"Happiness is not something ready made, it comes from your own actions" Dalai Lama XVI"

 -  Dali Lami

Managing Negative Thoughts and Feelings


Depression, Anxiety, Worry and Negative Thoughts tend to spiral. The longer you spend time with it, the deeper into it you can get.  The more you repeat this negativity, the more difficult it may be to “break the spell”.

It takes a deliberate act of will to stop these thoughts. Deliberately choosing to break out of these negative cycles of thinking may be difficult at first (especially if you are highly anxious), but with practice it will get easier.

Below are some examples of alternative activities and experiences that can help you shift out of your mind and away from Negative Thinking.

  1. Do Physical Exercise. This can be walking, running, dancing or just vigorous household chores. Exercise decreases anxiety by metabolising excess adrenaline and releasing skeletal muscle tension. Exercise raises Serotonin and Endorphin levels in the brain aiding relief of negative symptoms.
  2. Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation and/or Abdominal Breathing. This should be done for 5 or 10 minutes until you feel fully relaxed and freer from negative thoughts.
  3. Listen to evocative music to release repressed feelings. Listening to sad music or angry music can help you access feelings. It’s important to curtail this, give yourself a song or two so you are accessing the feelings just for a limited amount of time.
  4. Distraction. You can only have one thought in your head at any one time. Changing your minds focus from the negative thought to:
  5. Alphabetically listing all the Counties in Ireland
  6. Naming all the States in America                             (These Distraction techniques are great to use at night time to stop racing thoughts)

Other Distractions: T.V., Reading, Computer Games, Gardening, Arts and Crafts

Talk to Someone. Converse with someone about something other than your worry/anxiety etc. If you feel it would be good for you to talk about those feelings, give yourself an allotted amount of time i.e. 20 minutes, then move on to something more light/fun.

Worry Box: this is a time in your day where you allow yourself to feel all your anxieties and worries for a particular amount of time (20 min’s in the morning is best). If worries or anxieties come up during that day, put them in the Worry box till the following day when you can look at them.

Affirmations: “these are just thoughts, they are fading away”/ “I am whole, relaxed and free from worry” – Choose an affirmation to suit your situation.  




10 Facts about Depression

Depressed people feel helpless, hopeless, worthless and that their lives are out of control.

Easy enough to state but much harder to treat, and still harder to deal with.

But depression is a much more complex condition than many realise. It’s more than just ‘being sad’ all the time or thinking that life has no meaning.

Here are ten fascinating facts about depression that provide some insights into a complex and very common condition.

1. No specific goals

People who are depressed have a tendency to over-generalise and abstract (“It’s all the same to me, I don’t care…”).

That’s why depressed people tend to have more generalised goals than those who are not depressed (Dickinson, 2013).

For example, depressed people may say to themselves: “I want to be happy,” but this gives no indication about how it will be achieved.

Non-depressed people, in contrast, are more likely to have specific goals like: “I will keep in touch with my family by phoning them once a week.”

Since they are so precise, specific goals are more likely to be achieved than generalised goals.

2. Rumination

One important symptom of depression is rumination: when depressing thoughts roll around and around in the mind.

Unfortunately you can’t just tell a depressed person to stop thinking depressing thoughts; it’s pointless. That’s because treating the symptoms of depression is partly about taking control of the person’s attention.

One method that can help with this is mindfulness. Mindfulness is all about living in the moment, rather than focusing on past regrets or future worries.

A recent review of 39 studies on mindfulness has found that it can be beneficial in treating depression (Hofmann et al., 2010).

(See: How Meditation Improves Attention.)

3. Learning mindfulness as children

Since mindfulness is useful in battling depression, why not teach it to children?

A recent study has shown that teaching mindfulness in school reduces the likelihood of future episodes of depression (Raes et al., 2013).

If a child can learn to control their attention at a young age, they will hopefully have this gift for the rest of their lives.

4. Depression blurs memory

One of the lesser known symptoms of depression is its adverse effect on memory.

Over the years studies have shown that people experiencing depression have particular problems with declarative memory, which is the memory of specific facts like names or places (Porter et al., 2003).

Part of the reason for this may be that depressed people lose the ability to differentiate between similar experiences (Shelton & Kirwan, 2013). It’s another facet of the tendency to over-generalise.

Depression blurs other types of memory as well, though, including the ability to recall meanings and to navigate through space.

5. Hard to remember the good times

Precisely because of memory difficulties and depressed mood, it can be difficult for depressed people to remember the good times.

One technique that can help is creating an emotional ‘memory palace’: a mental store of specific happy memories to travel back to when times are hard.

The study and the instructions are described here: The Surprising Power of an Emotional ‘Memory Palace’.

