Most of us live with anxiety or depression and this article hopes to shed some light in making us understand the role of our thoughts in our mental well-being  and how we can better manage them thereof.

self critic

Do you always find yourself in a constant state of mourning, grieving over who you wish you were, instead of relishing who you really are, exacerbated by insecurity and crippled by self-doubt?


Do you always size-up yourself up against the well-dressed accomplishments of your friends, colleagues, etc.?


Or do you tend to highlight your weaknesses, cringe with insecurities, and constantly view yourself as ‘less than” by comparison with others.


This could be because people with mental disorders tend to have unrealistic distorted thoughts.


This misrepresentation in thinking includes exaggeration, focusing on negatives, “black and white” thinking (things are either good or bad) and emotional thinking (allowing our feelings to drive out thinking). 


Taking just one example, worry generally entails exaggerating both the probability of a negative occurrence and/or the consequences even if it were to occur.


If unchecked, these distorted thoughts can lead to unhelpful or self-destructive behaviors.


We also have people with negative thoughts involving wanting the past or present to be different.


The most productive way to think is to stop wishing the past or present were different (called “accepting what is”). This will help you to focus on what we can do to change the future, including perhaps learning lessons from the past. This is called “positive acceptance”.


Things happen, things go wrong, mistakes are made, people upset us, we upset ourselves, life can get hard and we feel overwhelmed – and yes we can feel down and sometimes rightly so. However, no matter what happens, you have to be able to pick yourself up and keep moving forward in a positive manner. Don’t beat yourself up for something you cannot change nor control.



Having a deep understanding of how your thoughts works, applying positive psychology and being mindfully aware, at the moment, of how you are feeling, thinking and behaving is paramount to keeping control

As individuals, we create our own reality with our thoughts and our thoughts are hugely powerful. They shape our life, our beliefs and our behaviours.

Remember though, that you can have total control over your thoughts but to do this you need to understand your thoughts and be highly self-aware. You need to think consciously and realise your potential.


When you feel happy, content with high levels of positivity, you are more friendly, collaborative, creative, productive and healthy. Staying positive has a profound effect on lifting your own mood.


We can’t blame other people for what happens to us, for our happiness and for our success or failure. It starts with us and our thoughts – we need to take charge and no matter what happens, we need to take control of our thoughts!


Remember whatever it is you are going through – it shall pass. Everything comes to an end eventually.


Having a deep understanding of how your thoughts works, applying positive psychology and being mindfully aware, at the moment, of how you are feeling, thinking and behaving is paramount to keeping control.


In short, thoughts drive feelings, feelings drive thoughts (through emotional thinking), thoughts and feelings both clear influence behaviour and, perhaps less obviously, behaviour influence thoughts and feelings.


I hope this article will help you understand and manage your thoughts.


Know your Mental Health

  • fighting stigma in Africa

WHO (World Health Organization) defines mental health as a state of physical and psychological well-being of an individual. The positive dimension of mental health is also stressed in their definition of health as also contained in its constitution: “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”


WHO reported that People with mental disorders experience disproportionately higher rates of disability and mortality. For example, persons with major depression and schizophrenia have a 40% to 60% greater chance of dying prematurely than the general population, owing to physical health problems that are often left unattended [such as cancers, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and HIV infection) and suicide.


For a long time in Africa, people did not have adequate knowledge about mental illness.  This had led to most people in our communities associating mental illness to witchcraft because people have not clearly distinguished the difference between the two societal challenges.


Most of those who are affected by mental illness ended up under the care of traditional healers and of which in my own opinion, may have received wrong treatment for a wrong diagnosis. Does this solve the problem?


I imagine some of these mismanaged cases of mental illness now display in our communities, where the victims are left to suffer psychologically and ponder on their own, stigmatized by the community members because of their untreated mental disorders.


Mental health is basically concern with thinking, feeling and acting. Individuals with healthy mental well-being tends to feel strong and  confident, productive and engage in the community hence able to overcome social challenges.


Ironically mentally ill people may act in deviant ways, such as having have suicidal ideation, isolate themselves from others, have bad dreams among others, etc.


Mental health issues are triggered by many challenges such as traumatic life events, grief, continued hardship, addiction, and abuse.


