Cultivate Happiness using CBT-The Attitude Adjustment

CBT and Happiness:

The last post gave a broad overview of the “Happiness-Formula”, remarking on what science tells us are the most important aspects of our lives. This is good to know, because if you do something about these areas, you will improve your mood and degree of satisfaction and happiness. This post will begin to introduce some of the basic Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) tools to start doing this.

An Attitude Adjustment is Required

This is an essential aspect to creating, developing and maintaining a degree to happiness. The basic perspective and framework of how you view and experience the world and your life, needs to shift, from focusing on the negative to focusing on the positive.

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Science clearly tells us that mood is based on what you ‘tune into’. For example, anxious and depressed people focus on uncertainty, the ‘what-ifs’, and possible negative outcomes. The science also shows that noting your small, positive everyday events that have positive qualities and characteristics significantly improves mood and happiness. Applying basic CBT tools, such as Thought-Stopping and Thought-Switching, to intentionally focus on the positive things, and then literally amplify them.

Amplifying the positive works because it imprints the experience, and so, directly influences mood.
Amplifying also slows down the entire process, which is a counter-balance to the ‘run-away’ type thinking that can happen, especially with anxious, worrying and negative thoughts.

CBT Technique: Thought Stopping and Thought Switching

When you are focusing on positive things and impressing them on your thoughts, it is common to ‘float and drift’ in your thinking, typically returning to the old, familiar patterns of negative thinking. The CBT technique of Thought Stopping is particularly useful in this event. Here, you literally throw up a “Stop Sign” for the old style of thinking, even saying out loud to yourself “stop thinking these thoughts, change them”. Try it, it works.

Also, try this Thought-Switching exercise. The essence is to re-focus. Based on the idea that there are good things happening all the time around you, a re-focusing has the effect of quieting down, and ‘tuning-out’ unwanted negative chatter. Try this thought-switching/re-focusing exercise. Ideally you will be outdoors, in a treed-area. Sit for a minute and listen for the birds. Really, I’m not kidding. You’ll likely begin to notice there are many present, with a lot of different tones and calls. If you listen with intention you can ‘tune-in and turn it up’. Soon, you will be surrounded by a cacophony of bird sounds and songs. This is an example of how ‘tuning into’ something specific can change your perspective, and mood.