The research is at an early stage but may prove a useful tool for people experiencing depression.

6. Depressive realism

There’s some evidence that the way in which the depressed view the world is more accurate than the non-depressed: this theory is called depressive realism.

Non-depressed people tend to be a little too optimistic: they think they’ve performed better in tasks than they really have and predict better performance than they actually achieve in the future (Moore & Fresco, 2012).

Depressed people, in contrast, appraise their own performance more accurately.

So, in some ways, people experiencing depression are more realistic.

7. Accurate time perception

One example of this increased accuracy is in time perception.

A recent study has found that depressed people have a more accurate perception of time than the non-depressed (Kornbrot et al., 2013).

Explaining the results, Professor Diana Kornbrot said:

“The results of our study found that depressed people were accurate when estimating time whereas non-depressed peoples’ estimations were too high. This may be because mildly-depressed people focus their attention on time and less on external influences…”

Accurate time perception may not be much of a consolation for the depressed, but it does hint at how attention is allocated in depression and why depressed people often say that time seems to drag.

8. Exercise treats depression

It’s very clear that exercise makes you feel better for a short period, but can it really treat depression in the long-term?

A new review of 26 years of research finds that it can. These studies suggest that not only does exercise make people feel better in the moment, but it also helps to stop future episodes of depression (Mammen & Faulkner, 2013).

It’s little wonder that many have called for exercise to be prescribed by physicians for depression.

9. More physical pain

Adding insult to injury, it seems people who are depressed may also experience higher levels of physical pain.

A recent study found that those induced into a depressed state were less able to cope with pain (Berna et al., 2010). The lead author Dr Berna explained:

“When the healthy people were made sad by negative thoughts and depressing music, we found that their brains processed pain more emotionally, which lead to them [to] find the pain more unpleasant.”

10. Thinking style

People commonly think that depression is at least partly caused by big, bad life events.

This is true, but depression is also about the way people react to those events and indeed, ordinary, everyday stressors.

In one study, participants who had big emotional reactions to relatively small events were most likely to have suffered depressive symptoms when they were followed up ten years later (study described here: Can Everyday Hassles Make You Depressed?).

The importance of thinking style, in addition to genetics and circumstances, is backed up by another recent study finding that how people thought about their problems influenced the levels of depression they experienced (Kinderman et al., 2013).

Lead author, Professor Peter Kinderman explained:

“Whilst we can’t change a person’s family history or their life experiences, it is possible to help a person to change the way they think and to teach them positive coping strategies that can mitigate and reduce stress levels.”



Do you have a sense of Belonging

Research finds that a sense of belonging increases meaningfulness of life.

A new study finds that when social relationships provide an all important sense of belonging, people feel life has more meaning (Lambert et al., 2013).

The effect was revealed in one experiment in which participants were asked to close their eyes and think of two people or groups to which they really belonged. Then they were asked about how much meaning they felt life had.


This group was compared with two others where participants (1) thought about the value of other people and (2) the help that others had provided them.

Compared with these two conditions, participants who had been thinking about the groups they belonged to felt the highest levels of meaning in life.

So, belonging to a group provided meaning over and above the value of others or the help they could provide.

It’s more than just bonding, therefore, but really feeling like you are fitting in with others which is associated with higher levels of meaningfulness.

Just the reverse effect has been shown in previous studies. People who feel excluded from social groups tend to feel that life has less meaning.

Belonging and coherence

One of most people’s missions in life–whether they realise it or not–is to find meaning.


Feeling that life is meaningful is important because:

  • People who feel life is meaningful are more likely to be in both good psychological and good physical health.
  • People who feel life isn’t meaningful are more likely to be depressed, to require therapy and even feel suicidal.

Meaning is found in various ways–sometimes through family, religion and the sense of self.

But, certainly, one way to find meaning in life is by seeking out one or more places where we belong and where things make sense.

One reason that belonging increases meaning in life is it promotes the idea of continuity and of permanence.

If you belong to an organisation or group that is greater than yourself, there is comfort in the idea that it will outlast you.

Along with feeling like we belong, coherence in our environment also promotes meaning. When we experience things that don’t make sense, we feel life has less meaning.

Demonstrating this, one study has found that people who viewed the seasons in the correct order (spring, summer, fall, winter) felt life had more meaning than those who saw them out of order (Heintzelman et al., 2013).

So: where do you belong and does it make sense to you?

Domestic Abuse

‘Please speak to someone. You are not alone’

Why don’t domestic-violence victims just leave? Because it often builds up gradually, breaking them down bit by bit, as the staff of Domestic Violence Response, a support service for affected women and children, know only too well.

