Coming out the other end of a tunnel travelling across many years, I’ve passed by many thinking patterns that have stopped me in my tracks, and many that kept me on route. I believe that working towards changing my brains behaviour has been the breakthrough to the outside world and far better than changing my own, because the problem wasn’t me, it’s my brain. I won’t lie, I still have my bad days and brain slips up… Everyone does. But wow are they shorter and less often.
The first thing I tried to train my brain to do is to recognise my Depression and I as separate entities, different people. Thinking of my Depression as me; the way i behaved when I was low, believe it was a part of my character which couldn’t be changed and questioning “why am I like this” brought me to places where I didn’t think I could help myself . I thought the way I was feeling was who I am and who I will always be. I tried to envision my Depression more like a different person, someone who would talk to me and tell me horrible things that I’d believe… A real dickhead. But that they would come and go. I started to think, I don’t believe every word that others tell me so why am I believing my Depression? Everything it makes me think, I question it and think, where is the evidence? If I was on a jury, is there enough evidence to decide on a guilty verdict? (definitely been watching too many crime documentaries, but it works for me) When we see a case in court, it is innocent until proven guilty. Defendants aren’t labelled a murderer, until sufficient evidence is presented, yet we are so quick to label ourselves things before we’ve even considered this. I am a different person when I am down, to when I am okay. Just as we are socialised to act differently with each social group, the way I act with Depression is different. Neither lasts forever, but seeing the difference and knowing the real me, motivates me through the harder times.
When I began brain training, I used various apps, working them into my daily routine for months until they became habit. From time to time, I still use them but the thinking that they encouraged have now became (most of the time) a brain routine. Here’s a list of the apps I used and how they help (they are all free and many are recommended by the NHS!);
- Headspace: is a guided meditation app. The app allows you to do quick 2-3 minute meditations and longer 5-10 minute meditations. Either way, I found them really easy to fit in every morning and a nice start to the day. If I had time, some days I would use the app in the morning and evening, but without fail every day. The meditations guide you to thoughts pass and to avoid judging them, which as a clinger to mine this really helped. It also showed me that often the same thoughts pop-up, in which by the end I was able to just recognise them, just noting “Oh look there’s that one again, seen that a million times before”. As quite an emotional person, I tend to be rather reactive when I feel hurt or betrayed or let down. Over the Summer that I was using Headspace, I came across many things that I would normally react to, but instead I took a calm and less-caring approach to. Although I didn’t manage to keep this up the entire Summer and did react to 1 or 2 things, I managed to keep my cool 80% of the time, which I’m pretty surprised and impressed by. I would advise though that you don’t try app this unless you believe that it will bring you some good, as I have tried this many times in the past and never believed it would work so never really tried with it.
- Moodpath: Moodpath is an app that allows you to track your moods. This helped me to see so many patterns I never realised before which helped me to see many of my downs were either triggered by my lifestyle habits such as uni drinking benders and to learn things that helped me to bring it back up again such as eating well, going to the gym and just generally taking care of msyelf. It also visually showed me that every time my mood decreased, it would always eventually improve again. Using this app every day, good and bad showed me the progress I was making and gradually that putting into place what I was learning shortened and led to less downs. The app also asks questions to evaluate the level of your depression, which can be shown to doctors if you find it difficult to describe how you’re feeling to them without sugar coating.
- Unknown: This isn’t the app name as unfortunately I cannot remember or find the app anymore. However, the purpose I used the app for is easy to do with just a note book. An element involved every day writing one thing you’ve achieved that day, one thing you’re grateful for and one thing you’re looking forward to. Even following an awful day, each night I would force myself to do this task. Some nights took a little more searching to complete this, but I managed to find something every time. Keeping track of these as well is a lovely way to look back at for inspiration for darker days, knowing you’ve managed to find these things in the dark before.
Alas, a short list, but for good reason. I found too many apps meant I didn’t stick to them. Getting into a routine of doing these at the same time each day will eventually make them equal to brushing your teeth when you wake up.