Down in the Dumps? How to Feel Better in 30 Seconds or Less

by Amy on May 18, 2016

amy 05-19-16

The other day I saw a very touching exchange on Facebook between some family members.

And its embarrassing to admit but, instead of being happy about it, I made it all about me.

I made it mean…

I’m not lovable.
I don’t fit in.
I’m an outsider.

The same story I’ve been telling myself for years. (That makes me want to crawl under my desk with a fifth of whiskey.)

All day today I’ve been in a foul mood… not wanting to see or talk to anyone, do any work, wishing for coffee, chocolate and pastries, thinking about sleeping the whole day.

In life coach training, we teach a very simple tool that comes from Action and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

ACT says that all suffering comes down to two things…

1) Cognitive Fusion, in other words believing things that make you feel like crap.

and…

2) Experiential Avoidance, or trying to distract yourself from the crappy way you feel when you believe certain things.

For me it works like this:

I tell myself “You’re not lovable. You don’t fit in. You’re an outsider.” Then I believe it. Then I feel really, really bad (Cognitive Fusion).

Then I try to avoid feeling really, really bad by distracting myself… taking a nap, eating chocolate and pastries, drinking a fifth (Experiential Avoidance).

Then I feel even worse about myself which is when I don’t want to do any work or talk to anyone. Which conveniently provides more evidence to prove the painful thoughts about myself true.

See the vicious cycle?

Back to ACT…

The simple trick is to just notice yourself having thoughts that make you feel really, really bad. Then say to yourself,

“I notice I’ m having the thought [insert painful thought].”

So in my case, I would say to myself, “I notice myself having the thought ‘I’m not lovable.’”

Try it.

Use your own painful thought. I bet you’ve got a few…

Notice that instead of automatically believing the thought, you feel farther away from it, like an observer of yourself having the thought.

If you’ve got a whole cluster of thoughts, like me, you can bunch them all together and label them.

In my case…

I’m not lovable.
I don’t fit in.
I’m an outsider.

Are all thoughts from my “Nobody likes me” story.

So instead of saying, “I notice myself having the thought ‘I am unlovable,’” I might say, “Oh, there’s my ‘nobody likes me’ story.”

When you can get some distance from the thoughts and notice yourself having them, you can stop the vicious cycle.

I, for one, feel lighter already.

For extra credit, try singing the thoughts to yourself. Choose any tune you wish. I like to just sing a song my mom taught me as a kid.

It goes like this:

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,
Guess I’ll go eat worms.
Long, thin, slimy ones; Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.

Down goes the first one, down goes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.
Up comes the first one, up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Now let’s take it one more step further.

Go ahead and turn those painful thoughts around.

Here are mine:

I am lovable.
I do fit in.
I am an insider.

That feels a whole lot better.

Here are the steps again:

  1. Notice yourself believing a thought or thoughts that make you feel bad.
  2. Say “I notice I’m having the thought [insert painful thought or story].
  3. Turn painful thought around.

That’s it. I bet you’re feeling better already. I am.

Did you try it? Post a comment below to let me know how it worked!

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Sharon May 19, 2016 at 1:18 pm

I did try it, even though I was thinking that I was not especially feeling negative. However, it still made me feel better to go through the steps for the negative things that I have said about myself often enough. This is a really great exercise that I will try to do more often.

Reply

Amy May 19, 2016 at 4:29 pm

I am SO happy to hear it Sharon!

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Carolina May 19, 2016 at 8:06 pm

Hi Sharon ~

You stole my comment. 🙂 I was feeling the same way. Not particularly negative, but it was nice to go and find that ugly thought and give it a squashing. Thanks Amy, for sharing.

Reply

Sophia May 19, 2016 at 1:51 pm

This! Could not have read it at a better time, after a FB post sent me reeling into the inferior thought pattern trap. It took a few times of objectively pointing it out to myself, but it worked! Thank you!!

Reply

Amy May 19, 2016 at 4:30 pm

Yay Sophia! This makes my day!

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Virginia Reeves May 19, 2016 at 5:13 pm

ICK ! I am NOT doing the worm song (grin).
Use this anagram folks: IALAC: I am lovable and capable (I like to add creative).
Taking a walk, dancing to music, or baking brownies helps me if I get in a funk.
I’ve learned to let other peoples ‘downers’ to slide over me. I won’t take it on.
I do like the idea of exaggerating and making the issue funny or ridiculous. It works.

Reply

Amy May 19, 2016 at 7:50 pm

Great advice Virginia! Thanks!

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Amberly May 19, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Amy, this is so good! Thank you! Putting this is in my arsenal 😉

Reply

Amy May 19, 2016 at 7:50 pm

So happy to hear it Amberly!

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Megan May 19, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Such great advice! This totally worked! In my case, right now, I wrote down, “I’m a terrible housekeeper.” And just like that, my mind switched thinking, “no you’re not, and you can do something about this mess right now!” Amazing! It was like I want to immediately wanted to prove what I wrote down wrong, just because it was down on paper and not in my head. Thanks!

Reply

Amy May 19, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Love it. Your brain turned it around right away!

Reply

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