How To Beat The Winter Blues – Part 3by Dr Holly Kahya - 3rd November, 2016
How to Beat the Winter Blues – Part 3
In part 1 of How to beat the winter blues we explored some of the biological factors contributing to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). In Part 2 we explored how Cognitive Behavioural Therapy might help us manage the symptoms of SAD. In Part 3 we will now explore the way in which our thoughts also effect what we do and how we feel.
Challenging how we think
From the perspective of Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy the way we think effects how we feel and what we do. Conversely, how we feel effects the sorts of thoughts we might experience. When suffering from the symptoms of SAD our thoughts are likely to be more negative, reinforcing our mood and sabotaging our attempts to take positive action. Psychological research has identified several unhelpful thinking styles commonly experienced when our mood is lower:
All or nothing thinking – Sometimes called black and white thinking e.g. “either I do it all right, or I have failed”
Over-generalising – Seeing a pattern based upon a single event, or being overly broad in the conclusions we draw e.g. “Everything is rubbish; I never get things right”
Mental filter – Only paying attention to certain types of evidence. Noticing our failures but not seeing our successes.
Disqualifying the positive – Discounting the good things that have happened or that you have done for some reason or another, e.g. “That doesn’t count”
Jumping to conclusions – There are two key types of jumping to conclusions:
- Mind reading (imagining we know what others are thinking)
- Fortune telling (predicting the future)
Catastrophising – Blowing things out of proportion (catastrophising)
Emotional reasoning – Assuming, that if we feel a certain way what we think must be true e.g. “I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot”
Should-ing and Must-ing – Using critical words like ‘should’, ‘must’, or ‘ought’ can make us feel guilty, or like we have already failed If we apply ‘shoulds’ to other people the result is often frustration
Labelling – Assigning labels to ourselves or other people e.g. “I’m a loser, I’m completely useless, They’re such an idiot”
Personalisation – Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault. Conversely, blaming other people for something that was your fault.
Keeping a thought record can enable us to begin to recognise our own unhelpful thinking styles so we can challenge them with something more helpful, such as, “Ah, I think I’m emotionally reasoning – now I know that I feel tired and listless right now, and part of me just wants to curl up under the duvet, but I know that if I do that I’ll feel worse and things will only feel harder. If I get up and go for a brisk walk I might feel a bit better and then I might be able to get going with the rest of the day…”
If things feel too difficult to manage alone, talking to a trained therapist can be very beneficial.