When I first learned about cognitive restructuring, a core component of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), it seemed like a lifeline. It’s all about identifying, challenging, and reframing negative thought patterns and beliefs. Here’s how I go about reframing my negative thoughts:
The first thing I had to do was recognize my negative thoughts. I started paying closer attention to my inner dialogue, especially during moments when I was overly critical or pessimistic.
Write It Down:
I found that jotting down these negative thoughts helped me see them more objectively, making them easier to challenge. However, this one doesn’t come naturally to me. It makes how I’m feeling feel more real in some way. However, it’s a skill I work on. Templates help me better than a mere journal.
Challenge the Thought: I’d ask myself
- Is this thought based on fact or just an assumption?
- Am I confusing a possibility with a certainty?
- Why am I trying to predict the future?
- Can I see this situation in a more positive light?
Consider the Evidence:
I’d then look at the facts both supporting and refuting my negative thought. If I thought, “I always mess up,” I’d recall instances when I succeeded and when I faltered.
If I caught myself imagining the worst-case scenario, I’d reflect:
- Is this truly likely?
- Even if it happened, could I handle it?
- What’s a more probable outcome?
Look for Alternative Explanations:
Rather than jumping to negative conclusions, I tried to think of other reasons behind events. Instead of believing, “My friend didn’t call because she’s upset with me,” I’d consider, “Perhaps she’s just swamped or forgot.”
Reframe the Thought:
After challenging my negative belief and looking at the evidence, I’d replace it with a more balanced thought. Instead of telling myself, “I’ll never succeed,” I’d think, “I can learn and grow from every experience.”
Shifting my thinking patterns wasn’t an overnight process. It took consistent effort and repetition.
Sometimes, talking about my thoughts with trusted friends or family gave me fresh perspectives.
Stay Patient and Compassionate with Myself:
I reminded myself often that everyone, including me, has irrational or negative thoughts from time to time. I need to remember that by reframing negative thought patterns, I can help to identify and decrease my daily stress. The goal wasn’t to be perfect but to develop a more balanced and constructive mindset.
With persistence, I noticed a shift in my automatic reactions to situations, leading to a more positive mental well-being.