Today I would like to share with you, some tips and tools from a mindset technique called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or CBT for short.
CBT is about understanding your thinking and your thoughts and your subsequent behaviour that is associated with your thoughts.
We can look at our human nature and our outcomes in our life from the perspective of our cognitive functioning, what are we doing with our brain.
This is about thinking about how we are thinking. Easier said then done though.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is about noticing how we feel, noticing what type of thoughts preceded those feelings and how we behave as a result. Ultimately it is about identifying the validity or usefulness of certain thoughts. How do our thoughts effect our emotions, our actions and our limits and our relationships and very importantly, our health. It is possible to think ourself unwell and it is possible to think ourself well.
For example… “When I think a certain way, I feel horrible and I make less than good choices and as a result, then I feel a bit disempowered, I may ever lash out at others because somehow some of this is their fault”. It’s like… “I just can’t do some parts of life very well.”
This sense of noticing our thinking can be applied to the positive and the negative aspects of our life. Because we like to identify, what IS working well, what IS functioning well and we want to do MORE of that, right!
Often, when people are struggling with an area in their life, say in their relationship or their career or their finances or their health or they are trapped in an some kind of addiction say, like drinking or smoking or gambling or bad nutrition or any unhealthy practice, as a part of overcoming these issues, it is important to look for what is known as ‘the exceptions’. Meaning… when is it that you don’t partake in this unhelpful behaviour? When is this problem not in your life, when is it that you are able to not drink or not smoke or not fight or not eat poorly or not gamble etc. And really shine a light on where you ARE getting life right. What are those strengths that you manage to call on in the times where you do get it right. What is it in your thinking or in your environment, that means the problem or the habit or the negative behaviour is not happening? Looking for exceptions is important when we are working with cognitive behavioural techniques. We need to wake ourselves up and really become mindful and aware of how we are using our mind.
Heads up: owning the sense that what you’re feeling is because of someone else or something else in the outside world is know as Blaming. When things don’t go our way, there are many ways we can explain or assign responsibility for the outcome. One method of assigning responsibility is blaming others for what goes wrong. Sometimes we may blame others for making us feel or act a certain way, but this is a cognitive distortion because we are the only ones responsible for the way we feel or act.
Today I wanted to sharpen your awareness for how to identify ‘WHEN you are feeling bad”, WHEN do you reach for that addiction or WHEN do you decide to argue or WHEN do you find you get anxiety or depressed. WHEN do you self sabotage etc., and help you to work backwards from there to notice, what is it that lead you to that disfunctional or to that unhappy, unhelpful negatively vibrating place. Because ideally, when we can understand our triggers and our cycles and patterns and our propensity to have certain types of thoughts that don’t serve us… that don’t lead us to the life and outcomes we desire, we need to interrupt those patterns and cycles. Our brain is designed to find the easy road. It is a machine that looks for patterns and patterns become habits. Our brain is a habit machine. Not all of our habits are conscious and not all of our habits serve us.
Our cognitive mind is like training a puppy. We need to find our unhelpful cycle, interrupt and break the cycle and replace the cycle.
We more often than not, can’t change other people, we more often than not can’t change the world around us and we can’t rely on either of these things changing before we allow ourselves to have more capacity over our own emotional regulation and our own inner strength and inner peace. If things outside of our control have the control over our experiences and our inner strength and inner peace and our wellness and happiness, this is called ‘conditional love’ or ‘conditional happiness’ or ‘conditional joy’. You allow yourself to feel good or to love yourself, only under certain conditions. For example, your husband or child washes up after a meal or does something just how you want things done…. and thats when you allow yourself to feel good and let them feel your joy but its only after they behave a certain way that you allow yourself to feel ‘good’ and not really before. This is ‘conditional’ happiness. Your joy and happiness is conditional on circumstances outside of yourself.
So, how can you make ‘feeling good’, feeling how you ideally want to feel on a daily basis, a part of WHO you are, as a part of your natural character and how you show up daily in life? Despite things going on around you that are less then ideal. You do this by not making how you want to ideally feel, conditional on external things having to be a certain way before you allow yourself to feel good or to feel how you want to ideally feel in life.
By the way, how you ideally want to vibrate or feel in a general sense on a daily basis is what I call your BASE STATE.
You decided how you want to feel and how you want to vibrate on a daily basis. For me I choose, Joy, optimism, Inner Peace, contentment and Adventurous. I want to feel these things as my base state. Therefore when I find myself slipping away form sitting in this energy and feelings, I look at how I am thinking about things. How is that particular thought, shaping and impacting on my feelings and my bodies vibration? And very very importantly, what is a thought that I can reach for in this moment instead that and bring me closer to sitting back in my chosen base state of joy, optimism and inner peace? What is the meaning and the energetic/emotional weight I give certain thoughts about life circumstances that cause me to feel an absence of my joy or inner peace? Is this thought or this meaning I am making sabotaging my base state? How can I interrupt this unhelpful thought cycle.
