Feeling low can be a description of a number of emotions: disappointment, disheartened, lonely, heartbroken, displeased, worry or guilt. These are some of the feelings that fall under this umbrella. There are many other emotions that can fall under this list.
Your feelings are valid, they are an indicator of what is going on inside of you. What you think determines how you feel. Awareness and acknowledgment of your thoughts and emotions will benefit your mental health.
Unhelpful thinking patterns
There are many different unhelpful thinking patterns, this article will only highlight two. Many people will experience these patterns from time to time. They are unhelpful because they are usually based on past hurts or the way you learned to make sense of the world. Once you know what patterns of thinking you have, it is easier to notice when you are doing it. As you gain awareness you can challenge your thoughts and learn to distance yourself from these patterns.
Prediction is being sure of what is going to happen in the future. You may believe someone in your life acts a particular way so you know how they will behave. The unhelpfulness of this way of thinking is that you focus and react to situations that have not yet happened and they may not even happen. If you have a task to do at a later time, you predict and think that you won’t be in the mood to do it.
You then get frustrated with yourself right now because you have predicted that later on, you won’t be in the mood and therefore you will be unable to achieve your desired goal. Then you feel sad because you are now sure you will fail this task that you need to get done. Prediction can lead you into a cycle of self-fulfilling prophecy. Feeling low as a result of your prediction will produce an expectation of failure, you will then confirm this by not trying or attempting it already defeated.
Catastrophising is imagining the worst possible scenario and believing that that is in fact what will happen. Some people use this as a defense mechanism, they think that if they believe the worst, then if something bad happens then they won’t be as disappointed. You need to remember that your thoughts affect how you feel. If they are filled with the worst possible outcomes, you will feel emotions that are related to this. If all your focus is on the worst-case scenario, there is no room to hope.
It is not true that only good things will happen to you, but neither is it true that only bad things will happen to you. Catastrophising, like worrying, may not be something that you notice that you are doing. It can start small, like if you don’t complete a task that you plan on doing later on, then that will mean you are a failure. Catastrophising will then lead you to thoughts and visions of how your life will never amount to anything. All this leaves you feeling low.
Mindfulness is the awareness of your thoughts, emotions and senses in the present moment. This is a practise of awareness and acceptance. As highlighted before, your feelings are valid and there is a reason you may feel that way. So if you are angry, sad or overwhelmed, acknowledge and accept it. Avoiding your feelings does not help you.
As you practise, this can help you focus on right now as opposed to what might happen in the future. Good mindfulness practices are focusing on your breathing for some time or to bring your awareness to your environment. Like naming 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch and something you can taste or smell.
Nachilengi Chiyangi is a mental health blogger.