

What could account for this? Greece, Crete and Italy had been ravaged by war, homes and farms destroyed, shops were empty and medical treatments rare.

People had to ‘’make do’’ to get by. There were no processed foods (except perhaps some home-cured meats); everything that was consumed had to be grown by themselves, arduous and back-breaking work.

And here we have a clue.

The Mediterranean Diet is based on the basic, home-cooking of people who found themselves in poverty after the War, based on the fruits of their labours on their own land, without the (dubious) convenience of ready-made meals with all their accompanying fat, sugar and salt contents. They were an active people who ate simple but delicious meals – and their health thanked them for it.

The word diet today has come to be so closely connected with weight loss that we have lost our understanding of its true meaning. The word ‘diet’ really refers to the food choices we make.  Nowadays, when people think of ‘diets’ they automatically think of strict eating regimes to help them lose (or sometimes gain) body mass.

On the contrary, the Mediterranean Diet is making choices about what to eat in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. It includes cooking methods as well as the foods found around the Mediterranean Sea; Greece, Spain, southern France and Italy, North African countries such as Morocco and Egypt as well as Lebanon and coastal Turkey. Though there are regional differences and traditions, olive oil is the one main ingredient which connects them all.  

The Mediterranean Diet is beneficial in so many ways. It is high in fruits, vegetables and legumes, fish, nuts and olive oil, and low in fat. Eating this way can assist in heart and brain health, lower your cholesterol and risk of disease such as diabetes.

Simple the Mediterranean Diet may be, boring it is not.

With this wonderful diet you can enjoy the fresh flavours of herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme along with the sensational spices of North Africa including cumin, turmeric and cinnamon are an. Garlic, lemon and freshly ground black pepper enhance the natural flavours of vegetables, seafood and staples such as legumes and whole grains.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/market-601580_1280.jpg Mediterrean Diet

Enjoy a wide variety of fruit and vegetables with the Mediterranean Diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is particularly good for brain health as it is high in fish, providing protective Omega 3.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/salmon-Mediterranean-Diet.jpg salmon-Mediterranean Diet

Enjoy salmon for brain health with the Mediterranean diet.

The Mediterranean Diet is not just about what you eat; it’s also about what you do. Take time to move everyday. Go for a jog, a bike ride, play sport or just take the dog for a walk! Living an active lifestyle with a reasonable amount of exercise will bring even more benefits to your health, both mental and physical.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/woman-892309_1920.jpg Mediterranean Diet

A simple pleasure like going for a walk with the dog is part of the Mediterranean lifestyle.

Don’t forget that part of the reason that the people of the southern Greece and Italy were so healthy was because of their active lifestyle. Include at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. You’ll be astounded at how much energy you’ll have!

The Mediterranean Diet is delicious, nutritious and surprisingly easy to incorporate in your daily routine.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Mediterranean-diet-Surprisingly-happy.jpg Mediterranean diet

Beautiful flowers, sunshine, perfume…how could these things not make you happy?

Take time out for yourself…to smell the roses, enjoy some music, read a good book, see a movie, start a new hobby.

As important as it is to spend time alone recharging your batteries, people in traditional cultures are very family and community focused. In fact, human beings are hard-wired to require time in each others’ company. Catch up with friends and loved ones often, especially around meal times.


Spending time with friends and loved ones is important for mental health,

Epicurus, the 3rd century BC philosopher who was born and lived most of his life on the island of Samos, had a number of criteria for a happy life. Three fit nicely into the lifestyle and philosophy of the Mediterranean Diet.

The first is to grow and enjoy your own food (you can do this with a small veggie or herb garden). Second, eat with others and relish their company (invite friends and family to enjoy the fruits of your kitchen). Finally,  live a simple, self-reliant life, as free as possible from the cares of the world.

So you can see that the Mediterranean Diet not really a diet at all. It’s a  simple and mindful way of living that offers a great deal to a depression-free life!

Dec 27

The House of Depression: Are You Worth Renovating?

By Vickie | Uncategorised

Not long ago I was visiting my aunt who lives in an old part of inner Melbourne. There are many beautiful old houses in the streets round about and as I left to walk back to the train station, I took a roundabout way as the weather was fine and walking is a great way to lift my mood.

I headed down a very familiar street and came across a house from the late 1890s and stopped in surprise.

Instead of being overgrown with trees and bushes, the front of the house had been cleared and was now covered with gravel. The whole thing was fenced in.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/IMG_2065.jpg renovating

Do you feel a bit like this? Burned out, neglected, hopeless?

