How to apply Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in real life
Being happy and unstressed is not always something that comes naturally. Post-traumatic stress, or even just the constant pressure from our day-to-day lives, can be enough to fray our mental health. We start seeing the world through tainted glasses, reflecting negativity at every chance it gets. But we do see it. So it’s real, right? Well, yeah, it is real, but only to us. Luckily, there are techniques we can use to fix our crooked mindset and live more positively affirmed, and it’s rooted in behavioral therapy.
Rooted in science
CBT stands for “cognitive-behavioral therapy.” It’s rooted in science and aims to describe and fix phenomena that are likely rooted in our minds. This leads to unconscious beliefs, non-productive attitudes towards life, and many more issues that hinder us from being happy and achieving our goals. CBT is one of the most used tools in the psychologist’s arsenal. What scientists discovered is that the link between our thoughts and feelings is extremely strong. So by fixing the former, we can positively influence the latter. Luckily, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) doesn’t require a lot of money or long sessions on a couch.
We can exert self-control to a large extent, for example, using a technique called the 3Cs. It stands for Catch, Check, and Change. First, we need to hone in on the first recurring mental health distortion we want to fix. We recommend focusing on only one mental distortion at a time, especially in the beginning. You can use apps to discover these CBT distortions to look out for, or you can read up on them on the internet. Understanding the distortion first is very much needed for the next step.
That brings us to the catch phase. Write down whenever you spot a distortion in your own behavior. The best way to do this is by writing it down in an app or a piece of paper on the spot, but you can also reflect back on the day after the fact. Here are some common cognitive distortions you may experience:
- Blaming others, or only yourself
- Always expecting the worst
- Focusing only on the negative
- Assuming life is always unfair
- Making assumptions based on limited evidence
Now we are tackling the problem head-on. You have spotted the issue; now ask yourself:
- Is this thought true?
- Why do I feel this way?
- Is it a problem?
For example, negative self-talk can cause anxiety and is often not what others think of you. So the thought would be false. Perhaps you feel negative about yourself because you were bullied as a kid. As for the final question, yes, it is a problem because negative self-talk causes anxiety and hinders our happiness.
Because the mental distortion is possibly deeply rooted, you will find that the same behavior pops up regularly. Whenever the issue pops up now, remember your “check-in” and try to change the mood. For example, if you blame others, try to leave the blame out of it and start working towards a solution. CBT is all about being conscious of our behavior. When you do catch yourself talking negatively, try to reason with it. Remember that negative self-talkers are probably their own worst critic. CBT is only effective when a patient is able to spot the problem.
Weekly mental health check-in
We recommend focusing on one mental health distortion at a time. But feel free to start moving on once you feel you have a good handle on it. Just like our physical health, our mental health also requires maintenance and exercise. So check back often to see if you still have control over the old behavior. A good way to do this is by using a tracker on your phone.
Let’s become happy, improve our mood, and reduce anxiety together by using CBT techniques such as the 3Cs.