Here is a revised version of a technique I learned while getting my advanced certification in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It has been VERY effective for my clients who take the time to practice it daily. With enough repetition, it can actually change the patterns in your brain.
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- In the first column, write down the specific thought that is troubling you. This may be a worry, a negative thought about yourself, something that makes you angry, etc.
- In the 2nd column, write any action that you can take to make the situation better. These things need to be SPECIFIC. The actions may be things you can do right now, or plans for actions to take in the future; but again, be very specific about exactly when you plan to take this action.
- Next, you need to come up with an affirmative tag-line to tell yourself after you have come up with all the actions you can take to make the situation better. This may be something like “Alright, I have done and set plans to do everything that I can possibly do to make this situation better, so there is no reason to keep stressing over it.” This statement needs to be in your own words because you will tell yourself this exact same line each time you use this technique.
- In the 4th column, come up with something you can do to stop obsessing over this thought or situation. The activity needs to be something that can distract you. You can use ideas from the “Pleasurable Activities” worksheet or you can come up with your own.
Specific Negative Thought
What I Can do about it
Distracting activity to
Not being able to pay bills
“Alright, I have done and set plans to do everything that I can possibly do to make this situation better, so there is no reason to keep stressing over it.”
Go outside and play with the dog
When the Thought Comes Back Around
Most of the time, a negative thought that is really bothering you cannot be beat by just one round of this technique. In order for this to work, YOU MUST BE CONSISTENT! Running through this strategy over and over each time you have a lingering negative thought promotes Neuroplasticity, which means it is actually changing the circuitry in your brain! Below are instructions on how to handle it if and when the same negative thought comes back to bother you after you have distracted yourself with an activity.
- When you notice the negative thought has returned and it is starting to trouble you again, you need to refer back to the first time you worked through this strategy with this specific negative thought.
- Check out the 2nd column and make sure there is nothing else you can do about the situation besides the things you have already done and/or planned to do. If you can think of anything else, add it to the 2nd column. However, don’t spend too much time on trying to find a solution. Remember… you have already brainstormed on actions you can take.
- After you see that you have exhausted all options of actions to take or plans to make, you need to come up with another tag-line; like the one in the original thought control process. This can be something such as “You’ve already come up with everything to do about this situation, so there is no use in worrying about it anymore.” Just as with the first transition tag-line, this needs to be in your own words, so it resonates with you.
- Finally, you must distract yourself with an activity once again.
This process may seem exhausting, but it gets easier the more often you use it due to the brain’s ability to change your automatic response after enough trials. ***Remember the dirt road analogy***
Reoccurring Negative Thought
Is there anything else I Can do about it?
(2 minutes max)
Revised Transition Tag-Line
Distracting activity to Move-On