This lovely viral video seems to be doing the rounds at the moment and reminds me how much we are effected by what we focus on. Focussing on depressing bad things will almost inevitably lead us to feeling depressed and bad.
One of the theories of depression is that it is an ‘attentional bias’ to bad things, meaning that things that are bad we will notice more acutely but things that are good, we will discount and ignore. I’m sure that is correct and that this is the same process that makes exercises like writing a gratitude list so effective when managing a depressive nature. There is no point telling a depressed person not to worry, or that things aren’t so bad. Generally the things they are noticing are worthy of worry and very often are so bad. What they don’t / won’t or can’t acknowledge though, are that there are also good things happening every day. No matter how grim things get, there is always something that can be noticed and appreciated. Drawing people’s attention back onto these things is a much more effective strategy than trying to get them to discount the bad things.
I was talking with a very interesting patient recently about his depression and he was explaining to me all the terrible things that are going on in the world and how these were a big reason he wanted to end his life. I suggested perhaps he could not watch the news and buy the papers for a short while and see what effect it had on his mood. Amazingly, the next time we met he was effusive about his massive lift in mood, a large part of which he attributed to not watching the news. He admitted that when I had suggested it he had thought that I was just some sort of hippie, but in trying it, he was amazed at the impact it had on his depression. I’m sure he watches the news and reads the papers again now but at least he has found one tool that will definitely help him should his mood dip again.
Just taking the time to watch this video is such a simple and effective way of bringing our attention back to noticing all the good and the kind things that people all around us are inclined to do and what a generally good and kind place the world really is. Looking around the train carriage now, I would like to imagine all the kindness and the good things that all of these people will do today. Have a look around you the next time you are in a public place and imagine all the good things that these busy people are doing in their lives too and see what effect it has on your mood.