There is no such thing as a typical victim of domestic violence, but there is a typical perpetrator, because they all operate the same control methods,” says Elizabeth Powerof Domestic Violence Response, a service for affected women and children.

Usually a phone call is the first point of contact with the service, which is based in Oughterard, Co Galway, but it can take a woman years to dial the number. Anna Clayton is an advocacy worker there. “It’s never as simple as most people think. Why doesn’t the woman just leave? People – the general public – perceive domestic violence as a big event where the woman is beaten black and blue. So much of it is small, everyday, incremental intimidation, where the woman and her confidence is gradually broken down.”

Mary Mangan, who is also an advocacy worker, says, “For a woman to even to think about making the phone call can take so long. It’s a process, and it takes a long time to name it for what it is.”

Power says, “Perpetrators establish the ground very quickly, and the impact is horrendous. Women misname their relationships, and they try and fix it. They make excuses for violent behaviour: he’s stressed, he drank too much. Well, he didn’t hit the barman or the taxi driver on the way home. He waited until he came home to hit you. He chose to hit you.”

Their clients have varied in age from 20 to 84. Men contact them too, but in very small numbers; there were six last year.

Everyone at Domestic Violence Response agrees that many cases look innocuous to outsiders. Power cites one client, who drove a Bentley. “All she got was €10 a week for a petrol allowance; enough to go shopping and to church. She could never actually go anywhere in the car. Everything in her life was controlled; he chose her clothes for her, and she had no access to any money of her own. But people would see the Bentley as a symbol of a great life.”

“Control” is a word all the staff use. “It’s about cutting women off from the world, not letting them meet friends or make choices about things as simple as clothes,” says Sinéad Bohan, whose role includes accompanying clients to court. “We had one client whose husband would only allow her to buy men’s clothes, jeans and T-shirts, and he made her shave her head.”

“There is a misconception out there that women withdraw their statements and don’t go through with court,” Power says. “Our experience is that once women have support they do follow through, and they don’t withdraw their statements.”

Domestic violence is classless. “Many perpetrators we know about are middle to upper class: they’re managers, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, businessmen,” says Clayton, adding that gardaí making background checks will not become aware if a barring order has been issued against somebody, as orders are not recorded in the way that, say, convictions for sex offences or other violent crimes are.

“There is no criminal consequence for domestic violence in Ireland; only if you breach a court order,” Power says. “Garda vetting doesn’t take into account barring orders. I don’t believe many organisations in the country are aware of that in their recruitment process,” Power says. “You never read any statistics about domestic violence. It all goes on under the radar.”

Her advice to any woman experiencing domestic violence is to “pick up the phone. If you suspect someone is a victim, do not intervene directly; that can be very dangerous for the woman. Give her the number. Listen to her. Say things like, ‘I’m concerned for you. Is everything okay?’ Give a space to talk. Don’t judge. Don’t try to fix things.”

Domestic Violence Response is at 091-866740, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 

6 Helpful Reminders for the Overwhelmed Person

One maddening tendency of any small electronic device is that whenever the battery is low, it wastes most of its remaining power beeping and flashing to tell you that battery is low.

Similarly, the human body comes with many self-defeating features. For example, whenever you’re low on oxygen, say while trying to recover your electronic device from the bottom of a public pool, the body goes into panic mode, raises the heart rate and burns away what little oxygen you have to work with.

The mind exhibits this kind of foolishness too. In has a cruel habit of misplacing its wisdom whenever you need it most. There are certain truths I really need to remember when I’m in a panicky state, which is exactly the time they are hardest to remember. So you may want to bookmark these gentle reminders, because the next time you’re overwhelmed you will never remember them.

1. The sky has fallen a thousand times already

I can’t count the number of times my world has ended. At least several dozen times in my life I’ve found myself in a situation so tangled and hopeless that I could not believe I would ever be happy again. Somehow, during each of those personal apocalypses, I forget that each of the previous ones somehow worked themselves out and are no longer relevant. Yet in real-time, the current catastrophe always seems to promise the death or at least permanent disfigurement of my entire life, and I crumple into despair and indignation. If only I could remember that almost all of the problems I’ve ever had are currently solved except the two or three most recent developments. This is just the way life moves along. It is my problems that are always marching to the gallows, not me.

I’m sure your sky has fallen many times before too. The overwhelmed mind underestimates the scale of a human life and therefore over-calculates the ultimate importance of any particular problem. Don’t be fooled.

2. Your problems are the same problems human beings have always had

You will never end up finding a way to suffer that hasn’t been fully explored yet. Heartbreak, death of loved ones, sickness and old age, chronic pain, shame, addiction, failure, poverty, and introspective nightmares are all realms that have been braved by people consistently and exhaustively for thousands of years, and to degrees much worse than yours. There are ultimately only a few basic kinds of human trouble, and they’ve all been suffered and confronted before.

