Recap: changing what you do

In the earlier sessions, we focussed on breaking the vicious cycle by using FAT activity schedules and magic plans to start doing normal things again. This week we’re going to look at how unhelpful thinking can keep depression going.

Session five: change the way you think

Unhelpful thinking makes you feel bad. Watch the video to find out more:

 None of our videos have sound- you can pause and replay the video as many times as you need until you understand it.

Next time you have an unhelpful thought, remember that there’s always more than one way to think about a situation.

Are you thinking unhelpful thoughts?

Take a look at our list of unhelpful ways of thinking. Do you do any of them?

Mind reading

Believing that people are thinking badly of you without any real evidence that they are.


Jumping to the worst conclusion.

All or nothing

Thinking you’ve failed if things didn’t go 100% right.

Fortune telling

‘knowing’ that things are going to go wrong.

Mental filter

Only thinking about the bad things in a situation and ignoring all the good things.

Self blame

Thinking everything is your fault.

Beating yourself up

Constantly criticising yourself.

Impossible goals

Thinking that nothing is ever good enough.

Dont think about pink rabbits...

What happens if you try really hard not to think about pink rabbits? Chances are you’ll find yourself thinking about them a lot!

That's what happens when we get ‘intrusive’ thoughts and try to push them away. Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that we really don’t want to have. Sometimes they are unhelpful thoughts and sometimes they are really quite disturbing. Unfortunately, the more we try not to think of something, the stronger that thought becomes.

So instead of pushing the thought away, try to be mindful when you get an intrusive thought. Being mindful is really simple. Instead of trying to change the way you think, you just recognise when an unhelpful thought comes into your head, and that’s it. Just say to yourself “that’s interesting, I’m having another unhelpful thought”. Don’t try to confront the thought or get rid of it - just recognise that it’s there and move on with your day.

FACE your unhelpful thoughts

FACE stands for focus, analyse, compare and end. Here’s how to deal with unhelpful thoughts using the FACE method:

1. Focus: recognise that you’re having an unhelpful thought

2. Analyse: can you do anything about what you’re worrying about? If you can, then make a magic plan to deal with it. If you can’t then you shouldn't waste your time worrying about it.

3. Compare: think of someone you respect- what would they think about the thought? what advice would they give you?

4. End: the less attention you give to the unhelpful thought, the sooner it will pass. Don’t fight it and don’t try to push it out of your head.

Thought diaries

Sometimes it’s really hard to stop thinking some of these unhelpful thoughts. Other times you might not even realise that the thoughts are unhelpful or unrealistic. That’s where thought diaries come in use. Here’s how to do one:

1. Grab a piece of paper.

2. Every time you have a negative or unhelpful thought, write it down. 

3. Write down a number between 0 - 10 to show how much you believe that your negative thought is true (0 is not at all true and 10 is definitely true).

4. After a few days has passed, take a look at your thoughts and re-score them to show how true you think they are now. 

Check out our example:


Remember these things:

Don't try to push unhelpful thoughts away:  The more you push, the stronger they become. Just recognise that they are unhelpful thoughts and wait for them to pass. Sometimes it’s helpful to distract yourself by making yourself busy when you have an unhelpful thought.

FACE your thoughts: Focus on the unhelpful thought, analyse it to see if you can do anything about it, compare your thinking to how other people might think and finally end your focus on the thought and move on with your day.
The vicious cycle is almost destroyed: because you’re changing the way you think, depression has nowhere left to hide. Challenge your unhelpful thoughts as much as you can and keep working on your magic plans and FAT scheduling from earlier in the course.

Session five Complete!

Here’s your homework:

1. Make a thought diary over the next week.

2. Decide exactly when you’re going to come back for session six and set aside some time in your schedule.

© the brain clinic

Important: this self-help website is provided as a support tool to be used alongside professional help. The website is not intended to provide medical advice of any sort and you must see a doctor if you think you may have a mental illness.

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