One of the more difficult symptoms of depression is dark intrusive thoughts.
These are unexpected images or random thoughts that seemingly pop into your mind out of nowhere.
They’re unwanted, unpleasant, and sometimes disturbing.
Intrusive thoughts can cause a lot of stress, worry, and isolation. People feel ashamed of them and tend to withdraw.
Dark thoughts are powerful and stay in the mind for a long time. They can be challenging to deal with and even seem and appear to be authentic.
This article will share real tips that you can use against depression’s dark thoughts. Remember that what works for some might not work for others, and every journey is unique. Try the tips that feel right for you, perhaps even try some of the others too. Keep what works.
So, let’s unwrap how to dispel depression’s darkest thoughts.
1. Identify and name the dark, intrusive thoughts.
The first step to dismantling depression’s dark thoughts is to identify them.
You need to be aware of which thoughts are intrusive thoughts and which aren’t. Intrusive thoughts are thoughts that are abnormal for you. They likely make you uncomfortable, and the more you think about them, the more anxious you become. Intrusive thoughts are intense, and when dealing with them in depression, they might be taken as explanations and evidence of being worthless.
Identifying dark thoughts involves being intensely aware of your body and mind. Practicing self-awareness will help to identify when things don’t feel right. Notice your thoughts and their impact on your body and mental health.
When you name the intrusive thought, it might be verbal or just in your head. Finding what works for you is a never-ending journey. But, naming the dark thought and giving a reason as to why you have it can help to dismantle the power it holds over you.
Now, the reason would be because you have depression and intrusive thoughts are a commonly recurring symptom in the mental illness. The reason for the dark thought is never because of anything you’ve done or a fault of yours.
Avoid blaming yourself for the intrusive thought, no matter how dark it might be. Depression can bring a flurry of darkness and try to convince you it’s your doing. Don’t let it do that to you. Instead, stay in control, name it and tell yourself why you have it. For example, “I am having a dark thought involving hurting myself. I’m having this thought because I live with depression. This negative thought is not my fault.”
If you say it out loud, it reinforces the message that you’re not responsible for these types of thoughts. Intrusive thoughts might be violent, sexual, or involve harming others. Depression can bring an array of dark, intrusive thoughts. The first step to dealing with them is understanding what they are, why you have them, and acknowledging that they are not occurring at your fault.
2. Challenge and replace the dark thought.
Upon recognizing an intrusive thought, one coping mechanism is to challenge or replace it with the opposite. If the thought tells you you’re worthless, then you say you’re terrific. If it’s saying that you won’t ever be happy, then tell yourself you are worth the consistent effort to be happy.
Challenging depression’s dark thoughts helps to show you that you can’t trust them and they aren’t real. When the thought arises that no one cares about you, pull out your address book and visually show yourself the loved ones in your life.
When you’re challenging and replacing the dark thoughts, always handle them with care. These thoughts are often heavy and feel natural so handling them with caution is crucial. You can acknowledge it and say, “I see you depression, but I know that thought isn’t true.”
The dark thought might persist initially, perhaps taunting you and doing everything it can to pull you over to believe it. Still, with practice and consistency, you’ll be able to weed through which thoughts are real and which aren’t.
Upon noticing a negative thought, you can use various skills to cope with it. It takes a great deal of self-awareness to notice and an even higher level of consciousness to control it. Don’t get discouraged. Depressions’ darkest thoughts are heavy and keep you feeling negative. They’re difficult to control and even more difficult to stop. Be gentle with yourself when you’re trying to replace them. It might take some convincing to get rid of them fully.
3. Start a journaling habit.
Journaling has many excellent benefits and is a great tool to counteract dark, intrusive thoughts.
Journaling can give you a safe space for these thoughts to exist. By writing them out, you give them a name and a place where they can be. It can be very therapeutic and increase your ability to handle even the darkest of thoughts.
To make a journaling habit stick, try to have it out so you can turn to it when the intrusive thoughts arrive. Of course, keep a pen nearby for easy access too!
