Applying Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy in Every Day Life

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular short-term, evidence-based modality used by many mental health practitioners for the treatment of an assortment of mental disorders that teaches applicable skills for everyday life. The theory behind it goes something like this: Our thoughts affect our emotions, which in turn, affect our actions. So if we ruminate over negative thoughts that enter our minds, those thoughts will make us feel like crap. Feeling like crap will incite us to make unwise, rash, myopic decisions.

Controlling our thoughts is often easier said than done. I struggle with obsessive, negative, sometimes paranoid thoughts constantly and often am controlled by my thoughts instead of my thoughts being controlled by me. So what are some ways of controlling thoughts researchers and mental health practitioners advise? One is meditation. This practice involves emptying the mind and welcoming whatever thoughts want to flow through, regardless of content, and without judgment. To quote Buddhist monk and teacher Sunryu Suzuki: “Leave your front door and your back door open. Let thoughts come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” This encourages desensitization to negative thoughts and surrender to the inevitability that they will come up at least every once in a while.

Journaling is another way to handle negative thoughts in a healthful manner. Writing them down, with or without showing them to anybody, can be a healthful way to feel that you’ve gotten them out of your system and can now move on — that you’ve “handled” them instead of bottling them up inside and avoiding acknowledging their existence. Writing them down can also make possible solutions to a problem clearer.

Reframing thoughts is another helpful strategy. Reframing thoughts involves seeing the positive even in negative situations, much like the titular character in the movie Pollyanna. For example, not getting hired could mean you get an even better job.

Breathing exercises can also aid in controlling the negative emotions that arise when we have a negative thought by slowing, deepening, and evening out our breathing pattern and relaxing our neck, back, and shoulders. The medical and mental health communities now realize how deep the connection is between physical and mental health, and this is a perfect example.

Engaging in pleasurable activities, such as hobbies, is another way to deal with negative thoughts and emotions, because they are less likely to pop up while you are doing something you enjoy. These activities result in feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that naturally put you in a good mood.

These are just some of the techniques that could be helpful in dealing with negative, controlling thoughts and allowing you to take back your life. Negative thoughts are a natural part of life and will never entirely go away. However, it is possible to decrease their intrusion into your life, as well as the intensity of their effect when they do appear. And due to the neuroplasticity of the brain, after a while of dealing with negative thoughts and emotions in appropriate ways, it will become second-nature to do so. Does anyone else find themselves dealing with negative thoughts, and what practices have you found useful in managing them?

The Art of Shower-Sitting

So I mentioned in my last post that one of my hobbies is shower-sitting. This is a hobby that I have had since early childhood, starting with me getting the stomach flu almost every year around my birthday. The hot water felt so good raining down on my ache-y, chilling body, but I didn’t have the strength to stand the entire time. So I got the idea to sit in the tub. Ever since that time, I have used long, hot, sit-down showers as a relaxful respite from sickness, stress, and looming responsibilities. I was lucky for a long time to have my own bathroom so I didn’t have to worry about sitting in someone else’s filth. I have since lost my own bathroom, so have taken to using a $10 plastic patio chair. Generally, I turn off any glaring lights and either have it pitch black or leave on an indirect light or light some candles. This aids greatly in relaxation, especially if you have a headache. With nothing but the roar of the water in your ears and its steady drumming on your back/shoulders/head, etc, the rest of the world and its noise is locked out and you get a partial sensory-deprivation experience. As an introvert, it’s especially important for me to get away from the rest of the world and have time to myself. I’ll sit with my back to the spray, as well as away from the spray. I have even read books this way (with my back facing the spray), which protects the book. Sometimes I use this time to think of absolutely nothing and let my mind go blank, engaging in a form of meditation. Sometimes I use it to brainstorm and reflect. My greatest ideas and epiphanies generally come during two periods: In the middle of the night when I can’t sleep, or during a sit-down shower. And sometimes it’s cathartic to have a good cry in the privacy of the shower stall. Granted, it’s a waste of water (I’ll admit some of my sit-down showers have been 45 minutes long, although I have not taken one nearly this long in several years and most are under 20 minutes), but it’s a pretty mild vice to have, comparatively-speaking. It used to be that taking a sit-down shower was associated with being depressed, elderly, or hung over, but I have been pleasantly surprised to find that, while it’s still considered somewhat of a weird taboo, it’s become much more popular as of late. Does anyone else reading this indulge in this pastime? Let me know! And if not, I’d recommend it as a cheap and easy stress and pain-buster!