Also known as cognitive reframing, cognitive restructuring “is a technique drawn from cognitive therapy that can help people identify, challenge and alter stress-inducing thought patterns and beliefs” while learning how to develop new sets of stress coping mechanism skills.
This method is highly used in treating patients who suffer from depression. Yet, it is recommendable that we all learn how to use it and here is why.
Your Beliefs and Thoughts Can Greatly Influence Your Perceptions of the World
Each one of us is the master of their thoughts. This is the miraculous power through which all things become possible. When we have negative thoughts, act stubborn in transitional moments, we actually create energetic imbalances which highly affect the way we communicate with others, affect our mental/emotional well-being as well as our perception of the world.
For example, a depressed person may think that everything is meaningless while an anxious patient may constantly worry about scenarios that are unlikely to happen. Although automatic negative thoughts distort reality, they can create the impression that imaginary scenarios represent actual facts/events.
On the other hand, when we control or train our minds to think constructively and positively, we create an emotional equilibrium and begin to learn from our journeys. Hence, having absolute control of our thinking mechanism is essential in coping with stress or unexpected situations.
Cognitive Restructuring Comes in Two Basic Steps:
- Recognizing cognitive biases and automatic thoughts
- Challenging and reframing them with the help of Socratic questioning
The 1st Step of Cognitive Restructuring: Recognize Your Biased Thoughts or Beliefs
Nobody can instantly embrace difficulties or changes. They arrive unexpectedly, are stressful and can greatly shake our confidence.
But in order to overcome unpleasant situations, we must take control over our reactions and thinking patterns because sometimes, the biggest obstacle in our way to success (be it emotional or financial) is our own mind. The way we think of the things we believe in can either create opportunities or build more obstacles.
So, how do you know when you need to reevaluate your system of beliefs and thoughts?
1. When you want everything or nothing
You feel that you lose your patience and you reached a point where you either demand life to give you results now or you’d just drop everything and live without it.
2. When you generalize
You feel that you are ALWAYS unlucky, that things NEVER happen as you plan, that OTHERS can make it EASIER than you. Notice the capitalization of the words. When you have a fatalist attitude towards your own goals, you generalize and assume that a situation is set to fail from the beginning.
3. Focusing on a negative situation
You focus only on one particular negative situation, ignoring all the progress you have made. “Was it a bad day or was it bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?”
You exaggerate the details of an event or dramatize the difficulty of a problem.
5. Trying to predict the outcome
You think you already know how a situation will end in the absence of facts or concrete details.
6. Blaming yourself or others
You blame yourself or others for failure without trying to understand the real causes or search for possible solutions.
The 2d Step of Cognitive Restructuring: Challenge and Reframe Your Negative Thoughts/Beliefs:
The next step of cognitive restructuring is the usage of so-called Socratic questioning. This method aims to examine the validity of one’s thoughts and beliefs by asking critical thinking questions. Here is an example:
- Thought: I would have been happier if I had a better-paid job.
- Question: Is my happiness defined by my financial status?
- Thought: Somehow yes, because I cannot afford doing/buying all the things that I want.
- Question: Have I explored ways to either earn a promotion or apply for other jobs that could give me the financial stability I seek?
Do not live with the impression that you already know the solution to a situation/problem. Always question your thoughts, looking for possible cognitive distortions and limiting beliefs.
To do this, write down a list of all the steps you have taken to resolve an issue or achieve a goal. You will see that even when you think you have tried everything, there is always another solution. Do not limit yourself to only one idea/answer.
More Ways to Change Your Thoughts on a Daily Basis
An individual makes a countless number of thoughts per hour. Many thoughts can tire the mind, just as an abundance of emotions can often exhaust our metabolism or immune system.
Subsequently, thoughts create emotions and emotions lead to actions. So choose your thoughts carefully as they will determine the quality of your life, relationships, success, etc.
And since your results depend on your thoughts, you are primarily responsible for what you get in life. The phrase “I am responsible for my results“ should be your motto, so you can start realizing that you hold the power of change.
- If you want big results, think big!
- If you want prosperity, think of prosperity!
- Finally, if you want peace, think of peace!
Whatever you want, think of it, visualize it and you will notice that your brain will start looking for means and solutions to transform the idea into reality.
Train Your Brain to Think in the Right Direction!
Many people claim that they think positively and results fail to appear, but the problem is that they do not believe enough in their thought or they are simply in environments that overshadow their ideas.
Cognitive restructuring, although effective, is not sufficient. It matters what you do with the rest of your day and how you put your thoughts into practice and help them become reality. The environment in which you help these ideas materialize is important too.
Replace the TV, Instagram or Twitter feeds with books. Develop your own voice, your own thoughts. Although sharing information online may be more convenient, most of the time, we absorb other people’s ideas and thoughts. Thus, read books that inspire you and help you grow.
Stay around positive people
Surround yourself with active people who act in the direction of their dreams. People who do not complain nor seek pettiness but are not afraid to face and resolve their problems. Seek the company of individuals who give great importance to their personal development and that of the people who surround them. Their visions and attitude will motivate you to think and chase your dreams.
Are you familiar with cognitive restructuring? Have you ever been in a situation where changing your thinking patterns has helped you change the course of your life or resolve a problem?
Copyright © 2012-2019 Learning Mind. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint, contact us.