Depression is more than experiencing a bout of sadness. It’s more than having a bad day, being bummed out or a little moody. Depression is a serious mental health disorder that, according to experts, “affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.”

Depression is not being able to get out of bed in the morning; it’s canceling plans; it’s forcing you to do basic tasks such as showering and eating. Contrary to common misconceptions, depression isn’t a matter of choosing to be happy or grateful, and it’s certainly not something you just “get over” or “snap out of.” However, this isn’t a reason to be disheartened. Psychological advancements have come a long way and there are many proven methods to cure and cope with depression. My preferred approach is through the practice of CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).

So what is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

CBT is an empirically supported form of therapy that hones in on how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. The way that we think affects what we do and how we feel; what we do affects how we think and how we feel, and what we feel affects the way we think and what we do. It’s a goal-oriented approach demonstrating that if we become aware of our negative thoughts, we are able to change them and therefore change our behavior.

What does the CBT process look like?

CBT can be broken down into four steps: Identification, Self-Talk, Making the Connection and Reframing.

Step One: Identification

The first step in any form of therapy is to accept and identify why you are there. For those who struggle with depression, it requires them to acknowledge, “Yes, I am depressed.” Once that is openly recognized, the patient and therapist will work together to come up with goals that they want to accomplish throughout the therapy process.

Step Two: Self-Talk

Diving deeper into the root of your depression is made possible after there is full acceptance of what you struggle with. The next step in CBT is to become aware of your inner dialogue. Your inner dialogue is the thoughts or conversations you have with yourself during certain situations. For example, if a friend cancels plans because something came up, what is your immediate thought? For those with depression, it might be something along the lines of: “Nobody wants to hang out with me because I’m a bad friend and no fun to be around.” The base of CBT proves that the way in which somebody perceives a situation is more important than the actual situation itself. In this situation, it’s not the canceling of plans that creates the problem; rather how you perceive the canceling of the plans.

Step Three: Making the Connection

After you become aware of what your thoughts look like, you can then have the power to realize that they are negative and probably inaccurate. The negative thinking patterns and self-talk most likely are furthering your depression. When you realize this, you can begin calling yourself out on it and catching what you’re saying.

Step Four: Reframing

The final step and perhaps the one that requires the most work is learning how to challenge your negative thoughts. When a thought creeps in, you must ask yourself “is this really true or is there a different way of looking at it?” Let’s take another look at the situation with the friend who canceled plans. He or she is one of your good friends, so clearly they value who you are as a person. Therefore, they probably have a legitimate reason to cancel the plans. Instead of automatically assuming they don’t want to hang out with you, take their word for it and believe that they had something else come up. Once your thoughts are changed and reframed, your behaviors can begin to do so as well.