Spring has sprung!
Just as Mother Nature ditches the dreary dormant season of winter, CBT can shift your mindset from doom to bloom.
Think of it as a spring cleaning for your brain. So, grab the mental Swiffer and dust out the cobwebs. Spray the virtual Windex to clear the fog. It’s time to blossom.
It’s easy to fall into the habit of negative thinking.
The shorter, darker, colder days of winter have a real effect on mood and energy. Over time, it can affect your attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and behaviors.
You might begin to automatically assume worst case scenario’s. That fearful belief provokes an anxious feeling that further validates the fear that something will go wrong. It’s a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. It’s partially rooted in past experience, brain chemistry, and an innate biology that’s part of the survival instinct.
It’s not however, always accurate. In fact, very few things are “always” or “never” anything. That’s why it’s important to check your thoughts, challenge them, and consider other possible outcomes for any situation.
Here are five CBT strategies you can use everyday to begin thinking more accurately and improve your mood as a result.
Soften Your Self Talk: If your thoughts affect your feelings, then the vocabulary you use can affect your experiences. If you decide something is “awful” or “disastrous” it can create intense feelings such as rage, or helplessness. If however, you pause and evaluate the situation, you may decide it is “unfortunate” or “unfavorable” which will create much more manageable feelings like concern, or disappointment.
Question Your Assumptions: Notice your default mode. What do you automatically assume when considering the potential outcome of a situation? Is it skewed to the negative? rate the probability of that outcome on a scale of 1 – 100. Consider the facts of the situation and all the evidence you have to support the idea. Is there a 50% chance it will happen, an 80% chance, or is it really more like 10%?
Accept the Worst Case Scenario as Only ONE Possibility: Let’s face it, it is a possibility. But that’s all it is. It’s not a guarantee. There are many possible outcomes for any situation. Challenge yourself to be creative, think outside your usual way, and develop a few alternative possibilities. Consider neutral or positive possible outcomes. The idea is to break the habit of assuming the worst will happen and improve your outlook on life.
Hit the Pause Button: By taking a few seconds before responding to situations, you are interrupting your automatic reactions and allowing a new thought process and behavior to emerge. Evaluate your goals and the possible consequences of your options. In the end, it produces a much kinder and more manageable outcome. As Deepak Chopra said, “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”
Examine the Evidence: When you catch an automatic negative thought, challenge it. What evidence exists to support the thought? What evidence exists against it? Can you revise the thought based on this information so that it’s more accurate? Notice how your emotional response changes. Then, your behavioral options broaden. This is CBT. You’ve just created space between impulse and action.
You are not your thoughts.
You HAVE thoughts AND can change them. You can interrupt the self reinforcing cycle of negative and catastrophic thinking. Stop the spiral. When you do, you will open up new ways of relating to the challenges in life.