Using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to switch your thinking

When you talk to yourself, you create a direct and profound impact on how you feel and how you behave. When your self-talk is filled with doubt, criticism and negative predictions of the future, you’ll struggle to reach your goals and aspirations. However, by training your brain to think differently you’ll be able to remove any pessimistic thinking and switch your negative inner monologue to focus on the positive.

Training your brain to think differently literally changes your brain. That’s why so many therapists utilise Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) techniques to help people develop long-lasting change in their lives.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

We’re not mental health experts, but we do simply understand that the use of CBT is a very well-studied and a reliable mental health treatment. Many therapists who employ this method help people change the unhelpful thinking and behaviour patterns that are keeping them stuck. And CBT is no quick, feel-good treatment that temporarily masks underlying issues – it creates measurable physical changes in the brain and modifies our brains circuitry involved in regulating negative thoughts and emotions.

So what types of CBT skills do therapists teach? Here are three ways to train your brain to think differently:

1. Reframe

We’ve all done it and we’ll all probably continue to do it. Thinking things like “This won’t work,” or “I’m so stupid, I just ruined everything” isn’t helpful. These types of negative predictions can turn into self-fulfilling prophecies and overly exaggerated negative thoughts will prevent us from taking positive action.

The good news is that you can actually reply to these negative thoughts and remove them completely by using CBT and replace them with more realistic positive statements and thinking. 

Here are some simple examples of how to replace the negatives with positives, done through reply thinking;

  • “I’m never going to get a new job” = “If I keep working hard to look for jobs, I’ll increase my chances of success”
  • “This is going to be a disaster” = “There’s a chance this may not work, but there’s also a chance it will”

With a more balanced (and realistic) statement your brain will see the positives and will eventually replace the negative. No, it’s not simple. Yes, it takes time and practice. But it does work well for many people.

As creative people, we’re typically wired to swing one way or the other (negative/positive), and not just small amounts, we do it in extremes! Over our lifetime we have formed habits that are incredibly difficult to shake off or even just tweak a little. CBT through a therapist, or via a guided course, can help us focus, rethink and change our pessimistic ways of thinking.

2. Prove yourself wrong

Your brain lies to you sometimes. So when it tells you that you can’t possibly get a promotion, or that you’ll never be able to lose 10 pounds, look at it as a challenge.

Force yourself to take one more step after you think you’re too exhausted to keep going. Or challenge yourself to keep applying for promotions despite your brain’s insistence you won’t land that dream job. Each time you successfully prove your negative predictions wrong, you’ll train your brain to see yourself in a different light. Over time, your brain will start to view your limitations, as well as your capabilities, more accurately.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

3. What’s your mantra?

Take stock of your negative thought patterns. Do you call yourself names, or talk yourself out of doing things where you might fail?

Identify these patterns, then develop a personal mantra you can use to talk back to the negative messages. Repeating things like “Make it happen” or “Do your best” tunes out the negativity and, over time, you’ll grow to believe those statements more than the unhealthy things you’ve been telling yourself.

4. Build your brain

Like any new skill, training your brain to think differently takes time. But the more you practice thinking realistically, the more mental muscle you’ll build. In addition, your brain could undergo physical changes that will permanently help you think differently.

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