Change Your Thoughts, Empower Yourself, Transform Your Life
By far, the most important skillset that I have in my empowerment toolbox is learning how to manage my thoughts. When you know how to recognize toxic, unproductive thoughts and learn how to correct them, you become better able to manage stress, anxiety and depression, you’re more productive, your relationships improve, and your self-confidence skyrockets. You become more empowered. As a psychologist who utilizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), I have the opportunity to share these strategies with my patients through individual psychotherapy and exclusive masterclasses and digital courses. Personally, and on a daily basis, I utilize tools from two practices to manage my thoughts, the premises and techniques from CBT and a daily gratitude exercise.
Very simply put, CBT is based on the theory that how we think (cognition), feel (emotion), and act (behavior) are interconnected. That is, our thoughts determine our feelings and behaviors and by changing unhealthy, distorted thoughts, we change how we feel and behave. During the process of CBT, a therapist and client, together, explore the client’s thoughts patterns, specifically seeking to identify thoughts that are irrational and unhelpful. The client is then taught empirically supported techniques to correct these thinking errors that cause emotional distress. Examples of commonly seen cognitive distortions include what if thinking, catastrophic thinking, and regret-oriented thinking.
If you consider the person who frequently engages in regret-oriented thinking, that person likely struggles with feelings of depression. A person who frequently experiences what-if thinking probably grapples with anxiety. By correcting these types of thoughts, the client is able to eliminate or significantly decrease the associated emotional pain. Pain that often leads to mental health issues, difficulties in relationships, low self-esteem, reduced productivity, and other problems. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy teaches concrete tools that can be generalized to most life situations, therefore, fostering independence and empowering the client outside of therapy.
From a psychologists’ perspective, the efficacy of a gratitude practice lies in the ability to retrain the brain. By intentionally thinking grateful thoughts, even and especially when you aren’t feeling particularly positive, you have the power to change your emotions.
We all know that person (maybe it’s you) who always sees the glass as half empty, who’s always pointing out or focused on the negative. The grateful person, on the other hand, sees the good. It isn’t toxic positivity in that it isn’t an excessive, overgeneralization of optimism. It is, instead, the authentic and consistent awareness of that which is good.
A undeviating gratitude practice (whether in the form of a written gratitude list, a gratitude meditation, a gratitude journal, or use of a gratitude app), over time, will shift your mental focus and empower your mindset. An attitude of gratitude won’t change your situation but it will change how you feel about the situation.
If you struggle with controlling your thoughts, you are not alone. Empowered thinking is a skillset that takes awareness, training, commitment, and practice. Start with the small step of scheduling an appointment with a therapist.
Author: Dr. Beverly Pedroche