Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
CBT cannot remove your problems, but can help you manage them in a more positive way. It encourages you to examine how your actions can affect how you think and feel.
Talking and changing your behaviour can change how you think (cognitive) and what you do (behaviour). This can make you feel better about life.
I use CBT in my work with clients and have used it in my own life. It hasn’t been an overnight success and it is still a work in progress but I do believe cognitive behavioural therapy has helped me personally in the following ways:
1) I don’t take my thoughts seriously
Thoughts lead to emotions which lead to actions/behaviour. It all starts with a thought. When you learn to challenge your thinking, you experience different emotions and the ensuing behaviour tends to be more productive and effective.
Before CBT I paid attention to and believed every thought that came into my head. There was a lot of distorted thinking going on and I felt miserable a lot of the time. Not that I never feel down now but it doesn’t last long.
Becoming aware of negative automatic thoughts (NAT’s) is the first step in challenging them. Ask yourself where the evidence is for your thinking then try to reframe the negative thought into a statement that allows you to feel less stressed/anxious.
Example NAT: No one likes me
Reframe: There will always be some people I can’t please but there are also people who like me. It’s not true that NO ONE likes me.
2) I Stop and Think
I have become more measured in my responses to others. This is probably a combination of getting older as well as the Cognitive Behavioural Training. I don’t jump to conclusions as much as I used to and seem more able to keep an open mind about life and the intentions of others.
3) Mental ‘Shelving’
I am better placed to let my thoughts work for me. I can choose the positive thoughts and push aside the negative ones. It’s almost like having a thought library in my mind and I feel happier because of it. In the past I used to buy into my thoughts about the world being a bad place where you could trust no one. I repeated negative statements about myself daily..if not hourly! I still have negative thoughts about myself and others but they aren’t nearly as frequent as they used to be.
4) Rational Thoughts
I am more aware of irrational thoughts such as over generalising, black and white thinking and catastrophising. The more balanced and rational our thinking is, the more positive our perceptions of life will be which inevitably leads to a better quality of life.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy has taught me how crucial my thinking is in determining my happiness levels. I began by filling in thought record sheets every time I found was wallowing and experiencing negative emotions. This process taught me to identify, challenge and reframe thoughts.If you’d like to give it a go, here is a copy of a thought record sheet:
Think of the physical world as your canvas and your thoughts as the colours/paint. We all have the same physical reality but what we choose to see or believe can be very different.