Journaling can help you create a healthy routine, identify adverse problems, strengthen memories, and allow depression to exist somewhere out of your mind. When you give your thoughts and anxieties permission to exist in your journal, you might find that symptoms lessen.
If you’re new to journaling, you might find it easier to follow prompts and get into the habit of writing daily. Below are a few ways to help you begin exploring your feelings and emotions through journaling.
- Is there something that I’m grieving for right now? (Pet, person, a season of life, etc.)
- Where do I feel the depression most in my body?
- My depression is wrong that no one loves me because…
- When do I feel my best?
4. Practice gratitude.
Starting a gratitude practice can be a transformational experience. Practicing gratitude can increase your overall happiness and help fight dark intrusive thoughts.
Gratitude can begin very small and specific or be broad and general. It’s entirely up to you and what helps you. It’s an essential tool in everyday living and very beneficial in coping with negative thoughts. You can write down three things you’re grateful for each day as a practice or practice gratitude when you’re having a darker moment.
Gratitude can help you reframe the inner narrative and notice the good in life. Over time, it can help fight depression symptoms as well. It’s an excellent tool for in the moment and for the long term.
How to practice gratitude?
- Begin each day by writing down three things you’re grateful for.
- Focus on gratitude throughout the day.
- Do random acts of kindness.
- Thank people.
5. Lean on supporting people to help you see the truth.
Build yourself a support network that loves and supports you. When you’re feeling these intrusive thoughts, voice them to a support person and lean on them to tell you that they’re not true. You might find great support from people within your friend group or family.
Still, a few other places to look are support groups, community activities, the gym, and places you visit frequently. The support people in your life should love and accept you and be able to share intrusive thoughts without fear of judgment.
If you don’t feel comfortable revealing these sorts of thoughts to your loved ones, a therapist is a good choice instead. It can be a lot easier to open up to someone who you don’t have a long-standing or close relationship with.
6. Go for a walk.
Try getting outside and moving your body when the dark thought floods your mind. Walking is a fantastic tool to maintain positive mental health and can be an excellent shield against intrusive thoughts.
Make this as simple and convenient as possible by keeping a pair of shoes near the door so that you can slip them on quickly. Walking has enormous benefits, from getting rid of brain fog, easing anxiety, and increasing happiness and self-esteem.
7. Visualize the thoughts as potholes.
Dark, intrusive thoughts are sometimes a part of what depression brings. Rather than seeing them as an endless road, try to reframe them as potholes. They can be majorly impactful and even hurt, but they also end and are repairable.
If you reframe how you think about intrusive thoughts, you can lighten the anxiety associated with them. When you’re in the dark moment, remind yourself that it’s just a pothole and will end. The healing journey will continue, and it’s a beautiful ebb and flow of ups and downs.
8. Use affirmations.
Affirmations can be an excellent tool to dispel depression’s darkest thoughts. In addition, affirmations can help you increase your confidence and self-esteem. They can help you feel empowered and in charge, which can be very helpful when you’re dealing with intrusive thoughts.
A few affirmations that might be helpful to you are:
- I am stronger than these thoughts.
- My thoughts don’t represent my reality.
- My future is bright.
- I’ve made it through every dark moment, and I’ll make it through this one.
9. Schedule time for intrusive thoughts.
Schedule time in your day where you allow yourself to sit with your thoughts and feelings. Maybe allow 5-10 minutes for them to run wild, and you hold on for the wild ride. But, once the timer has finished, you continue, but the dark thoughts are out of your mind, and you go about your day. Scheduling time for these thoughts can be a handy way to control them. It’s as if you’re saying, “I understand you have to exist so you can exist during this time frame.”
10. Release self-judgment.
Let go of all self-deprecating thoughts. Any thought that paints you in a negative context? It’s time to let that go.
We live in a world that has taught us we need to judge ourselves harshly to be good enough, and even then, we probably won’t be good enough. So let that thought go and focus on making healthy choices and positive decisions. Release the idea that you “shouldn’t” have intrusive thoughts and stop judging yourself when you do.
