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Breaking the cycle of negative thinking: 10 cognitive behavioural techniques for improved mental health

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
May 12, 2024 11:41 AM IST

10 cognitive behavioural techniques to replace unhelpful thoughts or negative thinking and foster positive emotions and behaviours for improved mental health

Life is simple; it is our thoughts that complicate it and they say, what we think, we become so, if we believe we are weak, we will embody weakness but if we see ourselves as strong, strength follows suit. Founders of various types of cognitive behaviour therapy, Dr Aoran T Beck and Albert Ellis emphasised that it is not the situations but our perception, beliefs and thoughts related to the situation that decides our emotions and behaviours.

Breaking the cycle of negative thinking: 10 cognitive behavioural techniques for improved mental health (Photo by bphope for Bipolar)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Shumita Kakkar, Founder and COO at United We Care, shared, “To enhance mental well-being, it's crucial to break the cycle of negative thinking. Cognitive behavior therapy equips us with tools to identify and replace unhelpful thoughts, fostering positive emotions and behaviours.” She suggested these steps you can follow -

  1. The first step is to be aware of your trigger situations and unhealthy emotions and behaviour.
  2. Second step is to identify the underlying thoughts like mind reading, catastrophic thinking, personalisation and dispute the thoughts by asking questions like Are my thoughts logical? Are my thoughts helpful? Are my thoughts true?
  3. Third step is to replace them with more helpful, realistic and positive thoughts.
  4. Fourth step is to evaluate your emotions and behaviour as a result of a change in thoughts. To break the cycle of negative thinking you can read about various cognitive behavioural techniques and also reach out to trained Cognitive behaviour therapists for support.

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Echoing that the spiral of pessimistic thoughts over a period of time can shape how individuals approach various aspects of life, Akkshitta, Founder and CEO at TheSeekier, said, “An evidence-based approach to addressing these negative thinking patterns is through cognitive behavioural techniques. There are a few steps to this -- the first and foremost being the recognition of negative thought patterns and challenging their validity.”

She added, “Secondly, people should engage in activities they enjoy. The third step is to observe inner thoughts without judgment. Additionally, one should not let societal stigmas hinder oneself from seeking expert help — whether through professional therapy or support groups/trusted confidants. Lastly, we should never underestimate the power of taking small steps in reclaiming agency over mental well-being.”

Sidhharrth S Kumaar, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer at NumroVani, explained, “Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy based core principle that ideas, feelings, and actions of human being are intertwined to each other. The goal of CBT is highly personalized and need to be curated based on the condition of case. However, a general goal includes self-awareness about negative thoughts, reflection about reason for the same and replacement with realistic & balanced thoughts.” According to him, some of the core methods include -

  1. Self-Awareness of Situation: Recognising negative ideas is the first step in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). These can be reality distortions and are frequently automatic. The first step in altering unwanted thoughts is to acknowledge them when they arise. One need to document them in notes form to be able to get a clear picture.
  2. Embrace it and Mindfulness: Mindfulness teaches you to pay attention in the here and now without passing judgment. This can assist you in becoming more conscious of your emotions and ideas without becoming overcome by them.
  3. Behavioural Activation: This method entails doing things that make you happy or fulfilled. Negative thoughts frequently result in less time spent on joyful things, starting a vicious cycle.
  4. Exposure Therapy: If your negative thoughts are associated with certain fears or worries, you might lessen the influence these concerns have over you by progressively exposing yourself to them in a safe and controlled manner.
  5. Reflection and Rewinding Methods: Methods like progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or guided visualization can help lessen the physical signs of tension and anxiety that frequently go hand in hand with negative thinking.
  6. Journaling: You can find patterns and triggers for your negative thinking by keeping a thought diary in which you write down your negative ideas and the circumstances in which they arise.

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