(Note: Here’s the transcript if you’d rather read it instead!)
Do you often find yourself thinking certain thoughts that make you feel terrible and stuck in a guilt or shame spiral, AND it doesn’t bring you any closer to living the life you want?
In this video, I’m going to teach you something that I do regularly to manage my negative thoughts and emotions, and get closer to the results I want and the person I want to become. Anyone can do this. All you need is a pen and paper… or somewhere to write this down.
With regular practice, you and I can experience so much freedom and control over our emotions and behaviors. We can learn to separate ourselves from our thoughts, and Create that space. It’s the unique gift we have as humans.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
We’re going to use something called The Cognitive Model. To define it simply, this model is a framework to understand that our emotions, behaviors, and physiology are influenced by how we perceive a situation or event.
A situation is never what causes us to feel a certain way. Instead it’s the thoughts we have about the situation that causes us to feel the emotions we feel. These thoughts are referred to as “automatic thoughts” because they often pop up spontaneously. It’s important to note that not all automatic thoughts are negative. Some are positive, and some are neutral. You can present 2 people with the same situation, and it will stir up different thoughts and feelings.
Brandon vs Jenn
Here are some examples that come to mind for me and Brandon to help illustrate the difference:
Situation: A friend asks you to dog sit.
- Brandon- Fun! Cuddles! Kisses!
- Jenn- No thank you, not very exciting.
Situation: You find a $50 bill on the floor
- Brandon- Food! Poke bowl!
- Jenn- I feel bad for whoever lost it…
Situation: It’s raining outside.
- Brandon- Boo… no volleyball.
- Jenn- I’ve got no plans to go outside today, so that’s okay. But I do have a video to film and it might affect the lighting.
You see how it’s the same situation, but we’re pretty much we have different thoughts around it?
The Cognitive Model helps you solve current problems (aka the “negative” automatic thoughts) – problems you’re having in the present by looking at and modifying inaccurate and unhelpful thinking and behavior.
Shit. For Your Eyes Only
There are different ways to go about doing this, but in this video, I’ll show you one, with an example from my life.
First, notice how you’re feeling. List the emotions you’re currently feeling. For me, when I last did this I wrote down anxious, unproductive, annoyed, suffocated. Another thing you can do is list some physical symptoms you notice. Maybe your palms are sweaty, your heart is racing, or your face is flushed.
Second, ask yourself the question “What was just going through my mind?” Then, write down each thought as a single sentence, to keep it simple. Don’t overthink it… and you might have thoughts that pop up that are unrelated to each other, and that’s okay.. you’re writing this for your eyes only.
Here are SOME thoughts that came up for me:
I am a piece of shit. I could do more. I’m not cut out for this. I hurt this person’s feelings. I don’t want to make dinner.
List as many as you want. Think of it as a detox, and get it all down on paper. If that’s too open-ended for you, I would recommend setting a 10 minute timer on your phone, putting your phone face down, and writing down what sentences come to mind in those 10 min.
Third, take one of your negative thoughts (I’m going to use my thought “I’m a piece of shit”), and run it through The Negative Thought Loop..
The Vicious Cycle
Begin by writing down the Situation. What situation am I thinking of that’s making me think that I’m a piece of shit? We want to keep the situation fact-based, and avoid using adjectives. For example: “my performance at work this week” instead of “my awful performance at work this week”.
Then, when i think of my performance at work… what negative thought pops up into my mind? “I am a piece of shit.” ..so that’s what’s going in the Negative Automatic Thoughts line.
When I think this thought, how does it make me feel? Write down your emotions as single words: anxious, unproductive, defeated
Then ask yourself- How does this feel in my body? I didn’t realize how important this one was… to pay attention to my physiology. Once I started paying attention to this, there were connections I was able to make- like maybe I wouldn’t be thinking “I’m stressed” but then I see hives on my arm and it’s bc when I’m stressed I tend to scratch my skin. Or when I feel indigestion out of nowhere… many times its an indication that I’m stressed or anxious, and I feel like right here (by ribs)
So in this example, I’ll write down “tightness around chest”
Next, ask, “What action do I take when I think D’m a piece of shit, and I feel anxious, unproductive, and defeated?” Answer: I tend to distract myself with social media.
And what is the result of me distracting yourself with social media? I feel worse about myself compared to others.
Now you can trace it back to see exactly what THOUGHT you were thinking that caused you to end up on Instagram for hours and feel even more like crap. This awareness is key.
Turning Shit to Gold
So, now what?
We’re going to do a similar exercise, but now we’re going to Redeem that Negative Automatic Thought so we can (1) feel better, and (2) end up with a result we like. This is what we refer to as The Redemptive Thought Loop.
Without changing the situation, I’m going to CHOOSE a thought I’m going to think ON PURPOSE that is NOT going to make me feel those negative emotions and end up on Instagram and hate myself even more.
Begin by writing down the same situation.
Now ask yourself, What can I think that is less harsh, but more accurate? The redemptive thought I came up with is “While I wasn’t optimally productive, I still got some important tasks completed.” What’s important here is to not trick yourself into believing something you don’t actually believe… like “I am so thankful to have this job” because maybe in this moment or season, you don’t believe you are and that’s okay. In this case, It’s helpful to CHOOSE a thought based on facts or past experiences. But if the thought “I’m so thankful to have a job” resonates with you, go for it.
So how do I feel when i think my new thought? I feel Hopeful. Relieved.
How does this emotion feel in my body? My heart rate is reduced. My shoulders are relaxed.
Now, what action do I take when i think, “I still got some important tasks completed”? I look through my bullet journal or Google calendar to see which tasks I took care of. I look for evidence to support how I got some important things done. Then I start making a list of what else needs my attention.
What is the result of me looking through my completed tasks and making a list of what needs to get done? I give myself credit for the progress I’ve made, and I make it clear what next steps I need to take.
So we take the SAME SITUATION, and we can see how different thoughts lead to different emotions, which lead to different behaviors, which lead to different RESULTS.
When given the choice, and we always have a choice, We get to decide which result we end up with.
Redeem (Sh)it Now!!
With regular practice, you can pull yourself out of your Negative Thought Loops, shame/guilt spirals more quickly… leaving less room for ruminating on how much you think you suck.
If you decide to try this exercise for yourself, I highly recommend that you write it down somewhere.. many people (myself included) want to be able to do this in their heads, but because all the drama happens in our brains, it’s extremely important to separate yourself from your thoughts. Create that distance, and make room for questioning your automatic thoughts instead of believing them right away… especially the negative ones. Because you know what? I’m NOT a piece of shit, and neither are you.
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Thanks so much for being here today, and I’ll see you next time.