By Amy Brightman, LCSW
With the New Year just beginning, many of us are thinking about change. Resolutions are made, memories are stored and reflection is inevitable. With change on our minds, it is a perfect time to wrap up this blog series with the third C of CBT: Change It.
Over the last couple of months, we have talked about how to catch thoughts and how to catch them. I encouraged readers to explore what their thought patterns are like and to generate alternative thoughts. Now it is time to change your thoughts. This is about actually substituting your original thought with a more realistic or helpful thought.
The holiday season and the new year always brings up a range of responses with clients. Some express a sense of hope and determination, yet others note disappointment and regret. Although these clients have had similar life experiences over the past year, such as losing a job or a relationship, I hear different reactions. As we know, emotional reactions are the result of our thoughts. For example, someone who lost their job may have a negative view about the New Year:
- Thought: “This has been a tough year. Another year done with not much to show for it.”
- Emotion: Disappointment, shame, sadness, low self-esteem
- Action: Avoid holiday social events and slow down on job search process
This becomes a vicious cycle. The more you avoid, the less you have to feel good about, leading to ongoing negative emotions. On the other hand, there can be someone who lost their job and have a positive view about the New Year:
- Thought: “This has been a tough year. A new year means new opportunity.”
- Emotion: Disappointment, hope, determination
- Action: Reach out to support and apply for jobs
These examples demonstrate how CBT is not about denying your thoughts, but about having more helpful thoughts. So, yes, it has been a difficult year and that is true. However, it also highlights that it is not helpful to only think about the past because nothing you can do about what has happened. Remember, you can only change the present and the future. So, start thinking about what 2017 has in store for you, rather than what you missed in 2016.
This brings together all of the three C’s of CBT: Catch It, Check It, and Change It. It is important to practice these steps as it takes time for any change to take effect, particularly with your thoughts. “Catch It, Check It, Change It” is a simple way to remember how to make lasting changes. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy year of opportunity!
Amy Brightman, LCSW is a therapist at Cobb Psychotherapy. If you are looking for support with managing anxiety or depression with CBT, visit cobbpsychotherapy.com to learn how therapy might be able to help.