“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” ~Albert Einstein
Hi my loves! I hope everyone is having a great week and enjoying getting into the holiday spirit. One of the main reasons why I wanted to start this blog is because of the incredible knowledge I learned in graduate school for Mental Health Counseling, and because how important these concepts are not only for clients, but for everyone.
One of these extremely important concepts is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. What the heck is that? It’s similar to what it sounds like. It focuses on the relationship between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Unhealthy and negative thoughts may lead to feeling blue, feeling upset, feeling not worthy, which may lead to maladaptive behaviors. This may sound incredibly jargony, so here is a chart explaining the cycle:
Let’s look at an example. Say you’re thinking, “I’m not going to get everything done on my to do list. I’m lazy and unmotivated, why would I be able to get all of this done?” You begin to feel that laziness and lack of motivation, which also leads to feelings of sadness, guilt, shame. The behavior that may follow is laying on the couch, putting your tasks off, snacking when not hungry. This reinforces to yourself that you are lazy and unmotivated. And the cycle repeats on and on. (Of course, sometimes laying on the couch and putting aside your to do list is an important thing to do — this is just one example of what may happen.)
One of my favorite exercises to do with clients, and also with myself, is to identity and rewrite these cognitive distortions, or inaccurate and exaggerated mental statements that reinforce negative moods and behaviors. How can we possibly do this, you may ask? Let’s think about the statement: I will not get the job I applied for.
Thinking about this statement will make me 1. overthink about the job interview and convince myself that their positive words weren’t real, make me question my career passions 2. feel unworthy, upset, and useless, 3. will lead me to mope around and watch useless television while feeling bad about myself. Not helpful, right? I do not know either way, and thinking in this negative way puts me in a bad mood and leads to a spiral of other negative thoughts. Our brains tend to quickly assume the worst, without allowing us time to rationally think about the assumptions we are making. These are called automatic negative thoughts. Like, when you miss the bus by half a minute and assume that the world is out to get you, or when you text a friend and don’t hear back for a few hours and assume the friendship ended. In these cases, what I like to do instead of wallowing in negativity and self-pity, is to “CBT myself.”
- I will ask myself what evidence I have that I did not get the job.
- Ask myself how I would respond to a friend in this situation, because we tend to be a lot more gentle and realistic with our friends than with ourselves.
- Ask if there is a way I can reframe my thought (there is a way — I did not hear back yet and thus do not know whether or not I got this job. For now, I will wait, continue to keep my options open and hope for the best.)
What is an automatic negative thought you tend to hold onto? How can you start to accept and change it?