How to Overcome Your Feelings of Hopelessness
To get started, take a moment to review the litany of thoughts constantly running through your head. Do you think any of the following statements:
- Why bother? Nothing will work out.
- I'll never be happy.
- My relationship can never get better.
- I'll never be able to get what I want.
- There's no use in trying.
- There aren't any good men (women) left.
- I'm too old (ugly, poor, boring, damaged, etc.)
- I can't compete.
- I'm cursed. The world is against me.
While writing Beat the Blues Before They Beat You, I realized the single most important issue to address for someone who is depressed is her feeling of hopelessness. If you are absolutely convinced that life is hopeless, then you won't do anything to help yourself. But no matter how hopeless it seems, there are things you can do—right now—that can help you find a way out.
First: Doubt your hopelessness
So, try something different. First, make the decision to doubt your hopelessness. Simply entertain the notion that you could be wrong. You've been wrong before; maybe you're wrong now. And then, with that inkling of doubt, decide to act against your hopelessness. You can act as if things aren't hopeless by taking initiative, experimenting with optimism ("Let me try to make the best of this"), doing things you don't "want" to do but that possibly could make things better—exercise, see friends, be more upbeat. Prove your hopelessness wrong by acting as if things are better already. It won't be easy, but it makes a world of difference, and just imagine what could happen.
Next: Try something new
Next: Look a what isn't hopeless
Next: Realize no one thing is necessary for your happiness
Next: Appreciate the present
Robert L. Leahy, PhD is the director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy in New York City and clinical professor of psychology at Weill-Cornell Medical School. He has served as the president of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapy, the International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy and the Academy of Cognitive Therapy. He received the Aaron T. Beck Award for Outstanding Contributions in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. His most recent book is Beat the Blues Before They Beat You (Hay House, August 2010).
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