CBT technique for unhelpful thoughts (animation)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that can help to improve your mental health. It aims to change negative thoughts and beliefs you may have, that can affect how you feel and behave.
Hundreds of automatic thoughts pop into our head every day. Sometimes these are negative and unhelpful. But thoughts are not facts, so it’s helpful to challenge our thinking. A ‘thought record’ is one CBT technique that can help you look at negative thoughts in a more balanced way.
This exercise works well if you have a notepad and pen to write down your answers.
Step 1. Think about the situation that’s upsetting you. What emotions and feelings do you have?
How intense are they? Rate the intensity from one to 10, with 10 being the most intense.
Step 2. What is the negative thought?
Try and be specific about the thoughts running through your mind and write them down. Perhaps something hasn’t gone as well as you’d have liked. Your thoughts start spiralling and you start to think that everything always goes wrong and maybe even that you’re a bad person.
Step 3. Now it’s time to put your thoughts on trial. Focus on the facts – is there any factual evidence that this thought is true?
Does everything always go wrong? Are you really a terrible person? Was what happened your responsibility entirely? Would you say the same things to someone you cared about who was in this situation?
Step 4. Now, what is the evidence that this thought is not true?
Can you think of a time when something you did went well? What about your friends and family and how much they care and value you? What are the good things in this situation?
Step 5. Weigh up the evidence. Is there an alternative thought? A more balanced and realistic way of looking at things?
Perhaps alternative thoughts could be: Things didn’t go as well as I’d liked, but that’s ok. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. I am a good, kind person. I am human and doing the best I can.
Step 6. Check back in with yourself. How do you feel now? Rate the intensity again from one to 10.
Remember, the way that you think about a situation affects how you feel. Try this exercise next time automatic negative thoughts start to affect you.
If you are worried about your mental health, please see your GP for help and support.