This dilapidated old house had not been occupied for a very long time and the owners had let it go to rack and ruin. It had cracked windows and was absolutely covered in a jungle of a garden.

A few years back the house had caught fire and the roof was badly damaged. Thick wooden posts had been put up against the outer walls, supporting them against collapse. The place was a shell.

As I was staring at the old place, which still had some of the heritage features – a tiled porch with wrought iron columns, tall brick chimneys and long sash windows – a man walked by and stopped with me.

“Wow”, I began. “I remember when it was so overgrown you could barely see the house!”

“The owners have sold…you’ll never guess how much…”

I waited.

“Over 2.8 million dollars”.

“What?” I yelled. “For that?”

“It’s the location, close to town. That’s probably why it sold at such a high price. But the new owners like these old heritage homes. They’re renovating it and there’s lots of space at the back. Lots of opportunities to expand.”

He was right but honestly, the place was a wreck.

I continued my walk, passing many beautiful old buildings, lovingly kept up or restored. I also passed a vacant block of land, unoccupied and empty.

It made me think.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/IMG_2066.jpg renovating

Can you remember a time when you felt your true self?

In the past, someone had loved that old house.

In its heyday it would have been gorgeous. People lived there, a couple or family and made it their family home, loved it and enjoyed it.

Then the children grew up and left and perhaps the wife or husband died. Perhaps the remaining spouse couldn’t cope in a large place on their own and moved into aged care.

The old house fell into disuse. No one felt like renovating it. The garden grew into a jungle. Walls cracked and windows were shattered. Still nobody cared.

Finally, perhaps the remaining spouse died leaving it to the children who didn’t want such an unkempt place. Perhaps the thought of renovating it was too enormous a job. It was sold on to new owners.

Despite the long period of vacancy and the fire damaged roof and the walls at risk of falling out, they had noticed and loved the remaining original architectural features. Renovating it for them would be an act of love. They had seen also opportunity to build something at the back, a beautiful garden perhaps, or a swimming pool.

They saw value in it, despite the lengthy period of time the needed renovations would undoubtedly take, not to mention the costs involved.

I was glad that they had decided to renovate rather than pull it down and put up teeny tiny outrageously expensive apartments in some hideous ‘style’.

I am glad that it will soon be back to its former glory.

What about you?

Chronic low mood, makes us lose sight of ourselves. We forget who we are, what we stand for, our purpose.

We lose interest in what we previously enjoyed and neglect the people we used to love spending time with.

We neglect ourselves, not bothering sometimes even with regular showering or presenting ourselves in a way in which we are worthy.  We neglect our home environment too.

“Who cares?” We think. “Who will see us? Nobody comes here. What does it matter?”

It may not even matter if nobody ever sees the real us again, like the house being strangled by a garden once lovely, now turned to shapeless, impenetrable jungle.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/IMG_2069.jpg renovating

Do you ever feel like you’ve lost sight of yourself? Like you’re lost behind all the negative thoughts and feelings? Like the true, positive you has disappeared somewhere?

What if you could be like those new owners and see that original beauty and worth? The real you is still there, beautiful and neglected and sad.

But still there.

That small child who was once curious and excited about the world. She’s still there. Somewhere.

It may take a bit of work to cut back that stuff that’s got a strangle hold on you – the negative thoughts, the sense of hopelessness, the fatigue, the lack of energy, all the pain that is depression – but maybe it’s time to do that.

Maybe it’s time to take a brave step forward, to show yourself to the world once again.

Are you worth renovating?

The new owners of that poor, abandoned, ruined house not only see its former beauty but also its future potential.

Can you still see the potential in you or has the depression told you so many lies that you just don’t think there’s anything of value left in you?

Have you lost sight of any kind of different future, or do you believe that the only future is one that’s restricted by depression?

How we think about ourselves as depressed people may have an important role in how we think about getting well.

If you don’t believe it’s possible to improve your mood and have a better experience of life, then it’s unlikely that you will set out to look for a solution, even if you say you want to.

Believing you can live free of depression is a crucial first step on your journey to creating a more joyful future.

Do you have the energy and resources to do a major renovation job on yourself?

With the right knowledge, tools and support you can be you again. You are not your depression.

You are worthy and you are valuable. Be confident and show the real you.

http://depressionrecoveryschool.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/vintage-635262_1920.jpg renovating

Find You Again!

My new course, ‘Make Your Mind UP: Decide To Be Depression Free!’ where you’ll learn how to develop the motivation and resilience to know, 100%, that you’re the hottest property in your street!

Meanwhile, if you found this post interesting, would you consider sharing it? Thanks!