As a mindset tool, I have learned the liberating skill of ‘letting go’ of making things matter. That is my negative cycle breaker. I find a way to shape most any situation into the shape of a thought that allows me to hold my joy and inner peace in place. It isn’t to say that there is no place for all of our emotions. Of course there is a time and a place for all of our emotions. I am trying to share the process of being very conscious and very mindful of thinking about our thinking. Observing our thinking as though we are the observer or our thoughts, curiously pondering how we think and if that thinking is going to deliver us to our ideal outcomes.
This is a very useful, real, effective technique used by counsellors and psychologists working with people who need to change their life, break out of cycles and transform their vulnerabilities. This is not a silver bullet and I will always say this, it is a technique, a tool, a very very powerful and very very effective one. It is one tool to have in your transformation kit so that you thrive in your life as opposed to being in survival mode. This tool becomes a daily practice.
Find your thought, trace back what triggered that thought, understand the trigger, have a contingency plan so you either don’t get triggered or so that you have a thought or an inner script or an affirmation ready to go in order to break the cycle… the cycle goes like this… trigger, thought, emotion, action, outcome.
A quick go to trigger breaker, is to have some really joyous memories or experiences that you can reflect on in order to help change up the chemical balance in your brain. After all we are all biochemical creatures and managing our triggers is managing the chemicals in our brain.
To share an example, you may find…. when I get home from work, the first thing I do is pour a glass of wine. Not so bad right. However the regularity of this cycle will create a pattern. The pattern often gets bigger. Because lets face it, life stresses can seem to get bigger. One glass often turns into 2 glasses and into a whole bottle. etc. I then feel sluggish through the day, I may even feel overweight, If Im honest I actually feel a bit bad about myself, it effects my self esteem, how I feel about myself in my business or at work and in my relationship.
In this example in order to interrupt your cycle, you would change your mind habits before you even get home, on the way home from work. Driving home and getting home is almost the trigger for thinking about the wine and then going straight to the wine. Change what you do when you get home. Put your bag somewhere different, go into a different room, eg, go to the bathroom and brush teeth… or if you really have to grab a beverage, replace it with a lemon water or something else…. so you break the physical cycle and you break the thought cycle…. You might do affirmations on your way home from work, and focus on something great you are working on like a hobby or focus on something you would like to do or achieve or create etc. Reach for the thoughts that bring you joy. Reach for the thoughts that help you feel optimistic or excited about something.
And even before all of this, you might change your thoughts as you do your grocery shopping. You might change the repertoire of things you let yourself think about and tell yourself something different when you pass the bottle shop. So, ultimately you don’t even purchase the wine. Not having the wine in the house is a way of setting yourself up for success, if reducing your drinking was a goal for you. If you become mindful of your thinking habits, and you start to take more conscious charge to shape and guide your thoughts differently… on your way home from work and at any time through the day, and before you go to sleep at night, you can change your routines to more satisfying, empowering, healthier, better vibrating, better serving ones.
So just to wrap up …
The thoughts leading up to your choices and actions are powerful and you totally have the capacity to change them. If you sat down with pen and paper and wrote out areas in your life that you feel might benefit from this CBT technique you can draw a circle and put some dots on the circle like a clock face and name the parts of the cycle that lead to the undesired outcome. Name the dots as each step in the cycle… For example, in the 12 o’clock position of the clock face you may write, “I stay up too late” and then I look at my phone while Im in bed and then I think about all the things that happened through the day, I relive some of the moments, I feel anxious about things,I take too long to fall asleep. I wake up sluggish. My first thought is, can I pull a sickie today, I think about how bad I feel and how I don’t want to go to work… I run late, I don’t eat a nutritional breakfast, I have a coffee though… I get home and I’m exhausted and I notice my husband hasn’t cleaned the sink, I get angry and yell at him and I go straight to the fridge for a wine to self sooth and this is pretty normal for me.
So, name each part of the cycle and notice where you can change the cycle… where can you exit the cycle so that it does not go all the way around the cycle, but rather it gets interrupted and replaced with different thoughts and actions that begin to change your life in a good way.
And on top of all of this, you need to have a good sense about your goals and who you want to be and what you want to achieve and you need to be really passionate and sure about this, because it is your big Y in life, your sense of being on purpose in this life, that fuels your will power and your propensity to change when change might otherwise be hard.
Align your hearts deepest will and with your minds most determined commitment.
And lastly, Choose thoughts that move you closer to your desired base state and that feel like positive vibrations in your body.
If you feel you need help getting on top of unhelpful mindset habits that may be reducing your joy or limiting your life, reach out to us here at Roslyn Loxton Coaching.