This can be clearly distinguished from witchcraft related problems based on signs and symptoms.


All people, young and old, rich or poor are entitled to a healthy mental well-being hence we all need to take responsibility to ensure everyone has access to mental health treatments.

Make sure to report any suspected mental illness to mental health units or mental health professionals for medical attention and management immediately.


Daniel comboni ocen


Our Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours

  • strong and kind

The cognitive-behavioural theoretical approach enables us to understand how anxiety or depression comes into existence in our daily living based on the three functions of our life i.e. the thought, feelings, and behaviour.


Among most communities in Africa, people use three stones to wage the saucepan when cooking using firewood and in case one is missing or not of the same size, the saucepan may not balance well on the fire stones. This may help us to understand how our thoughts, feelings and behaviors act when our thinking is negative hence affecting feelings and behaviors negatively, and vice versa.


1. Thoughts

We commonly have thoughts instance self-criticism which frequently resurfaces in our thoughts and often breaks us down or holds back the zeal to move forward. Without awareness of these thoughts, our feelings and behaviors get shaped negatively. It is helpful to take note of such and work on your positive attitude.


Thoughts may come out through many ways as discussed below; (Source: Burns, David D., MD. 1989. The Feeling Good Handbook. New York: William Morrow and Company):


  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
  • Over-generalization: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
  • Mental filter: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
  • Disqualifying the positives: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way, you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
  • Jumping conclusions: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
  • Mind reading:  You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
  • Fortune telling: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
  • Magnification (Catastrophizing) or minimization: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.”
  • Emotional reasoning:  You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.”
  • Should statements: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “thoughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt.
  • Labeling and mislabeling: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I’m a loser”. When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him “he’s a looser”.  Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
  • Personalisation: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.


2. Feelings

Emotions are expressed verbally and its how a person feels internally. For instance “I feel like no one cares” hence it makes you feel sad, “I am hated” hence you isolate yourself among others.  All this originates from our thoughts.


Although our feelings stem from what we think of, we should be able to realign or justify our thoughts so as to guide feelings. This strongly calls for exploration of the emotions.


3. Emotions

Behaviors are outcome of our thoughts and our emotions. When we are able to change our thoughts, our behaviors will naturally change. When we are able to shift our emotions, our behaviors will also change. We can also, however, shift our emotions and our cognition by creating changes in our behaviors directly. This can include forcing ourselves to exercise despite the lack of desire to do so, or, attending a social event despite the anxiety experienced around groups of people, etc.


The thoughts, feelings and behaviors interact with each other in causing changes in our life, either negatively or positively. We can use the triangle to create self-awareness and internal ability to manage those thoughts, feelings and resulting behaviors that often times get us out of our control.


Article by Daniel Comboni Ocen

World Mental Health Day

Suicide: the silent killer.

  • World mental health
  • Lighthouse NGO
  • no story should end too soon

10th October 2019 is International Mental Health Day and the theme is Suicide Prevention. The goal is to help raise mental health awareness. Each of us can make a contribution to ensure that people dealing with problems concerning mental health can live better lives with dignity.


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), close to 800 000 people die due to suicide every year and is named second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-old in the world.

Suicide is highly linked to mental health disorders although in contemporary African society, it may be triggered by series of events that renders the victim unable to sustain the stress related problem such as financial challenges, relationships issues among other social problems.


Many people have attempted to commit suicide, and this predisposes them to the risk of trying to commit suicide again if they don’t get help or proper diagnosis is not done.  We are loosing our loved ones because less attention is offered to try to understand what is beyond our life boundary, and seem less concern of what goes in the life of others only to be shocked by the sad news of an action.


We need to learn to be considerate and kind among each other. Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people who are having suicidal thoughts or who have attempted suicide are not seeking the help they desperately need.


In the African setting, taboos associated with suicide needs to be broken and initiatives made to prevent suicide as discussed below according to World Health Organization-WHO;

•Reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
•School-based interventions;
•Introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
•Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
•Training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behavior;
•Follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.


Thank you for reading and feel free to contact me if you would like to learn more about mental health disorders and suicide.


 Article by Daniel Comboni Ocen