Humankind’s vast experience with suffering is an asset to every one of us, because for every classic human problem there is a world of literature about the best ways to deal with it that other humans have found, and it’s never been easier to get access to this wisdom. 

3. Being overwhelmed comes from a breakdown of your thoughts about your life, not a breakdown of your life

The feeling of being overwhelmed creates a convincing illusion. It makes you think everything is happening at once, but that’s not really possible. While different conditions of your life situation can happen concurrently — say your debts are in collections at the same time your relationship is falling apart — life still only unfoldsone moment at a time, and it’s quite rare that you need to do more than one small thing in any given moment. Each issue might demand that you deal with a number of difficult moments, but as a rule you only need to deal physically with one particular moment at a time. The “everything is happening at once” feeling is a mental phenomenon that doesn’t reflect the linear way in which concurrent life problems actually unfold.

Thoughts change over much more quickly than life’s actual happenings do, and so in one minute of worried thinking you can experience a dozen problems mentally. It’s easy to get lost in this abstract realm, thinking that there’s too much happening “at once” to possibly know what to do, but when you’re ready to actually deal with a problem in the physical world, you can safely ignore the others for the moment it takes to act on one of them.

4. It is mathematically unlikely that your problems are as bad as you think they are

Most people seem to be pessimists. I certainly have that tendency and I’m slowly re-calibrating toward the optimistic side. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s not hard to understand why we tend toward catastrophizing our setbacks. If you run from every snake just because it may be a deadly one, then you’re less likely to die by snakebite, even though 85% of the time you are running from a creature that ought to be running from you. Pessimistic tendencies may aid self-preservation overall, across a lifetime of ambiguous situations, but this comes at the cost of increased stress and a lot of unnecessary running from things.

To know you are a pessimist is to know that things are generally better than they appear to be. A pessimistic mind will usually create a mental image of the situation that’s much more dangerous and difficult to address than it ultimately will be in real life.

And for many of us, we’re not talking about slight exaggerations of the seriousness of our challenges. On the many occasions in which I realized I may have made a mistake at work, usually it expands quickly to certainty that I have made a mistake, that I will be found out and fired, and that I will never work in this industry again. Within a half a minute I’m suffering a mental movie of myself pounding the pavement on a gloomy day, handing resumes out to fast food managers. If this mental reflex sounds familiar — and if you’re overwhelmed often, it probably is — you are likely a pessimist, and you can almost depend on the situation turning out to be easier to deal with than you initially imagined.

5. Things change pretty quickly when you start doing things instead of thinking so much

The darkness in the overwhelmed person’s mind comes from the feeling of helplessness, and helplessness comes from the belief that nothing you do matters. Although this feeling is common, it is almost never true. However bad the external circumstances actually get, they are probably not quite Auschwitz, and even there you would be able to fall back on Viktor Frankl’s great discovery — that nobody can take away your freedom to choose your way of relating to your circumstances. Wherever you are, you can do something to make the rest of the day better than it would otherwise be, and that means you are not helpless. No matter how small the action, once you see you are capable of improving your position, the feeling of helplessness cannot survive unless you want it to.

Overwhelm is an affliction of messy thoughts rather than messy circumstances, and this becomes clearer when you start acting on the circumstances. Repeatedly throughout my life, a hellish day becomes bearable the moment I make a dent in just one of my dilemmas. It spoils the mirage of total catastrophe, and makes it hard to remain a passive participant in your bad day.

6. It is most tempting to not do things when you most need to do things

Another self-defeating habit of the normal human mind. There is a tendency to freeze when things feel like they’re going off the rails, for two reasons.

The first reason is that you are afraid to make things worse. The ground feels shaky everywhere, and in your apparent stupor of incompetence you don’t want to step in the wrong place. But the bigger reason is that by making a decision to do something you are deciding to take responsibility for where you are, and that’s not a natural reflex for most of us. Particularly when you believe your problem is someone else’s fault, it’s tempting to wait for the person responsible to actually be a responsible person. That doesn’t usually happen, and often I’m mistaken about who is at fault anyway. I know I always want it to be someone else’s fault, and I don’t think I’m unusual there. Believing another party is responsible is tempting because it lets you fantasize about a deus ex machina ending to your crisis, the timely swooping-in of the cavalry, which makes for a lame movie because it makes a fool of the protagonist, and never really happens in real life anyway.

Defy the temptation to cross your arms and wait for some form of cosmic justice to save you — or at least remember that you will feel a temptation to do nothing, right when you should probably be doing something.


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Louise Reddin Ba Hons

councellor and physcotherapy gorey wexford

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