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Avoid Negative Thinking
By Dr. Neil Nedley

            This particular lifestyle measure cannot be over-emphasized. I have had many patients, including Amanda, point to this particular lifestyle measure as perhaps the most important in leading them to success in depression-free living without the use of medications.  

            Researchers at Ohio State University in Columbus studied 224 middle-aged and older adults who were already dealing with significant stress in their lives. At one-year intervals for three years, participants reported their degree of optimism and pessimism, negative life events, depression, stress, anxiety, and other issues. The re­searchers found that optimism and pes­simism, previously thought to be linked, are actually independent factors that individually influence stressed and non-stressed people. One factor is more influential than the other. Specifically, pessimism predicted anxiety, perceived stress, and self-rated lack of physical health for the next year. An optimistic attitude did not predict anything. Figure 9 demonstrates the impact of this study.

avoid pessimism

This requires a retraining of the thought processes. I have found that many depressed individuals have a tendency to look at the down side of life. We are all well aware that there always will be things in this imperfect world to complain about. We are helpless to personally do anything about many of these negative things or events. In contrast, focusing the mind on enjoying the wonderful blessings of life is not only uplifting but also therapeutic. As soon as conscious awareness of an unconstructive negative thought is realized, a positive thought should imme­diately replace it. This means that the person should plan ahead as to what positive thought to contemplate so that no delay in thought-shifting occurs. The human brain is both flexible and trainable and as positive thoughts become habitual, depression will likely become a thing of the past.

One religious author stated, "It is a positive duty to resist melancholy, discon­tented thoughts and feelings—as much a duty as it is to pray.”  If negative-thinking people visited the setting portrayed in Figure 10 and saw the low clouds and dead leaves, they would complain that they did not choose another day to be there. Others would revel in seeing the grand mountains, the valley clothed with living green, and the beautiful flowers.

It is a positive duty

Incidentally, this may be one of the reasons that country music (now the most listened-to music in the U.S.) does not come out on top in uplifting the mood. Melancholic guitars accompanying voices and lyrics combine to complain about a wrecked pick-up, lost dog, or missed ex-spouse. Even though the rhythm may be classified as upbeat, the effect does not truly uplift the thoughts.


Neil Nedley, M.D. From the book
Depression, the Way Out,
Nedley Publishing, Ardmore, OK, 2001
Neil Nedley, M.D.,
Nedley Health Solutions
P. O. Box 1565
Ardmore, OK 73402