Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

How Do You Really Feel?

If you can't
put on a happy face, try
putting the pen to the page.

"Put on a happy face." The advice in that bit of Broadway fluff--that suppressing dark thoughts is good--may be the wrong idea for people prone to depression.

People who are depressed intuitively squelch negative emotions when they're feeling fine, says Richard Wenzlaff, Ph.D. But this takes significant cognitive energy. So when stress or other mental demands deplete that energy, "suppressed thoughts surface, and more potently than ever," he says. When the University of Texas psychologist asked half of the subjects taking a word test to memorize a number sequence, he found that people at risk of depression showed abnormally thinking when their brains were "loaded" with numbers.

Instead of keeping blue thoughts to yourself, Wenzlaff recommends that people "keep a thought diary where you jot down the negatives. Then, let them go."