If you’re familiar with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, you know that the thoughts you have affect your moods: If you walk into a room thinking, “Everyone is looking at the ketchup stain on my shirt,” you’re probably not going to feel very good when you enter that room. It’s going to affect the way you feel, and the way you act. If you act self-conscious, people probably aren’t going to respond very well to you, and their responses will just continue to fuel your negative thoughts.
So why not develop a better cycle?
If, on the other hand, you walk into a room thinking something like, “There’s a tiny stain on my shirt, but no one is going to care because we have more important things to talk about,” you’re going to feel and act like the type of person everyone else wants to be around–and the type of person you want to be. You’re going to have a much different experience, just by changing that one little thought!
How do you start recognizing and working on your own thought patterns? The answer is simple enough: Keep a Daily Thought Record. Your thought record will help you observe patterns in the way you think, so you can learn to adapt those patterns and gradually change your whole outlook. Even though that might sound like a tall order, it actually does work.
Here’s how you can make your own Daily Thought Record:
In a notebook, make three columns: One where you can write down your “Automatic Thoughts”–those thoughts that just come naturally to your mind, without you consciously even thinking about them (It will take some practice to start recognizing those thoughts, but it gets easier!).
In the second column, label the thought that you are having: For example, “Catastrophizing” or “Filtering.” (See the posts in the “Automatic Thoughts” category to learn how to label your thoughts)
Finally, in the third category, write down a more positive thought that can act as a counter to the negative Automatic Thought. Again, you’ll want to read the posts in the “Automatic Thoughts” category to help you understand common negative thought patterns and how to effectively replace them.
Keep the notebook with you, and make a conscious effort to start recognizing and writing down each of the negative Automatic Thoughts you have on a daily basis. Defeat those negative thoughts with real, positive counters, even if you don’t quite believe them right away. Have a friend, family member, or your therapist help you come up with some counter-thoughts if you’re having a little trouble.
Give it some time, and some real effort, and I promise that you will start to think and feel in an entirely new (better) way!