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Can Positive Thinking Help Ease Depression?

There’s no magic wand to combat a depressive episode, but gently urging your thoughts in a positive direction is a helpful, mood-stabilizing practice.

Positive thoughts to fight depression

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time,” said Leo Tolstoy. The famous Russian author might well have been talking to those who struggle with depression when he wrote these words—experts say that the twin strategies of patience and time are the keys to positive thinking having an impact on emotional wellbeing.

Fiona Thomas, a mental health writer, recently explored this idea in a piece in the online British magazine, Metro UK. Having experienced depressive episodes in her life, Thomas consulted researchers who study the impact of positive thinking on depression. 

Her conclusion squares with the growing body of research on authentic positivity—that thinking positively is not a magic wand that can erase negative feelings or experiences, but rather is a powerful component of a healthful, hopeful lifestyle.

The key to changing mood through positive thinking, she writes, is to give positive habits ample time to take hold. She has used a number of different strategies, including reading a positive affirmation each morning, or practicing mindful behaviors like savoring a morning cup of coffee sip by sip.

Over time, those behaviors become routine, and they encourage brain activity that regulates emotion. In contrast to the “autopilot” feelings of depression, where energy, motivation, and hope are low, the practice of positive thinking stimulates a more active brain that can notice the full breadth of life, not just the negative, energy-sapping aspects. 

Anyone who feels they may be suffering from depression should consult a professional counselor or doctor for guidance and treatment. Moreover, Thomas urges people not to attempt to launch a positive thinking practice if they are in an acute depressive episode, lest they feel shame or disappointment that the techniques don’t take immediate effect. The time to try out a new, positive routine is when symptoms are well managed.

But Thomas writes that the consistent use of positive thinking strategies have made a significant impact on her emotional wellness: “I can flex it when I’m feeling good, take time to appreciate and feel grateful for those moments, and return to that frame of mind almost as a reminder that they’ll return if I’m feeling low.”

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