Stop Negative Thinking with CBT

What is Negative Thinking?

Negative thinking is a habit many of us have.  It is easy to assume something will turn out badly.  You find you are stuck in traffic and right away start picturing how the rest of your day will be awful.  Or, you get a lousy night’s sleep and right away know that your presentation at work will bomb.  Maybe you are looking forward to that date tonight with that new person in your life but you just “know” that you’ll mess it up and the person won’t want to see you again.  We all experience this!  But for some of us, it has become a habit of assuming things just won’t go well.

Not only does this rob us of the routine enjoyment of our day, but the negative thoughts easily spiral out of control and negatively affect our mood leading to stress, anxiety, worrying and depression.  But it doesn’t have to be this way!  This article will introduce the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (also known as CBT) and how it can turn these negative thoughts around and change your life!  The details of how to use CBT are beyond the scope of this quick read but hopefully it will tweak your interest to learn more and reach out to get the help you need to break this cycle.

Does Cognitive Behavioural Therapy help stop Negative Thinking?

How do you stop the run away train of negative thinking patterns? Well, it is doable and needs some practice but it is worth the effort. It takes a number of small, deliberate efforts that are easy to learn but need to be practiced deliberately. Most people have already tried to simply ignore the negative thinking – but have found that strategy doesn’t work. In fact, this ‘ignore it’ strategy might even makes those negative thoughts worse!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a well researched approach that works.  Ask any doctor or mental health professional and many of them have heard of this effective method that can really change the course of our negative thinking.  CBT uses a ‘dysfunctional thought record’ tool to begin recording thoughts, feeling and behaviours. This tool can help you better look at thoughts in an objective way to better challenge if they are real or instead feeding off of negatively.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy also involves purposefully using more positive responses to the negative thoughts you have. It will at first seem strange to do this and a bit artificial but over time, it pays off. The alternative and more balanced thoughts will begin to become more automatic and will change your everyday experiences. One thought at a time!

An Example of using CBT

Here’s a example using “Sally”. Sally wants to change her negative thinking related to her school performance. She knows that her inside voice often says “I always do lousy in school. I’m no good at it”. In using CBT, Sally makes a conscious effort to notice this negative thought and follow it with something like “Hey, that is not true! There are many courses I enjoy and do well in. I am NOT lousy at school”. This is the inner dialogue that Sally uses to break the cycle of her negative thinking. It takes time, it takes practice, and it might feel weird at first but research shows that CBT works to stop negative thinking.

Lastly, research also shows that this approach works particularly well using simple body exercises. No, we aren’t talking about having to go to the gym!  It can be as simple as making yourself smile, even when you don’t feel like it!  It actually improves your own mood, lowers your anxiety, cheers you up, and relaxes the physical body to slow down one’s negative thoughts.

There are many tools as part of CBT that can make a difference and this article is only meant to introduce this approach.  While there are many books, apps and podcasts out there on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, often good intentions just don’t kick off the change that is needed. You might want to really get started by meeting with a skilled clinician who can give you concrete tools and strategies to try and then check in from time to time to see how it is going.

Waypoint Counsellors can Coach you in using CBT

Many people find that finding a good counsellor trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help them get on the right track to stop negative thinking. At Waypoint, we have a team of Registered Clinical Counsellors and can match you to the most appropriate therapist for your needs and your personal style. We have counsellors in Kelowna, the Okanagan, the Greater Victoria, Vancouver, and the Lower Mainland. You can check out our team and select a counsellor OR you can contact us and we will personally match you to the counsellor that is the best fit. Either way, you then book a meeting with the counsellor in person or over the phone for 30 minutes to see if the “fit” feels right. At Waypoint, we know that that the right “fit” can lead to better and faster results. So, turn negative thinking on its head – and start to improve your mood, reach your goals, and enhance your relationships with others.