How to Practice Cognitive Therapy Every Day: Changing the Way You Think and Feel

Dr. Donna L. Roberts

If you realized how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.
― Peace Pilgrim

Cognitive therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying and changing negative patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior. It is based on the idea that our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interconnected, and that by changing the way we think, we can change the way we feel and behave.

The formal process of cognitive therapy includes the following steps:

  1. Assessment: During the first few sessions, the therapist will assess the individual's symptoms, history, and current situation. They will gather information about the person's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and identify patterns that may be contributing to their distress.
  2. Identification of negative thoughts: Once the therapist has a better understanding of the individual's symptoms, they will work with the person to identify negative thoughts and patterns of thinking that are contributing to their distress. This may involve asking the person to keep a thought diary or to identify specific situations that trigger negative thoughts.
  3. Challenging negative thoughts: The next step is to challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that have been identified. The therapist will help the individual to question the validity of their thoughts and to consider alternative perspectives. This process can help to change the way the person thinks about a situation and reduce the impact of negative thoughts.
  4. Problem-solving: The therapist will then work with the individual to develop new, more positive and productive ways of thinking about a situation. This may involve exploring different coping strategies, setting realistic goals, and developing a plan for change.
  5. Implementation: Finally, the individual will implement the strategies and techniques they have learned during therapy into their daily life. This may involve practicing mindfulness, using positive self-talk, and engaging in physical activity to reduce stress and anxiety.
  6. Maintenance and Evaluation: After therapy is completed, the individual will continue to monitor their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and to use the tools and techniques learned in therapy to maintain their progress. They may also work with their therapist to evaluate their progress and make any necessary adjustments to their treatment plan.

The fundamental premise of this therapeutic process is based on the notion that by focusing on changing the way a person thinks, the process can help to improve their mental health and overall quality of life. This approach has proven effective in treating a variety of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). However, the basic principles can apply to less serious challenges of thought and mood that we encounter in everyday life.

The following suggestions will help you apply the basics of cognitive therapy to your own life circumstances:

  1. Identify Negative Thoughts: The first step in cognitive therapy is to identify negative thoughts and patterns of thinking that are causing distress. Keep a journal of your thoughts and try to notice when you're having negative thoughts.
  2. Challenge Negative Thoughts: Once you've identified a negative thought, challenge it. Ask yourself if the thought is based on facts or assumptions, and if there's evidence to support the thought. Try to reframe the thought in a more positive light.
  3. Practice Mindfulness: Mindfulness is the practice of being present in the moment, without judgment. This can help you to become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and to see things from a different perspective.
  4. Use Positive Self-Talk: Encourage yourself with positive self-talk. This can help to boost your confidence and reduce negative thoughts. Try to focus on your strengths and positive qualities.
  5. Focus on the Present Moment: Try not to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Instead, focus on the present moment and what you can do to improve your situation.
  6. Practice Relaxation Techniques: Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help to reduce stress and improve your overall well-being.
  7. Engage in Physical Activity: Physical activity can help to improve your mood and reduce negative thoughts. Try to engage in regular exercise, such as going for a walk or participating in a sport.
  8. Seek Professional Help: If you're struggling with negative thoughts and feelings, it's important to seek professional help. A therapist can help you to identify and challenge negative thoughts, and provide you with tools to manage your symptoms.

Cognitive therapy is a powerful tool for improving mental health and well-being. By focusing on changing negative thoughts and patterns of thinking, you can develop a more positive outlook and improve your overall quality of life.

Please note that the information contained in this article is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or a full course of treatment. If you are experiencing mental health issues, it is important to seek the help of a qualified healthcare professional. The tips and techniques outlined in this article may not be suitable for everyone, and individual results may vary. The information contained in this article should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice.

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Writer and university professor researching media psych, generational studies, addiction psychology, human and animal rights, and the intersection of art and psychology.

Canandaigua, NY

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