How was last week? I do hope you started recognizing some thought patterns in yourself and in others that fitted into the list of the Faulty Thinking Patterns.
Please continue familiarizing yourself with the Faulty Thinking Patterns. If you think it sounds like too much hard work to to analyse your own thoughts in every situation, I AGREE!! So I only examine those thoughts that give me a negative reaction. After all those are the ones we want to change.
This is what I do
I take note of those situations when I feel like someone’s thumped me on the chest or punched me in the stomach. I never let these emotions go unchecked. Ask yourself
- ‘what am I thinking?’ ‘what does the situation mean to me that gives me such a bad reaction?’ Do some detective work!
Be comforted that faulty thinking patterns aren’t only limited to depression and anxiety. Show the list to any of your ‘non-depressed’ friends and they’ll recognize themselves in the list as well. You’re definitely not alone!
|NB: It’s not what happens to you that affects your mood. It’s the thoughts that get triggered by an event that affects your mood.|
Sad thoughts create a sad mood, happy thoughts create a happy mood. It’s never the other way round. So logically, if you want to change your mood, you need to change your thoughts. The difficulty is that these thoughts have often been pushed into the unconscious, out of our awareness.
|Remember when you learnt to drive a car, you had to think of every move? After a while it became automatic. However if you moved to a country where they drive on the other side of the road, you’d have to become aware of every move you made again, if you wanted to survive. We need to become aware of what is going on under the surface that makes us react the way we do. If we learn to change our thoughts we can get rid of some of that negative self-talk. For this we’ll need to learn how to analyse our moods.|
Please print out the Mood Analysis – 5 Steps to Changing your Mood. It does need to be printed out as we’ll use it as a constant reference. You can see how the process works from the example I’ve used there.
When you have an emotional reactions which feels as if someone has punched you in the stomach, sit up and take note. Use this as a cue for some self-examination and stop your mood spiraling down into depression! You need to write these steps down, detective work in the head just doesn’t work as well.
Step 1. Event. Describe the upsetting event.
Step 2. Emotions. Describe your emotions. How did the event make you feel (sad, anxious, angry, guilty, lonely hopeless, frustrated etc)
Step 3. Automatic Thought. What was the automatic thought that came into your head. Be honest because although some of these thoughts might sound silly, it’s okay, they’re automatic and out of your control.
Step 4. Faulty Thinking Pattern. Look at the list of Faulty Thinking Patterns that you printed out last week and see where your automatic thought fits. There is no right or wrong answer as there are times when the thought could fit into more than one category.
Step 5. Replacement Thought. Write down a substitute thought, a thought that is more realistic. You must believe this new thought to be true as that is the only way you’ll get a sense of peace. Actually I use a sense of peace as a guide to whether my new thought is based in the truth, based in reality.
I have to emphasize that this method is NOT a case of positive thinking, but a method of realistic thinking! Positive thinking can be just as out of touch with reality as negative thinking! For example to say that ‘things are going to get better tomorrow’ is a statement that is not based in reality. It might be positive, but truthfully you have no idea whether tomorrow is going to be better or not, do you? This type of statement falls into the category of “Jumping to conclusions”, number 6 of the Faulty Thinking Patterns. It’s predicting the future which is impossible to do.
Step 6. How do you feel now? Write down how you’re feeling once you’ve replaced your thought.
- In your notebook, when you try to analyse some of your own examples it will be easier to use columns as I have used on the Mood Analysis Form as a guide. You will see that the guide is filled in with an example of mine. This is just to show you how the form works.
- You can analyse your mood once a day, by looking back at what happened to you during the day. When I’m upset I prefer to go through this process straight away, sort out my thoughts before I react to the situation.
- Don’t let any upsetting event escape your ‘detective work’! Work through the steps, from 1 to 5 and record all the steps in your notebook. I really cannot overemphasize the importance of writing down this process. With practice you will be able to run through the process very quickly in your head whenever you feel upset, before you react. Until then, you really do need to write it down.
DURING THE WEEK TRY TO DO THE FOLLOWING:
- Work on the steps of analyzing your thoughts according to the Mood Analysis Formula as well as with the list of Faulty Thinking Patterns.
- Have a look at my article on Cognitive Therapy which deals with the Psychological Aspects of Depression and the role of emotions in depression.