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This Silly Thing My Primary School Science Teacher Taught Me Helps Me Get Through Hard Days

Managing Depression

March 26, 2024

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by Crystal Hoshaw


Medically Reviewed by:

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW


by Crystal Hoshaw


Medically Reviewed by:

Joslyn Jelinek, LCSW


Coping with depression can require an unconventional approach. Even something nonsensical can help turn things around. This type of pattern interrupt is the first step in reframing negative thoughts.

When I’m going through a difficult bout with depression, I often find my mind coming up with variations on one theme in particular: “What does anything matter?”

When I find myself asking this, and more accurately, feeling this, I know I’m likely encountering the beginning of a depressive episode.

Depression is a strange and unusual beast. It doesn’t follow rules or defer to convention most of the time. As such, I’ve found that coping with depression often requires an unconventional approach.

Read on to learn my silly but effective strategy.

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How to turn ‘it doesn’t matter’ on its head

It was fourth grade science class, and our teacher was determined to drill the basics into us.

To that end, she had us on a call-and-response routine. Every time she asked, “Why does it matter?” the entire class would answer, in unison, “Because it’s matter!”

You know, matter: the material substance that constitutes the observable universe.

Corny? Absolutely. Effective? Extremely.

It even had an unexpected effect much later in my life.

One of the features of depression I experience is a sense of apathy that ultimately stems from caring too much (if that’s even possible) combined with the sense that I don’t have the power to change anything. This can be on a personal level or a societal one.

When this happens, I feel an internal pushing away — most likely a way to avoid feeling the big stuff. It’s in those moments that I question, well, everything.

What does it matter? What difference can I make? What’s the point? Questions like this arise in my mind like my own personal playlist of ennui.

On one such occasion, my fourth grade science teacher’s call-and-response drill popped into my head, totally uninvited and out of sync with the rest of my mental narrative.

It was enough of a pattern interrupt to jar me from my mental loop and actually make me laugh out loud.

After a good laugh at the random silliness of it all, it dawned on me what a profound little mantra that silly science slogan can be.

There doesn’t have to be a reason, a neat rational argument for why everything matters.

It matters because it matters.

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Flipping the depression script

Now, in times when my mind slips into its melancholy refrain, I gently challenge it with this simple affirmation.

It matters because it matters. It doesn’t have to feel like it right now, but it does.

And when I remind myself of this plain but powerful truth, it heartens me. I remember what’s true for me beyond how I’m feeling and thinking, beyond the internal weather of my subjective experience.

It’s a way to step into objectivity, even for a moment, and remind myself of my true values — depression or not.

This is actually a simplified version of what’s known as cognitive restructuring, a technique from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that involves recognizing and challenging negative thoughts.

A more detailed form of cognitive restructuring involves identifying what are known as cognitive distortions, or thought patterns that distort our view of reality.

There are ten official cognitive distortions: They are:

  1. Polarization: black-and-white thinking
  2. Overgeneralization: applying a conclusion to all circumstances
  3. Catastrophizing: thinking the worst will happen
  4. Personalization: taking things personally
  5. Mind reading: assuming you know what others are thinking
  6. Mental filtering: focusing on the negative
  7. Discounting the positive: explaining away positives as a fluke or luck
  8. “Should” statements: shaming or scolding yourself for your actions
  9. Emotional reasoning: believing your emotions are the truth
  10. Labeling: reducing yourself or others to categories, like “dumb” or “silly”

My “it doesn’t matter” narrative could be an example of several.

For instance, it’s an example of both polarization and overgeneralization because it’s a blanket statement that applies itself to everything.

It’s an example of mental filtering because it’s certainly a way to focus on the negative. It’s also an example of emotional reasoning because it’s projecting how I feel onto how I perceive the world.

Plus, it’s a form of labeling everything as “not important” or “not worthy.”

How to get started with cognitive restructuring

If you want to give cognitive restructuring a try, you don’t have to memorize all the cognitive distortions.

Here are the official steps:

  1. Isolate and record the negative thought.
  2. Note the emotion that came up with the thought.
  3. Identify which distortion is at work.
  4. Rewrite or restate the thought in a more balanced, objective, or positive way.
  5. Note the emotion that comes up from the new thought.

However, all you really need to do is stop and notice when a negative thought comes up, then challenge and replace it with a new thought.

You can also do this in a notebook that you take with you as you go about your day. I find writing the thoughts to be extra powerful.

If you’re like me and you can’t remember to take a notebook with you everywhere, you might want to try using a spreadsheet like this one I made for myself.

It lists the 10 cognitive distortions plus the steps for reframing. I use the tabs to track the dates so I can have a record of all my cognitive reframing work.

This can be useful for reflection or to share with a therapist.

Want to give it a go? Simply make a copy of the spreadsheet to make it your own!

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Depression isn’t straightforward. Sometimes, we need to employ a little silliness to cut through the dark clouds and connect to something that reminds us of the beauty in life.

For me, it’s a silly little science mantra that I learned in fourth grade. For you, it could be anything that makes you smile, giggle, or reminds you that it’s worth it after all.

Medically reviewed on March 26, 2024

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Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

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About the author

Crystal Hoshaw

Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner, and currently the Editor for the Bezzy Breast Cancer and Migraine communities. Crystal shares mindful strategies for self-care through yoga classes and online courses at Embody Ayurveda. You can find her on Instagram.

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