Change Your Mind & Change Your Experience Of Life…

CYMCYLThe title of this post sounds a little dramatic, but the way we think shapes how we feel, what we do, and what we experience in life. The way we think can bring unhappiness, anxiety and stress, and these can lead to unhelpful behaviours and difficult situations. So, while changing our minds won’t change the people around us, or change what has happened, or change the physical limitations the world places on us, changing unhelpful thoughts can help us process and deal with situations, make us feel better, help us cope, and ultimately lead to more satisfying life experiences. In this blog post–the fourth and final post introducing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy–I will be talking to you about three ways you can challenge and change the way you think to help you improve your life.

Think Outside The Box

We’re all explainers. We can’t help but try and categorise and label people, events and experiences. Understanding can be important to us, it helps us process our experiences, recognise when an event requires a response, and determine whether we can trust in the people around us. However, whether we want to admit it or not, we can be quick to judge when we don’t have possession of all the facts, our thinking can be prejudiced by previous experiences, we can have go to explanations we rely on too often, and the labels we use might well be unfair black or white generalisations that stick faster than if they were superglued. This wouldn’t be so much an issue if it wasn’t for how influential our thoughts can be on our feelings, actions and our relationships with others.

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Why You Do What You Do… (and are unhappy with the outcome)

WYDWYDEvery day we make choices around what we will and won’t do from situation to situation. Within our personal issues and the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) self-help approach, these behaviours are our actions or inactions influenced by what we think and feel in response to the situations we find ourselves in.

Behaviours can be self-expression, sulks, shoves, comfort eating, facing our fears, shrugs, self-harm, shouting, using alcohol or recreational drugs, crying, sabotaging relationships, swearing, facial expressions, withdrawing, sex, taking ourselves out of difficult situations–or, as most of us do–avoid the situations and experiences we find difficult.

As you will have learned from my posts introducing CBT and normalising what we feel, we experience personal issues in part, or in full, through the way we think. In this post we will be looking at why we do what we do and how these behaviours often lead to our difficult experiences in situations, support our unhelpful thinking, and keep us stuck within our cycles of unhelpful thoughts by preventing us discovering different perspectives and learning different problem solving and coping techniques. A good place to start in understanding why we do what we do is to identify our behaviours in the first place.

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It’s OK To Feel Your Feelings… (we all have them)

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We all have feelings—happiness, anxiety, stress, unhappiness—and we feel them every day to varying degrees. Regardless of your age, gender, race, sexuality, status, strength, class or education, you could also experience emotional difficulties—too much of these feelings. Personal problems do not discriminate. In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. You are not alone in experiencing your difficulties—it’s not just you.

Why do we feel the way we feel?

Our feelings can be influenced by hormones, our chemistry, illness, side-effects of medication, stimulant and relaxant foods/drinks/drugs, but largely because of what we’re thinking.

Situations themselves are not emotional. It’s what we think—our interpretation or perception—about the situation and the meanings we draw from them which upset us. To understand that more, and for an introduction to the self-help approach of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) then check out my first blog post Think Better To Feel Better.

So, just what are feelings?

Feelings are the emotional reactions that we have and the physical symptoms that accompany them. Emotionally, there are four types of feelings; happy, sad, angry and scared. Every emotion—no matter how colourful our description—can be reduced down to these four. This can be helpful to remember as it makes recognising and communicating what we are feeling easier. Symptoms are the sensations and reactions of our body that help us know what emotion we’re feeling. These can often be unpleasant, especially with anxiety and stress attacks. A feeling is not an interpretation, an opinion, a guess, or an explanation—these are characteristic of thoughts.

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Reflecting on May (2017)… Writing The Darkwood Mysteries (18): The Disaster Man…

BEHIND THE WRITING DESK_optMay saw me return to writing after a very long break. I have started writing a series of blog posts to support my self-help book ‘Get Over It’, which I’m enjoying. On the fiction front, I decided to return to ‘The Darkwood Mysteries’ as it’s  a comfortable place to be.

I have been reading ‘City of Sin’ by Catherine Arnold–a nice bit of history around London’s relationship with sex over the centuries, and ‘Sins of the City of the Plain’ by ‘Jack Saul’ (probably not actually by him), which is a contemporaneous account of the notorious rent boy, Jack Saul’s experiences. Essentially Victorian gay smut. So, some titillating reading.

No, Darkwood and Hobbs are not suddenly going to have a series of sexcapades (disappointingly for them), but sex is a big part of all our lives, and it’s often when we’re at our most honest, and reading about what the Victorians got up to behind closed doors is sometimes much more informative than the dry accounts reported in newspapers and diaries, especially socially and use of language. While some of the sexy talk seems a little juvenile by today’s sexy talk, a time-travelling sexplorer would be able to have just as much fun in 1800s London. A fun return to research! But, on the actual writing side of it all I decided against a blank page…

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Think Better to Feel Better (an introduction to CBT)…

 

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What is CBT?

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a therapeutic approach which can help us understand, challenge and overcome our personal issues.

CBT takes the stance that our personal problems are either worsened or caused by the way we think about them and the way we act in response to those thoughts. It’s an approach that places our own perception and interpretation of situations at the forefront of dealing with our problems.

CBT for understanding our difficulties

CBT is all about breaking complex and often overwhelming experiences down into their component parts to make manageable steps towards challenging and overcoming them. It does this within a CBT cycle of elements:

  • The Situation is the factual, actual world. The indisputable details—the time, the place, the people involved and the task at hand.
  • Our Experience is formed from our perception and interpretation of the situation; the assumptions around what the situation means, and predictions of what’s going to happen in this situation. Our experience is a complex relationship between these thoughts, and our behaviours and our feelings in response to these ideas. These three ingredients of experience tend to feed each other within an unhelpful cycle and are the focus of CBT self-help work.
  • The Outcome is what happens in part, or in full, as a result of our perspective of the situation, and how our resulting feelings are expressed and how we act in response to these thoughts through our behaviours. The outcome then becomes a new situation for us to experience, and so begins another circuit within a CBT cycle.

GOI CBT 101

 

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Reflecting on April 2015… My Own Medicine…

GET OVER ITThere goes April. Another year older. I’m now 3#. Yes. 3#. 2 years away from 4#. Cue existential possible mid-life crisis… Well, it’s not that bad, but I have been pretty fed up. Now, before you get all sympathetic for me, I don’t have much to complain about really. Relationship is good, the furry kids (cats) are well, I have managed to keep my job for another year, despite the local authority cuts getting very close to home (I think I felt the displaced air of the axe on that one), and sales have been pretty consistent. So, what have I got to feel fed up about?

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