What’s going well? Hope you are taking time to notice and acknowledge all that is good.
This week I want to focus on our thoughts. I know surprise! A cognitive therapist wants to focus on thoughts – haha.
Anyway, when someone has struggled for sometime with depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, etc. he or she tends to be repeating a script. The script, as you might imaging is often quite negative. It might sound something like the following:
“You can’t do that. You’re just not good enough. It’s too scary and besides, it won’t matter. You are better off just staying put. Have a drink or take a nap. Numb out. Feelings are too scary and too much. No one understands. Life sucks.”
That’s quite a pep talk isn’t it? If you have a similar script that is constantly being read over and over again in your head, how would you expect to feel? How motivated would you be to change? How confident would you feel that you could change?
A key strategy to overcoming depression, anxiety. low self-esteem and the like is by tuning into your thoughts and learning to replace any unwanted ones.
The first step in this process is tuning in. You can learn to do this by scheduling time throughout the day and just ask yourself, “What am I thinking about?”. The next step would be to write down your thoughts. Doing this 3 or more times a day will help you create a habit of checking in. Awareness of what you are thinking, when you are thinking it, is the first step in being able to change your thoughts (If you want to).
The next step is evaluating your thoughts and determining if they are positive or negative thoughts and if you want to be thinking such things or not. You have a choice and the power to decide!
Once you determine if you want to change your thoughts, you need to identify alternative thoughts or an alternative script. This too is best learned by writing it out. So instead of the negative script I described earlier perhaps you could say the following:
“I’m scared and concerned about being with others. I want to feel better and I know that isolating doesn’t help me. It might be comfortable but I want to feel better. I want to live life and be involved in life. The more I get out and experience life situations, the more I will feel alive. That’s a good feeling. I want to feel more positive feelings. The more I do this the easier it will become. I will feel so much better after I do this. I can be proud of myself. I want to feel proud of myself. People who feel good, feel proud and confident. I want to feel confident. I can do this. I have done it before and everything was fine. In fact, the last time I went out, I ended up having a good day. ”
You could go on and describe the last time you went out and it was positive. Describe all that was positive about being out and with others.
This change in thinking can change your focus. Instead of focusing on the negative, you CAN focus on the positives. Focusing on the positives and creating a reinforcing cycle of positive thoughts is much more supportive of feeling good, strong and confident.
If that’s your goal, then start focusing and writing and reviewing (over and over again) your new positive script.
~ Dr. Lou