I expect you are familiar with CBT, or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. CBT uses are a range of talking therapies based on the theory that our thoughts, feelings, what we do, and how our body feels are all connected.
CBT works to help us notice and change problematic thinking styles or behaviour patterns so we can feel better. It can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave. CBT is most commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, but can be useful for other mental and physical health problems.
However understanding the underlying principles of CBT can be extremely useful if you want to try and understand why you might be feeling or behaving in a certain way, and want to improve the way you operate in life.
Have you ever woken up in the morning in a bad mood – feeling unmotivated and miserable? If you have ever felt like that – how did you behave? Did you skip down the street, smiling and laughing? Probably not.
More likely you had a sad face, and were hard to communicate with….maybe you were quiet and still, or snappy or unkind?
Well what about when you are in a great mood – excited and energised, full of beans and raring to get stuff done…..were you mean and spike to people around you? Probably not! I expect you were smiling, laughing and had a spring in your step.
The principles of CBT might help to explain how these feelings and your behaviour and inextricably linked…
Let start at the beginning…Imagine drawing a large oval shape on a piece of paper. Mark that oval shape- ENVIRONMENT. Now, Just for a moment I want you to consider what environment you exist in…
Do you work in an office, or outside? Do you travel a lot, or maybe work from home? Your home – is it comfortable and a place of safety? Or is it unsuitable and an unhappy place?
Before you get anywhere close to understanding how your thinking and behaviour affect your life, you must consider your environment and if it is a place you are likely to thrive in?
I hate being in an office and could never thrive there. I want to run out! I like constantly changing environments and the outdoors – particularly forests. But I also speak at a lot of conferences and so a stage in a conference hall is – strangely – a great environment for me.
I worked in a prison for a few years, coaching inmates to think about ‘non-offending behaviour’ on their release. A prison is a horrible, depressing and cold environment where few are likely to thrive!
What is your environment like – at work? At home? Is it ideal for you – does it suit you?
You are never going to be performing at your best if you are in an environment that feels unsuitable or uncomfortable.
So No 1 is make sure you are in an environment where you can thrive.
Now, Imagine drawing 4 smaller oval shapes within the Environment oval – one at the top, one at the bottom and one to the left and one to the right. You are about to give each of these oval shapes a name…..
OK so lets look first at your THOUGHTS. Imagine writing THOUGHTS in the smaller oval shape at the top. Let’s assume you wake up one morning, all excited because you are going on holiday tomorrow. What MOOD does that put you in? Probably excited and happy.
Now the next oval shape to the right – Imagine writing MOOD in that one. Now in the oval shape at the bottom – write BEHAVIOUR. Your THOUGHT – I am going on holiday tomorrow. MOOD – excited and happy. BEHAVIOUR – relaxed, chatty, kind to people, helpful. Now the last oval shape – to the left write PHYSICAL STATE
When you are relaxed, chatty, kind to people, helpful, how does your body feel? Relaxed, calm, maybe a slightly raise heart rate when you think about driving to the airport and flying off to the sunshine first thin go the morning?
Now imagine drawing an arrow between each oval shape – one from THOUGHTS to MOOD.
MOOD to BEHAVIOUR and then BEHAVIOUR to PHYSICAL STATE.
You can complete the cycle by drawing an arrow from PHYSICAL STATE to THOUGHTS.
So can you now see how your thoughts triggers a mood, that triggers your behaviour that affects your physical state…. And it is a constant cycle all day long. The thousands of thoughts you have all day long are triggering moods, behaviours and affecting your body and your health.
But let’s just see what happens when you have an ugly negative THOUGHT like “I am dreading doing that presentation tomorrow – everyone will laugh at me and I will be rubbish”.
What mood does that put you in? Agitated, bad mood, grumpy, miserable? What happens to your behaviour? Do you snap at people, slam doors, you are unkind, or thoughtless? Your PHYSICAL STATE – is there tension in your shoulders and neck, sweaty palms, increased heart rate, do you have a headache?
Can you see how your thoughts affect your behaviour?
Now, start noticing your mood, and track that mood back to your thought.
It takes practice but you will start to become very aware of what you think and how it affects your behaviour. And once you are aware you are n a position to start choosing and changing things.
Maybe when you ask yourself why you slammed that door, you can start to track the reason back to your thought, and mood, and grumpy behaviour.
Can you see how you need to be mindful and careful about what and how you think!
As long as you are aware of the connection between your thoughts, your mood, your behaviour and the physical state your body is in, then you are in a great place to start to change things for your benefit.