Not everyone suffers from anxiety and/or depression, but what every person does have on this earth is a stream of automatic thoughts that are continuously running through their minds. These thoughts can oftentimes be undetectable, but they are still powerful nonetheless. In an essence, it is like having background music playing while you are at work. However, going off of this example, how many times has the music playing that you are not even paying attention to alters your overall mood and energy levels? In addition, maybe it is hindering your ability to concentrate. This is what automatic self-talk does in your mind, and it can affect your overall wellbeing, causing anxiety and depression.
Understanding Thoughts That Come from Anxiety And Depression
Working through your thoughts to become more adaptive and realistic is part of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). First, you need to know what those thoughts are, how they are affecting you, and how to combat them from resurfacing again by replacing them with healthier ones. In summary, there are many ways you can do this, but the prime one is what is called thought recording or thought diaries.
There is no easier and simpler way to recover from stress, anxiety, and depression than by writing what is going on in your head down on paper, and this is why thought recording is a key message of CBT. You are able to see from a different perspective what is going on in your head, and use what you write down to plan for a healthier way to cope, react, and change the negative thought process. After all, in order to recover, you need to change the way you think and act, and this allows you to do just that.
How to Record Thoughts
Not sure how to begin? If you head into CBT, you will be able to get custom support from your counsellor or psychologist on just what to do. But if you are trying this method on your own, here are some helpful tips to get you started.
- Pay close attention to your automatic thoughts and catch them when they arise. When you notice a change in how you are feeling, zoom in on your thoughts and immediately put them down on paper as they come. The fast you write it down, the less likely you will forget about it later on.
- Please understand that automatic thoughts can come in both verbal or visual form. Verbal thoughts could be things such as “I am a failure” or “I am a loser,” and visuals could be a mental image of you turning red in the face if you embarrass yourself. Both are automatic, harmful thoughts, and make sure to pay attention to both of them to document.
- Under each thought you catch, make sure to write down your emotions at that time as well. How were you feeling at that moment when that automatic thought popped up? What sensations did you experience? What situation were you in that sparked that thought to form?
- Details, details, details. Make sure you document the date, time, place, situation (as noted above), and any other relevant aspects that can help you analyze later either on your own or with a therapist. Summarize what was going on so you can look back at it later, nail down your triggers, see how accurate or not they are, and learn the right coping skills to change those thoughts into better ones for the future.
Examining Your Thought and Transforming It
Now, writing down your thoughts is the first critical step. But your work does not stop there; you have to take that information, evaluate it, understand it, and change it to help you with your anxiety and/or depression recovery. For some guidance, here is a step by step on exactly how to do that so you can make this effort a meaningful, revolutionising one.
- When going through your notebook, pick out a thought you wrote down and want to work on. In addition, make sure you only work on one thought at a time to obtain the best results.
- Rate your thought. How much do you believe it to be true? If you believe it 100%, write that down. If you have any doubts, then lower that percentage accordingly.
- Next, make a list of all the reasons why you think that thought could be, or is true. Don’t censor anything and be as open and honest with yourself as possible. Write them all down and do so without fear of judgement or resentment.
- Now, make a list of all the reasons why that thought might not be true at all. If you have a hard time with this one, use the following questions to help support your effort:
- If your friend thought this themselves, what would you say to them?
- Is there any hard evidence that this thought is true, or is it all speculation?
- Has this ever been true before? Were there other times in your life when it wasn’t?
- Once you finished both of your lists, go back to the original thought and read it again. Compare it to all the reasons why you think it is accurate and all the reasons why it might not be. You can certainly do this in your head, but reading it aloud will give you a better perspective of the entire process. What evidence is more promising? What list shows the most evidence?
- Lastly, write down a new, more helpful thought that contradicts the original one. Think of one that will help you in life, one that makes you feel positive, peaceful, and a good person. Then rate that one as well while re-rating your old one. What difference do you see?
As noted above, everyone has those automatic thoughts that just pop into your head during the day. They are often based on assumptions, have little facts to back them up, and can be entirely inaccurate. Now, if you leave those thoughts to fester in your mind, it can trigger anxiety and depressive episodes. This is why thought recording is so vital to CBT and your recovery. It might feel like a chore writing down what you are thinking, but remember the value in doing so. This allows you to identify triggers, problems in your thinking, and visually see your thoughts so you can make positive changes to them.
In the end, you are making your thoughts real and raw by writing them down, and if you want the best shot at controlling your mind and recovering from anxiety and/or depression, then get yourself a notebook and begin. Just a little effort on your part can mean the difference between feeling stuck in life or prospering. Choose prosperity.
You can find free templates for thought diaries here.
**It is important to understand that you will not have to write your thoughts down forever if you do not want to. Even just doing this for a week or two will help you incredibly in paving a better mindset and obtain useful information about what you think the way you do. You are more than welcome to continue doing this for as long as you wish, but for those who find this more of a challenge, you can still gain a tremendous amount of information about yourself in just a few days and can use it to your advantage in your recovery. Just be patient, trust the process, and begin systematically making changes in your life for the better.
Quest Psychology Services are specialists in providing therapy for Anxiety and Depression within Salford, Manchester. To discuss getting help for you or a loved one call us on 07932737335