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I have several family members who are convinced that positive thinking can rewire your brain and cure depression. It has helped them with their stuff, and I'm glad for them. But I'm having a hard time with being told to do these practices when I'm symptomatic. Being told to say affirmations or practice being grateful for things when intrusive thoughts are telling me I should be dead doesn't make me feel better. It makes me feel like they think I'm a negative person who doesn't appreciate what I have and that that's why I'm struggling.

Does anyone have thoughts on this? I don't want to dismiss it if it's helpful ...

 

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I've had therapists tell me the brain has neuroplasticity and can be rewired with practices such as mindfulness. That being said, I don't think anyone is arguing that it can replace biological processes that cause things like depression or mania. Just that it can help in conjunction with medication and therapy.

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If some positive affirmations were all it took to cure depression, it wouldn't continue being one of the leading causes of disability and people wouldn't spend billions on medication and therapy and ECT and TMS and everything else.  I like to read about neuroplasticity and I do believe our brains have the capacity to rewire, however, saying positive thinking can cure depression is like saying a baby aspirin cures all cardiovascular disease.  It's a tool that can be used, and it's possible to change a negative thought pattern or learned behavior, but to say it can cure severe depression is really dismissive of the gravity of a serious mental illness.  Things like CBT work on rewiring negative thought patterns, and it certainly helps in some cases, but for most mental illness it takes a combination of approaches to achieve any significant improvement.  

Yay for them being able to think themselves un-depressed.  If I could positive-think my way out of my depression and other disorders I'd have done it 30 years ago.  I will tackle a bad pattern in thinking when I recognize it, but as you said, when symptomatic, we don't always have the capacity to be so self-aware and in control that we can do it.  It takes other interventions to get to that point.

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Oh if only. I can tell you I used to do positive affirmations and visualization. I totally avoided any negative language and made gratitude lists. This was before I tried any meds at all. I did do some self help CBT like reframing and that had some helpful aspects but all my gratitude and positive thinking and substituting a positive thought for every negative one, well, that didn’t fix my depression no matter how diligent I was. Nowadays I am not depressed but have a few more down moments and yes some positive thinking helps slightly elevate my already decent mood. That’s not at all the same thing but I think that’s the experience of those who swear by positive thinking.   If only I could have gotten it to fix my severe depression I would not have wasted years of my life. I can only assume those people mean well and are speaking from their own possibly slightly depressed experiences. Or maybe it works better for some, who am I to say. Bottom line, it didn’t work for me and I definitely gave it my all. 

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