Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy or talk therapy that uses practical self-help strategies for unhealthy or unhelpful ways of acting, feeling and thinking.
So how can CBT help us to grow and move forward on the path to our best self? Some of life’s biggest obstacles are our negative thoughts… fear, anxiety, worry, procrastination and lack of confidence. CBT is an incredible tool to help address these behaviours and thought patterns that often hold us back, and can take a physical and emotional toll.
CBT isn’t complicated in fact it focuses on simple & practical changes to the way we think, that can have positive impacts on our health & wellbeing almost immediately. We have so much power over our own life however we often forget or dismiss just how empowering our own thoughts, beliefs and outlook on life can be. CBT is a tool to help you have a more active role in changing your thoughts and behaviour to help better manage our emotions and cope with life stressors.
Below are some simple CBT techniques that can help to move past fear and access the best version of ourselves, the more you repeat these processes the healthier your thoughts patterns will become. These are things you can start with by yourself and also explore with a therapist.
Identify Your Thoughts
Our thoughts are linked with how we feel and how we behave, one of the beginning stages of CBT is simply identifying these thoughts. What are your beliefs about yourself, how do you talk about yourself, what conclusions do you draw from your interactions with others and how do you interpret your experiences?
Below are some common negative thought patterns that you may identify with
- Always assuming the worst case scenario
- Taking things personally, that other people's behaviour are as a result of you
- Constantly focusing on the negatives
- Assuming future events and interactions will be negative
- Seeing things as either positive or negative with no room in between
Reflect On Your Thoughts
Once we identify our thoughts patterns we can then challenge them, and begin replacing them with more constructive, realistic and positive thoughts. Some great guiding questions to reframe your thoughts are:
- Is this thought or reaction based on fact or emotion?
- Do I have evidence that this thought is accurate?
- What other ways can I look at this?
- In a week, or month, or year will this matter or is it a reaction?
- What’s my intended outcome from this behaviour or thought?
Grab a notebook or journal and make note of your thoughts, responses and behaviours as they happen. This is a great personal place to safely explore your thought patterns to better understand how your mind works. You can also use it as a personal insight tool to reference if you choose to explore CBT further with a therapist.
Relaxation and stress reduction techniques give our mind space to think more logically and rationally, these are things you should incorporate into your routine to see the most benefit rather than doing just once.
- Meditation: Meditation is a practise that allows you to observe your thoughts and allow them to pass without interpretation or holding on to them as reality. It’s a great tool to clear and calm the mind and body.
- Muscle Relaxation: Stress and anxiety doesn’t just impact the mind, it can cause tension in our body as a protective response. Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing then relaxing the muscles as you work your way down your body.
- Breath work: Most of the time our breath is involuntary, when we use it as a voluntary action it can have incredible benefits to our nervous system. Controlled slow deep breaths signals to our body to calm down.
- Positive Talk: Practising positive self talk and showing compassion to others will reframe your thought process. This could simply be through a daily affirmation, gratitude journaling or daily kindness to others.
Learning about CBT is a great tool to empower yourself to help manage negative thoughts and behaviours. By actively taking time to understand yourself eventually your negative patterns will become conscious to you and your shift to thinking positive will become automatic. CBT can result in a long-term shift of the mindset, and can be greater utilised through seeing a therapist or professional to go more in depth.