By Dequindre Jernigan, MA, LPC
When you’re struggling with depression or negative thinking patterns, it can be hard focusing on positive things about yourself, such as your strengths. Low self-esteem is another factor that could make it a challenge. Part of implementing any goal or habit is to first recognize the problem and then come up with a detailed plan on how to solve it. Introspection, or the act of examining your own thoughts and feelings, can be enlightening. It allows you to consider things you haven’t thought about before, such as the areas in your life that are going well. For example, maybe your relationship with your family isn’t going so great, but you have strong connections with your friends. Or maybe you haven’t been consistent with eating healthily, but you’re disciplined with working out each day. Being able to apply strengths in one area can allow you to tie those same successes to others with practice. Recognizing strengths is one way to practice positive psychology. Positive psychology recognizes the positive influences in a person’s life and can aid in individual well-being.
There are many strengths that you may not be aware of. To help, below are some examples of common strengths:
Strengths can be implemented in three major areas in your life: in your profession, in relationships, as well as your personal life. Your profession includes your job or school, relationships include friendships, family, and romantic relationships and your personal life includes your hobbies or things you find enjoyable. Looking back to the list, were you able to identify any of them? If so, think about a time when you displayed one of these strengths. What happened? How did it make you feel? Were you even aware that you were practicing those strengths? Maybe you felt accomplished being able to manage your anger in a healthier way or maybe your persistence finally paid off to promote some type of necessary change. Even if these things are insignificant to you, you must remember to give yourself credit for these small accomplishments.
Sometimes it can be helpful to think about how your strengths align with the people who are important to you. For example, some people may say a parental figure is someone they admire or look up to because they always maintain a positive attitude in the midst of struggles. Using your strengths to overcome daily stressors can aid in future success. Personal goals are more likely to be accomplished when individuals utilize their strengths. Someone who is optimistic can use that same optimism to encourage themselves when they lack motivation. Saying things such as, “Okay, things didn’t start off great, but I have a chance to turn this around and do better than before,” can renew that initially non-existent motivation. Using that same example, patience could also be useful if the person’s goal is more of a long-term goal, such as losing weight. Understanding that big goals take time will allow an individual to trust the process more.
Recognizing the positive things about yourself is an integral part of self-love. When you feel good about yourself, you in turn have a healthier mindset. This positively affects your mood. You are able to achieve more things because your self-confidence allows you to believe you can. Alternatively, consistently engaging in negative thinking patterns will worsen pre-existing depression and feed into the mindset that you will never be able to accomplish your goals.
To keep things in perspective, remember that whatever you nourish, it will grow. If you feed your mind with positive thoughts along with taking appropriate action, you will begin to see the changes you want to see. But if you feed your mind with negativity, self-doubt, and fear, you will only continue in a self-defeating cycle of depression. We all have moments of doubt and experience insecurities in certain situations, but the important thing is to recognize them and try to fix them.
Sometimes with depression, it is hard to think positively because it is more than just a mindset. In certain cases, a person’s depression may be so severe that an individual may need to see a psychiatrist for medication in addition to talk therapy. And that is okay! Every person is different with varying mental health needs. It is up to you to determine what may be best for you.
The most important thing is to get the help you need if you find yourself struggling. Friends and other people who are part of your social support are great resources to turn to, but sometimes they are not adequately equipped to handle severe depression or anxiety. A mental health professional will be able to help you with your mental health goals and see yourself in a more positive light.
Dequindre Jernigan (Quin), is a graduate of Wayne State University where she obtained her Master’s in Counseling Education. She currently works as a Licensed Professional Counselor treating children, adolescents, adults, and couples. Quin offers Christian counseling and specializes in cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) as well as rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT). She helps treat depression, anxiety, PTSD, mood disorders, self-esteem, and stress.