There is a Chinese proverb that says:
Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.
In escaping my depression, I had to learn to monitor my thoughts and, as I did, I also learned how much my thoughts colored my speech. If someone asked my opinion on anything when I was just beginning to monitor my thoughts, I realized that my first response was usually critical and negative. My thoughts really did become my words.
Next, I had to learn ways to respond in a positive manner, even when I didn't feel positive. I admit, that wasn't easy, nor was it comfortable, but I reminded myself that depression is a disorder of feelings and had to consciously make myself speak and act positively, no matter how I was feeling.
I know this sounds Pollyanna-like, but your actions really do become your habits. And when you develop positive habits--surprise! You begin to feel less depressed!
And maybe that is the secret. If you begin with negative feelings and let them color your thoughts and actions, is it any wonder you get depressed? When you're depressed, every disappointment or setback seems much larger than it actually is. I compare it to swimming in an ocean of black gel on a moonless night. Paddling as hard as you can doesn't get you anywhere, and you can't stop paddling, or you'll sink.
It's empowering to realize that you can change your life if you're determined to do so, one step at a time, one thought at a time, one word at a time, one action at a time.
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.