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Emotions can be tricky, they can range from simple to complicated. At the simple level we can have mental habits, like self criticism. At the more complicated level, they can indicate underlying negative mental patterns or unconscious programs. Finally, you'll find answers to identify what’s really causing the depression and what to do about it instead.

Symptoms of depression

Depression can have many symptoms, WebMd.com identifies depression with difficulty concentrating and remembering details, difficulty with making decisions, lack of energy and fatigue, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness and/or helplessness, insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping, irritability, restlessness, loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex, appetite loss, persistent sad, or anxiousness.

Depression as a mental habit

In Neuro- Linguistic Programming, we think of depression as a mental habit rather than a disease. Now a mental habit sounds fairly simple to change, right? Well, yes and no. What we know now in how the brain works, we can set up a new mental habit very quickly, yet emotions can be tricky, they can range from simple to very complicated.

At the simple level, we have emotional habits, like feeling stressed when you open up your mail or pay your bills. Then we have emotional associations, like the emotions that different foods have, such as the feeling of warmth and family that comes with pumpkin pie.

Then, we have emotions as messengers, giving us useful information about our lives. If we pay attention, they point us to how to find greater happiness and well being.

Emotions are messengers

Emotions are messengers giving us important information about our life. Positive emotions tell us about what we like and enjoy, negative emotions point to things in our life that are not working for us. As a child, I had really intense emotions, and I could even remember thinking, “If God could only take my emotions away from me, then I could be happy.” Yes, I know, ironic isn't it?

But if we think of emotions as messengers, that they are providing us information, we can then look to the message and move beyond the emotions we are experiencing in favor of better feelings.

All of us through our lives have learned different strategies to try to cope with negative emotions. We may deny them or stuff them inside, of course this then causes emotional explosions later. We may try to avoid them or cover them up, such as finding distractions like shopping or eating sweets. This strategy doesn’t really work in that we still have the emotions and then also have a credit card bill or extra weight that we don’t want.

The other problem with these strategies is that it ignores the message of the emotion. If we aren’t getting the message, the emotion keeps recurring, coming around again and again, and we can get caught in a looping pattern. The brain accesses memories that are similar to the emotions we are feeling at the time. So, if we are feeling depressed, the brain brings up more memories where we felt depressed. This of course causes us to feel more depressed and so we think more depressing thoughts, feel more depressed and the cycle continues.

Emotions are the results of our thoughts and thinking habits.

One of my business coaching clients had noticed a feeling of depression that was causing her lack of motivation in business and excess weight. I asked her to walk me through her day, and identify at what point in her day she noticed the depression.

She said, “Well, I feel okay when I get up, and then I get a shower and get dressed. Then, I put on make-up and I guess it’s then that I feel depressed.”

So I asked, “What are you thinking or saying to yourself while you are putting on makeup?” She said, “I think of the things I haven’t done and I notice the flaws in my face. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess I really pick myself apart.”

She had learned this habit of self criticism as a little girl, watching her mother get ready, and that habit was reinforced during watching her school mates criticize themselves in the mirror. It became an associated habit. What is repeated over time becomes a habit. When she saw herself in the mirror, she would go into self criticism, and after repeating it enough, the brain made it automatic, so that the self criticism was running in the background. So, we changed the mental habit of self criticism with NLP, which only takes a single session.

The next week she came in, “My depression is gone! I thought it was something I would have to live with and cope with my whole life – I can’t believe it, I just feel great! Now, while I get ready in the morning, my mind sorts through all the ways that I appreciate myself and I feel like a rock star!”

Emotions indicate thought patterns that aren’t working for us.

Jim is an intelligent man, has a college degree, and has done well with the healthy eating plan, he even lost about 8 pounds in the last 3 weeks with only mild exercise and eating well. This week he came in and said, “I’m just not eating well. I know what to do, but I just couldn’t stay on track this week, I just couldn’t get motivated.”

As we worked together to understand the “lack of motivation” and the snacking, we identified an underlying pattern of depression.  He said, “I just feel a lack of energy, a sense of hopelessness and sadness and it causes me to overeat, even though I know I should stop.”

In Jim’s case, I asked him, “If the depression were saying something, what would it be saying?” Jim thought a moment and then responded, “I feel worthless.”

We asked his mind to identify where he first picked up this feeling, he responded, “When I was two, my mother had been distant and neglectful.” In his small child mind, he picked up the idea, “Mom doesn’t pay attention to me because I’m not lovable.”

This is a belief pattern. The mind can run these old beliefs, and every time they get triggered, we feel ourselves fall back into this old feeling. Even though we’ve learned the right things to think and say as adults, the unconscious mind can still be running these old programs when life events trigger them, or even run these programs in the background.

The good news is, what we know now about the brain and how it works, we can help it make updates and changes very quickly. These old beliefs even though we’ve carried them around for a long time, we can have the unconscious mind change these old programs very quickly and effectively.

If our mind is accessing negative memory files, old patterns, and old beliefs, we can feel caught up in these negative emotions.

Question your emotions

Here are some great questions to ask yourself when you feel depression, which will help you identify the message from the emotion and allow you to move out of the emotion more quickly.

What’s causing or triggering the depression?

What is the depression really saying?

If there were an underlying negative idea causing the depression, what would it be?

If the depression wanted me to take some action in my life, what would it be?

We can focus on trying to make ourselves feel better, by eating ice cream, by going shopping, but retail therapy gets expensive and high calorie treats add to the waistline. An even better approach rather than trying to avoid what we feel, cover up our feelings is to identify the mental patterns causing the emotions and to process the emotions effectively.

If you do find a negative mental pattern such as an old belief like “I’m not good enough” I suggest working with the NLP belief change tool or working with a qualified NLP Practitioner. You can also process your emotions quickly and effectively using this NLP Tool.

Life Coach Holly Stokes Portland, Or

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