5 CBT tools to help change your thinking
Often people chose CBT to change their thinking – So how does this work?
CBT is different to other therapies, in that the therapist is a lot more active in sessions; collaboration between the client and therapist to make sense of experiences and work towards solutions is a key component.
Initially, an understanding of your current thought patterns is explored and how this affects your feelings and what you do. Mapping this out in therapy can be enlightening in itself, as often we are so used to being in our own minds that to just begin to speak about our difficulties provides us with the opportunities to make new links and explorations. We begin to move from being stuck with a difficulty to getting curious and this is an important ingredient in the recipe for change.
From this new perspective you can then begin to explore if it’s a helpful pattern to be in or not and as your therapist it is my job to help you explore other options or possibilities.
5 CBT tools for changing mind tools
- Our minds are all too quick to see the negative, we all work on better safe than sorry so we have to teach ourselves to pay more attention to other more balanced thoughts, this takes practice. The first step is to become more aware of your thoughts and the emotional impact of them. Maybe keep a journal or make a note on your mobile phone or tablet. The easiest way to beginning to notice the thoughts that are causing us problems is to become more aware of changes in our emotions. So next time you suddenly feel anxious or sad ask yourself what were you just thinking and these are often the thoughts you need to work on.
- How is your thinking impacting your emotional world? Our thoughts have a big role in how we feel emotionally; when we begin to test out other ways of thinking this can allow you to switch to an emotional state that is more comfortable. When we are more comfortable emotionally we are clearer in our minds. So ask yourself what emotion would be most useful to feel in this situation then work backwards to how would you need to think to achieve those thoughts.
- there is a CBT saying called ‘Take the thought to court‘ – were you write it down and explore both sides. What’s the evidence for and against what you are thinking,, is there a more balanced perspective that may be more useful? Writing things down often provides us with some useful distance from difficult thoughts and allows us to be a more objective. If you feel stuck in a situation writing it down can provide a way forward.
- It’s very rare that we find ourselves in situations that are completely new to us, notice your thoughts and how you feel then think back over your life, when have you had similar thoughts or feelings? What was helpful in that situation, what would you tell yourself if you could go back to that memory of you, what would you need to hear, can the wisdom you gained from the previous experience be applied now?
- I often hear people say that how they treat their family and friends is often different to themselves. What would your life be if you related to yourself, as you would do to someone you cared about? Bring to mind someone you care about, how would you want them to think about a certain situation and think about why this would be helpful, what would it give them? Can you then take some of your own advise?
My last tip would be that if we are too emotionally charged in any way for example, too angry or sad, these emotions are going to distort and organise you mind and thoughts in a certain way, so often what’s most helpful is to settle down the emotion, take some breathing space, go for a walk, notice what’s going well, give it 24 hours and then come back to it. Practice some mindfulness to slow you down.