Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a well-respected and effective type of therapy that works to connect your thought patterns with your behaviors. The techniques employed in this approach can be practiced by you without the guidance of a therapist and perhaps they will help with the behavior you are trying to modify.
CBT can help with a number of everyday problems, such as coping with stress or anxiety over certain issues. It can also help with mild depression and anxiety, OCD, and other problems or difficulties.
We all know that negative thoughts can lead to negative feelings. However, if you reframe/re-program your thoughts in a positive way, it can lead to consistent positive feelings/actions. You can’t do much about the actual fact of a situation, but you do have control over your attitude about that situation.
Here is the general approach of CBT:
identify specific problems that often recur
become aware of unproductive thought patterns and their impact on you
identify negative thinking and reshape to positive thinking
learn new behaviors and then put them into practice
Here is an example:
Amy over-generalizes and assumes the worst will happen. This affects her ability to approach new situations and ends up causing her to miss out on meeting new friends and going to new places.
She becomes mindfully aware of these situations and begins to learn how to reframe those overwhelming thoughts so they are more positive and she can be more productive.
Amy thinks, “I can’t go to the Association meeting because nobody will talk with me and I won’t be asked to help with any of their projects. I’m a loser.” Amy reframes it and thinks, “I will go to that meeting for 30 minutes and introduce myself to one person. I can take baby steps and I will do great.”
Another effective technique is to write your thoughts and feelings in a dedicated Journal. You can list negative thoughts and what caused them as well as positive thoughts and how that made you feel. Doing this on a regular basis will hopefully allow you to see improvement in your thought-behavior patterns. Some people pair this type of writing with Calendar Scheduling, where they put into their calendar specific activities that they anticipate they will want to avoid. Doing this act of scheduling is already a step forward and alleviates the question of “should I go” because it is already planned. Actually going to that scheduled activity will reinforce the good decision. Adding a “Gratitude” page in your Journal – when you acknowledge the things you are thankful for - helps bring the good things to the surface and quell the negative things. This trains your brain to think positive thoughts.
Some people incorporate meditation into a daily practice, usually first thing in the morning, while practicing deep/relaxed breathing. A nice addition is having some lavender or peppermint essential oil to smell. You can also practice progressive muscle relaxation, which some people do regularly to help them fall asleep. All of these things lead to reducing stress and increasing one’s sense of control.
Other examples of techniques are as follows. Like the ones listed above, these can be used in daily life:
1. Functional Analysis
When using this technique, it is helpful to have a sheet of paper with three boxes labeled (from left to right): Antecedents, Behavior, and Consequences.
Write under the “Behavior” section behaviors that you want to study and analyze.
“Antecedents” are the factors that led to the particular behavior (directly or indirectly).
Under “Consequences,” list what happened (positive or negative) as a result of that particular behavior.
Hopefully you will see which behaviors are helpful towards reaching your goals and which ones are not.
Tyler pulls out a sheet of paper and creates 3 sections as follows:
On the back of that paper, Tyler creates 3 sections as follows:
2. Fact Checking Thoughts
This technique helps you recognize thoughts that may not be true. We are all told that thoughts are not facts. Writing down these thoughts can help us see – in black and white – that even a strong emotion is not a “fact” but a thought/feeling.
You can create a worksheet with a list of statements and then write beside the statement whether it is a “thought” or a “fact.”
I am unlovable.
I did not get accepted into Phi Beta Kappa.
I cannot make any friends.
I volunteered at the Food Bank and three people thanked me for doing it.
You will realize which ones are the correct answers for their respective statement (opinion, fact, opinion, fact.) Even though we have thoughts fraught with emotion, they are not necessarily true. Differentiating among them will help you have more positive opinions about yourself.
3. Scheduling Pleasant Activities
Scheduling happy activities in the future helps all of us have something to look forward to. This is important for battling feelings of loneliness and/or depression. For instance, you write down one fun activity for Monday, Wednesday and Friday; it can be as simple as starting a new series on Netflix or calling your best friend to have a video chat. Having these positive, feel-good activities on the horizon help us through dry spells and sometimes turn into recurring events that we particularly love.
You may have heard the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is, “One bite at a time.” This is a very helpful thing to keep in mind when you are faced with something that is (fact or opinion) a monumental task. Taking things slowly and allowing ourselves to be comfortable with change can make the difference between actually becoming more confident and positive or staying stuck in a repeating set of behaviors.
As you will find with these Cognitive Behavioral Technique practices, the more you bring out positive thoughts to counteract the negative ones, the stronger the association will be and the more predominantly positive you will become.
As an Ombuds, I am happy to help you get started utilizing CBT in your life. I can also do role playing with you in order to practice communicating with someone with whom you have had conflict in the past. Doing this gives you a sense of the types of words to use and tone you want to convey and allows you to become comfortable using assertive language and improve your confidence. Feel free to contact me anytime and we can set up a time to chat. It is confidential, neutral, impartial and informal.
Helpful website: https://positivepsychology.com/cbt-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-techniques-worksheets/