Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a solution-based form of therapy that differs form the traditional probing of childhood trauma to get the root of your issue. It is defined as positive psychology as the focus is on what you can do now rather than what has happened to your in the past.
CBT is founded on the principle that your thoughts, emotions and behaviours are all interconnected and by modifying one or more of those areas, you can affect positive change in the others. This is done by identifying negative thoughts and determining whether they offer an accurate picture of your reality or false beliefs that have become your reality.
For the best results, it is advisable to work with someone who can provide you an objective point of view i.e someone who guide you without their thoughts being influenced by the same emotions you feel. However, you can absolutely use many of the techniques used within CBT by yourself, as it’s a therapy that requires your participation outside of the therapy room.
Here are the five techniques that will allow you to start practicing CBT right now:
Every night before you go to bed, reply the events of the day and write down your thoughts and feelings around them. If you’re suffering from social anxiety for example, doing this on a consistent basis will allow you to see what limiting beliefs you’re holding onto that’s causing you to become anxious. Your reality is informed by how you perceive the world. So identifying what these are is the step in moving away from your old limiting beliefs.
Find Exceptions to those Beliefs
Lets say you’re someone who’s struggling to approach people and find it difficult to put yourself across when dealing with your colleagues at work and others in customer service roles. By this point, you should have identified your false beliefs around the issue. For example, people will think I’m stupid, they won’t take me seriously or they’ll ignore me. By remembering time when you approached someone with a positive outcome, you begin the process of changing your thought patterns.
Disarm the Negative Outcomes
Here, you continue to let go of the negative thought patterns you’ve built up for yourself. Since many of the hang-ups that contribute to social anxiety are rooted in errors of thinking or cognitive dissonance, you work through all the worst-case scenarios asking yourself would you still be ok if that outcome were to happen. The idea is create the trust within yourself that there is nothing that can happen which will have lasting damage on you.
Taking Action (Exposure Therapy)
All of the previous steps will be for nothing unless you put what you’ve learned into practise. The progress made using CBT is achieved by challenging yourself just at the edge of your comfort zone, and pushing your edge once you feel you’ve mastered the level your current level. So if you were struggle to approach people, you might set yourself the target of approaching one person each day you wouldn’t normally have an interaction with, and increasing this number over time.
When you know you’re going to face one of your trigger situations, setting yourself beforehand with some simple breathing exercises can have a dramatic effect on how you approach the encounter. If at work or public place, find a private area such as a restroom and give yourself 2-3 minutes to try and let go of all perception around the encounter. Close your eyes and focus only on your breath, pushing any negative thoughts you have to side. This is a classic mindfulness technique and is an effective tool in helping you create new positive behaviours.