This idea of what we should and shouldn’t is simply irrelevant. We’re all wonderful, unique beings, and everything is different for everyone. So rather than breaking yourself down with self-hatred, self-doubt and self-judgment, commit to building yourself up. Commit to loving yourself, being gentle with yourself, acknowledging your thoughts, and letting them flow through. Release the self-judgment and let yourself exist without explanations.
11. Make a list of things you like about yourself.
This tip must be completed ahead of time so you can pull it out when the thoughts arrive. First, write down a list of things that you like/love about yourself. Then, keep it nearby so that when depression’s dark thoughts hit, you can refer to this and remind yourself how great you are. This is a great mood booster and helps fight the dark thoughts.
12. Create a happy memory book/folder on the phone.
Depressions’ dark thoughts are numbing. They might even convince you of horrendous thoughts. They pull you in and suck the life out of you (almost like a Dementor, a Harry Potter reference!), but if you can spot them when they’re on the horizon, you can counteract them.
By building a toolbox and having strategies and techniques, you can live a full and very happy life alongside depression. First, print off your happiest photos and compile them in a photo album where you can access them easily. Then, in a dark moment, reach for the photos and remind yourself that this is just a moment; other moments exist too.
You can also make a folder on your phone of photos, videos, quotes, and other things that bring you joy so you can see them immediately.
Meditation has been used for thousands of years and across nearly all cultures in some way, shape, or form. It’s a terrific approach to lessening depression’s intrusive thoughts and involves improved self-awareness.
There are different types of meditation. Concentrative meditation involves tuning out external factors and focusing on one thing, for example – your breath. Mindfulness meditation is more about being in a state of awareness and fostering skills to bring yourself to be present and focused. Both can be helpful, but mindfulness is exceptionally helpful in fighting intrusive thoughts.
14. Regular self-care.
Regular self-care can be looked at like maintenance. The tiny things you do have a giant, collective impact on your mental health as a whole. Regular self-care can include things like showering, brushing your teeth, exercising, meditating, calling a friend, and more. It just depends on what self-care is for you.
If you live with depression, then it’s guaranteed that there will be impossibly difficult moments at times. However, taking care of yourself is part of living with depression, and even tasks that seem meaningless add up. For some people, self-care might be an aggressive exercise to release pent-up energy, while for others, it might be to brush their teeth every day.
Self-care is something that is different and changes. It’s giving you what you need and maintaining your health and well-being. This isn’t a tool that will necessarily help counteract intrusive thoughts at the moment they arise but rather establish grounds for healthy living and mental strength to fight the thoughts.
15. Have a daily routine.
Like the tip above, having a daily routine is maintenance to living with depression. A daily routine keeps you focused, motivated, and on track. It helps to avoid long moments in time where you’re doing nothing and where your brain can begin to wander. It keeps the day structured and gives you a clear purpose.
16. Indulge in a hobby.
Bring more joy into your life. Find hobbies and take part in events that you genuinely enjoy. Life can be somewhat of a drag, and many days can feel paralyzing if you’re living with depression. Bring things into your life that genuinely make you happy.
Try something new. Go on an adventure. Over time, once you develop a hobby, it can be a great tool for coping with intrusive thoughts. The brain can only focus on a limited number of things at a time, so in a moment of torrential darkness, you could try shifting the focus onto your hobby.
17. Fall in love with reading.
Reading is a great way to explore and travel to another space without ever leaving the comfort of your chair. Find books you love, and you might be surprised by just how captivated you become.
Reading is a constructive tool to have on hand to fight intrusive thoughts. It puts your brain to work and redirects its focus onto the story rather than the thought. The brain can only focus on a limited number of things at a time, so if you jolt it into something else, it will often forget where it was.
Reading can take you on an inspiring and uplifting journey. It can motivate you and foster an environment to dream and live. Reading is an exceptional pastime.
18. Get creative.
Exploring creativity can be a release of emotions and feelings. Try painting, drawing, sketching, writing, and anything else you’re interested in.
Whether you’re feeling cheerful or negative, the effects of being creative are enormous. It’s a great way to sharpen the mind, learn, explore, and satisfy sensory needs. It’s a calming and exciting thing to do, and it’s a terrific personality trait as well.
