My boyfriend and I have opposite schedules (he works nights, I work days), so every weeknight we leave each other a short letter on my laptop. We write about our best moment of the day, how we are trying to be positive about something we really didn’t enjoy, and something we are hopeful for tomorrow. A therapist told me that once your brain knows the pathway to negative thinking, or to depressive thoughts, it is much easier to follow that path the next time you’re under stress. The more we walk that path, the more entrenched it becomes. So with our letters we are trying to re-write our pathways, making positive thinking our default setting instead.
It’s a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) exercise of sorts. It’s a conscious effort to find the silver lining, to think more positively about our jobs, relationships, commutes, finances and anything else we encounter in a day. On the really bad days it takes a few minutes to find our favourite moment, but we always manage to find at least one. When depression or anxiety have ruled the day, the acknowledgment that it wasn’t truly twenty-four hours of complete crap is a victory, even if it’s a small one.
I find my favourite moments often have similar themes. They’re simple things like my dog, good food, keeping up relationships, or accomplishing a task. With time you can identify the themes of your favourite moments and make an effort to make those things a bigger part of your life. Recreating your favourite moments will reinforce the positive, helping to re-write your negative pathways.
This five minute daily exercise always leaves me going to bed a little less bogged down by what I don’t like or what I don’t have. It isn’t therapy exactly; it isn’t homework like a CBT workbook would be and it doesn’t cost $200 an hour, but it is an organic way to readjust your thinking.
‘Depression brain’ makes you look at the world like it’s out to get you. CBT tries to break down those negative thoughts, identifying their underlying emotions and our internal narratives of false assumptions. Taking the time to find your favourite moment every day is a way to practice the spirit of CBT without a professional talking you through it. The exercise doesn’t use buzz words and you don’t have to know about psychology or be on medication for it to help. You could keep it all to yourself in a journal, you could share it with a loved one before bed, or you could whisper it to you dog on your evening walk. Try it out, and slowly your favourite moments will become easier to find.
About Sarah Lindsay
Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com