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Turning Sadness into Contentment

Talking Back to Sadness
Extensive research has shown that talking back to negative thoughts can actually lift a sad or depressed mood. We suggest that you track down your own depressive thoughts and come up with positive alternatives. Here are examples of several kinds of unrealistic thoughts to get you started.

Assuming There's Nothing You Can Do

    Negative Thought
  • I'm stuck in the house all day.
    Positive Alternatives
  • If the weather is all right, I can put Simone in the stroller and go for a walk.
  • If the weather is bad, we can go for a drive. Or go to a mall and window-shop. I could invite some other moms to come over.
  • Even if I'm alone in the house with Simone, I can make that better by playing music, watching some TV, talking with a friend on a headset phone, or lots of other ways.
Feeling Bad About Things Beyond Your Control
    Negative Thought
  • Brenda keeps getting ear infections. I must be doing something wrong.
    Positive Alternatives
  • She's sick because of germs, not me.
  • I've done everything the doctor has said so far. I've taken really good care of her.
  • I'm very sorry she's in pain. Feeling concerned and sympathetic is natural, but getting upset is not going to help her.
Assuming the Future Will be the Same as the Past
    Negative Thought
  • My husband left me, and I'm never going to find another partner.
    Positive Alternatives
  • He's not the only man who has ever liked me; other men will like me, too.
  • I can put myself in situations where I'll meet good people. I don't have to sit home waiting for the phone to ring.
  • My next relationship will be better than the last one since I will look for a different kind of man, and I will use the things I learned from my marriage.
Brooding about a Loss
    Negative Thought
  • I can't stop thinking that I'm missing important time with my son while I'm at work.
    Positive Alternatives
  • Being at work makes the time with him feel more special.
  • I know stay-at-home moms who get cranky with their kids because of all the time spent alone together; there are some advantages to Carlos because I work.
  • If I'm serious about spending more time with him, maybe I should stop obsessing about it and start figuring out how to cut back my hours.
Mourning Past Losses
  1. Look back at everything that has happened to you since conceiving your first child - at the changes in your body, career, friendships, finances, or marriage. Name your losses by listing them on paper or in your mind.
  2. Write or think about the resources you drew on to cope with your losses. These include both external (e.g., friends, your mother, a savings account) and internal ones (e.g., patience, religious faith, self-knowledge).
  3. Write or think about what you've learned or how you've grown from your losses.
  4. Tell your partner or a trusted friend about your losses, how you coped, and how you've grown.
  5. Imagine going into the safe room in your mind and really grieving your losses. Or if you like, find a comfortable place in your home or outdoors and grieve your losses out loud. Either way, try to really let yourself go. Sense that the feelings related to your losses are flowing out of your body.
  6. Imagine that the learning and growth related to your losses are sinking deeply into you, becoming a positive part of yourself.
Resources for Learned Optimism
Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Warriors Don't Cry by Melba Beals
The Little House on the Prairie series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My Left Foot by Christy Brown (or see the movie)
Under the Eye of the Clock by Christopher Nolan
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

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From Mother Nurture: A Mother's Guide to Health in Body, Mind, and Intimate Relationships by Rick Hansen, Jan Hansen, and Ricki Pollycove. Copyright © 2002 by Rick Hanson. Jan Hanson, and Ricki Pollycove. Used by arrangement with Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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