Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy used to treat depression, anxiety disorders and other problems such as anger, fears, procrastination as well as improve confidence and relationships. It involves recognizing distorted or negative thinking and learning to replace it with more realistic, positive thoughts or beliefs.
Using cognitive behavioral therapy helps treat the day-to-day symptoms of depression and anxiety by replacing your inner voice's false messages of hopelessness or fear with more accurate ones, and more specifically, ones that are more helpful and encouraging that will lead you to feeling better.
It's Time to Tune-in . . . then Change the Channel
It all starts with a look at how you talk to yourself. You know, what your inner voice says to you each and every day.
Think of your inner voice as a radio station that you can tune to any station you want. To get an idea of what "channel" you are on, gauge yourself throughout the day by asking "What am I saying to myself right now?" Write these thoughts down along with notes about how these thoughts or this particular "channel" makes you feel.
Next, examine situations that you feel may be challenging or difficult for you, such as an upcoming meeting with your boss. Write down a brief description of the situation or event.
Now, it's time to ask yourself about what your inner voice is telling you about the situation or event.
If your thoughts are negative, think how you can tap into your strengths to help you turn these negative thoughts into positive ones, freeing yourself up to make the event or situation a successful one.
In the case of an upcoming meeting with your boss, find positive thoughts about your work performance. Have you recently completed a project that you feel good about? Do you feel good about how you have recently worked on a team to accomplish shared goals? Are you well organized and have notes ready for the discussion with your boss?
Can you see how you must first unearth those negative thoughts, then work to replace them with more accurate thoughts and ideas?
It's just like changing the station on the radio.
Before You Hit the Dial, Know This
You may find it easier to change "stations," once you better understand the benefits of changing and just how not changing these channels adversely affects you and your life by contributing to your depression and anxiety symptoms.
To do this, you may want to write down answers to the following questions:
- What behavior has my flawed self-talk generated?
- How has my negative self-talk hinder me from getting what I want or keeping me from accomplishing my goals?
- How will changing these thoughts/beliefs improve my life?
- What new self-talk can better serve me?
- What actions are suggested by this new self-talk?
Positive Self-Talk: It's Powerful Stuff
Knowing the answers to the above questions will help you get more acquainted with your inner voice and understand how it can be used to alter your thoughts and subsequent actions.
This is key to changing your inner dialogue to better reflect reality and to include your strengths. Remember, as you are learning all of this about yourself, gauge your inner voice and write down your feelings as you work through situations and events.
This exercise may seem silly, but it will be very productive, with the ultimate outcome being one of changing your thoughts and ultimately your actions.
Yes, positive self-talk really can change your actions and even your outcomes.
To alter your course, simply follow the road that your more accurate, more positive self-talk leads you down. What actions do my more accurate, more positive self-talk prompt? It is here, on this road, where you will find the behavior that goes hand-in-hand with your new positive self-talk and catapults you further down the road - all the way to success.
Tips You Can Use to Know When It's Time to Smarten-up Your Self-Talk
By now, it's easy for you to see how negative self-talk does damage, while positive self-talk can make a big impact on how you feel about yourself, increase your motivation, and help you better deal with the situation at hand.
As you work to change your self-talk (and remove your self-doubt), you will want to keep a watchful eye on these situations that may serve as a catalyst for destructive self-talk. In doing this, you should pay close attention to how you talk to yourself (especially when you start to feel negative emotions):
- When you're experiencing stressful life events
- When your expectations don't correspond with what actually happens
- When you feel yourself stuck in negative emotional or behavioral patterns
And, Beware These Common Distorted Types of Thinking
Additionally, as you examine your self-talk and, more specifically, how and when you let it take hold of you, you will want to be aware of the common types of harmful thinking which can negatively shift your emotions:
- All-or-nothing thinking - You think in extremes or see things in black and white. There are no gray areas. If a situation is not completely perfect, you consider it a failure.
- Overgeneralization - You often use the words "always" and "never." When a negative situation happens once, you interpret it as continuous pattern of failing.
- Jumping to conclusions - You automatically assume something is negative with no evidence to support your conclusion. You may conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you or predict a negative outcome with no sound reasoning to support such ideas.
- Magnification - You exaggerate the negatives and minimize the positives of a situation or yourself. For example, you may put greater focus on your weaknesses and ignore your strengths.
If You Need Help
If you need additional support in using cognitive behavioral therapy to improve your life, you can see a therapist specializing in this type of treatment or try reading one of the many self-help books based on CBT. Here are few to get you started:
- Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by Dr. David D. Burns
- Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky
- The Feeling Good Handbook by Dr. David D. Burns
Behavior is the Bottom-line
Once you tap into your self-talk and learn to change the channel when it is negative and/or unrealistic, tuning in to a more positive, accurate dialogue with yourself, your behaviors will start to change and that is what will have the greatest impact in making changes in your life. That is what really matters most.
Braiker, Harriet B. "The Power of Self-Talk." Psychology Today (1989): 23-27.
About the Author
Kellie Fowler is an award-winning writer and has written for Associated Press, PR Newswire, Fortune 500 companies, newspapers, national business and healthcare magazines. She is a regular contributor to www.depression-help-resource.com, a website providing information about natural remedies for depression, treatment options and depression related articles and resources.
Reviewed by athealth on February 7, 2014.