The past couple of months have not been my best.
I lost my brother unexpectedly and tragically, and a few days later my father-in-law passed away.
Around the same time, there were some other family events that were upsetting, stirring up painful and difficult memories.
More recently, I slipped and fell on a sheet of ice, breaking my wrist on my dominant hand. For a writer and blogger, this has been a challenging setback to say the least.
Going through this series of unfortunate events has taken a toll on my usual upbeat emotional state. Of course, it's normal to grieve the loss of people you love, but I found myself sinking into a low level depression.
My mind kept latching on to painful thoughts and memories, and the more I looped these thoughts, the worse I felt.
It was as though the entire focus of my perceptions about life had shifted. All of the positive, good things about my life (and there are so many) receded into the background, and every possible negative belief and fear was spotlighted and magnified.
Fortunately, I was aware enough of what was happening that I took action -- finding someone to talk to, getting more exercise, meditating, and most importantly, becoming more aware of my negative thoughts and how they were impacting me.
In my efforts to recalibrate my thoughts and emotions, I discovered a book that I can't believe I hadn't run across earlier in my life. It's called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David Burns, MD. Whether you are feeling down and depressed right now, or you want to learn some great skills to prevent depression in the future, this book needs to be on your "must read" list.
One of the most enlightening parts of Dr. Burns book is his explanation of the various negative thinking patterns, or "cognitive distortions" as he calls them, that lead you down a mental rabbit hole toward despair, anxiety, and hopelessness.