When you think right, you will feel right. It is quite simple really: control your thoughts and mental well-being follows. The treatment of anxiety and depression utilising CBT is all about controlling your thoughts and focusing on helpful thoughts.
The big question that I am often asked though, is how do you control your thoughts? It is not by sheer willpower or concentration I assure you. Rather, it is from training your mind to think differently. In more technical terms, it means rewiring your neurons.
The way you do this is by thinking new thoughts which are helpful to you enough times that your old thoughts fade away. The key points here are that you need to find helpful thoughts to replace your unhelpful thoughts and then you need to practice the helpful thoughts over and over until they become your usual way of thinking. It is not difficult, nor does it take brute strength. It takes patience and perseverance.
Being grateful is a skill that can be learned. Here are some strategies that will assist you.
How to train grateful thoughts:
- Set your alarm to go off every hour.
- When your alarm goes off, ask yourself “What do I have to be grateful for now”?
- Focus on small things that you usually take for granted such as a comfortable chair, being out of the rain, the fact it is raining and there is no drought, having a job, being able to see and write etc.
- Choose 3 things every hour. They can be the same ones as before or new things.
- Write them down.
- Keep your journal with you as much as possible.
Gratitude practice can be part of mindfulness. When you start to feel that you do not want to go to work today, stop and write down 3 reasons to be grateful that you have work at all. Instead of dreading the future (going to work), be fully present in the moment and what you can be grateful for.
When you do this as a mindfulness exercise, you will notice your anxiety reducing.
Below is a brief sample of a gratitude diary. For a full copy click here Completed Sample of Daily Gratitude Diary Page
Daily Gratitude Diary
Date: 27th January, 2015
Three things I am grateful for right now:
9:00am – I woke up healthy; sun is shining; food to eat
10:00am – My brain is working; fingers moving; eyes can see
11:00am – Time without baby; comfortable chair; air conditioning
12:00pm – Lunch to eat; sun is shining; work to do
1:00pm – Learned something new; joked with a friend; have friends
Click here for a sample of a Blank Daily Gratitude Diary Page you may download for your own use.