Practice being creative in all areas of your life. Embrace fashion, beauty, art, and anything else you like, and watch how you bloom. Displaying your creative work is a great mood lifter too. You’ll feel pride and self-achievement when you see your art on the wall. It’s a great way to divert your energy and reassure yourself that you can handle everything that comes your way.
Creative activities to explore:
- Write a story.
- Learn to play a musical instrument.
- Explore photography.
- Make candles.
- Create a bouquet of paper flowers.
- Learn string art.
- Learn how to weave.
19. Talk to yourself in the mirror.
Sometimes, to fight intrusive thoughts, you have to change the inner narrative. Spending time in front of a mirror saying positive things can be helpful with this.
Look at yourself and tell yourself affirmations or just motivational pep talks. Looking at yourself while you’re talking can help strengthen your message. In a moment where intrusive thoughts are rushing in, use the mirror as a tool.
You could say, “I see you depression, and I’m strong enough to face this moment.” You could keep a pocket mirror in your purse when you’re on the go.
20. Say it out loud.
Practice saying the dark thought out loud. The intrusive thoughts that are living in your mind won’t sound believable if you give them space to exist in the real world. Saying them out loud can be a helpful tool to get rid of those dark thoughts quickly.
21. See the positive.
In your day-to-day living, focus on seeing the positive in life. Whether appreciating the warm sunshine, the tickle of the green grass, or having food to eat, seeing the positive in daily living can improve your overall attitude and mindset. When you do this, you’re building somewhat of an invisible shield against intrusive thoughts.
Looking for the positive in things is something that takes practice. You have to try to do it until it becomes natural continuously. Once it becomes more natural to you, you will feel the effects in all areas of your life.
To use positivity as a more immediate tool to fight intense dark thoughts, you could make a list of happy moments in your life, things that make you laugh, or watch some comedy. As a long-term care technique to help keep intrusive thoughts away, focus on seeing the positive and challenging the negative.
Sometimes, the best thing to do when you’re struggling with intrusive thoughts is to pause. Rather than fight the thought, let it flow. Pause, allow the intrusive thought to pass, acknowledge it and move on.
It is essential to name the intrusive thought so that you maintain control of the ride. Then, once the thought crashes down on you, just take a few deep breaths, accept that it arrived, and then let yourself move on.
23. Listen to music.
Create a playlist of songs that make you feel happy and positive. When an intrusive thought invades your mind, grab your music and play it. Listening to music is a mood-booster and can leave you inspired and motivated. In addition, it’s a perfect distraction from thoughts.
24. Reach out to a friend.
Intrusive thoughts can feed you lies and torment you. They can ridicule you and make you think things that you thought you’d never think. It’s important to remember that intrusive thoughts aren’t your fault, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about them.
Connecting with loved ones can be immensely helpful. When the thoughts arrive, immediately call a friend and talk about them. Or, toss your shoes on and head out for a coffee date. Force the thoughts to see that you are loved, have people, and are not alone.
25. Get some sunshine.
Sitting outside and basking in the warm sunshine is comforting, cozy, and warm. It’s somewhat like an imaginary hug with oodles of balmy warmth. So, when you feel the thought arising, get outside and soak in some nature.
Living with depression is complex and brings many challenges, with dark, intrusive thoughts being just one. Intrusive thoughts can derail an entire day and cause a person to second-guess themselves and lose trust. However, it’s important to remember that having these thoughts isn’t a fault of yours but rather a symptom of depression, and that there are things one can do to help.
You may also like:
- How To Deal With The Inappropriate Guilt Of Depression: 8 Effective Tips!
- 10 Destructive Thoughts That Are More Common Than You Think
- “I Feel Like Everyone Hates Me” – Understand And Overcome This Belief
- 10 Ways To Overcome “I Don’t Matter” Thoughts And Feelings
- “I Don’t Deserve To Be Happy” – How To Overcome These Thoughts
- 22 Things To Do On A Bad Depression Day
- Am I Depressed or Lazy? How To Tell The Difference
- Hitting Yourself: Why You Do It, Why It’s A Problem, How To Stop