Your mind is an incredible thing. Every moment of your life is processed and analyzed almost instantaneously so you can react accordingly. Your brain is so reactive and sensitive to stimuli that the way you frame stressors and respond to issues can positively or negatively affect your well-being in incredible ways. Essentially, the way you react to your daily life can be either good or bad for your mental health.
If your thoughts lead to anxiety or depression or you suffer from conditions like PTSD, disordered eating, OCD, or borderline personality disorder, using a technique called Cognitive behavioral therapy may be the way to break from your negative thought patterns and forge ahead.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a psychosocial intervention technique used for improving mental health. It’s the most widely used evidence-based practice due to its ease of implication and general effectiveness. Guided by empirical research, CBT focuses on developing personal coping strategies that aim to change detrimental patterns in beliefs, behaviors, and emotions. It was originally designed to treat depression and is now used to help individuals with various other mental health conditions.
The primary distinguishing factor of CBT over other approaches to psychotherapy is that it is more problem focused and action oriented. CBT actively works to combat an individual’s negative thoughts, feelings, and actions to help them achieve a stronger sense of self-worth and confidence. The beauty of CBT is that it looks at a person as a whole being and not just as a condition that needs to be fixed. It helps identify maladaptive thinking and changes it to help modify behaviors in ways that will positively influence all parts of a person’s life.
How it works:
When using the CBT technique, a therapist will first identify critical behaviors in a patient and then determine the frequency and intensity of these reactions to obtain a baseline. Once behaviors are determined, the positive ones are fostered to increase their rate, and the negative ones are discouraged to lessen or eliminate them. These behaviors are molded through various therapies including positive behaviors distraction, motivation, self-talk, and positive reframing.
Try it now: Change your mindset.
Some aspects of CBT can be done on your own as a way to help positively affect your mindset. By simply talking negative thoughts and turning them into positive statements, you can help alleviate stress and change your outlook for the better.
Instead of complaining about rush hour traffic, say “I’m grateful for being able to wake up each morning and be gainfully employed.”
Or, instead of stressing over a mess that your kids made, reframe it in a positive light: “I have healthy, happy kids that are capable of playing.”
Making small changes to your thoughts will help you to react better to difficult situations and find the value in every day.
However, despite your mind’s inherent power, it doesn’t change over night. It needs to be exercised just like a muscle in order to get stronger. The best outcomes from CBT take time and dedication. After all, you’re retraining your brain to work through negative stimulus more healthily. That’s hard work and when it comes to CBT, slow and steady wins the race.
Dr. Takos is a Newport Beach Psychologist specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults suffering from depression, anxiety, and trauma-and stressor-related disorders.