5 Easy CBT Tools for Stopping Anxious or Negative Thoughts

5 Easy CBT Tools to Stop Anxious or Negative Thoughts

Positive thinking makes it easier to stay focused, to sleep better, to cope with stress and to stay away from drugs and alcohol. With some practice and a few thought-stopping techniques, you can learn how to stop negative thoughts the minute they come up.

Five Thought-Stopping Techniques

According to the American Psychological Association, cognitive behavioral therapy is a short-term therapy approach that helps lead to an improvement in a variety of problems, including drug use, marital issues, eating disorders and severe mental illness. Many different cognitive behavioral therapy techniques and worksheets are available to help you learn and practice these methods. Consider these five.

1. Journaling

Journaling - Tool 1 for stopping negative thoughtsJournaling is the act of regularly jotting down thoughts, feelings, ideas and daily events. Psychological journaling as part of CBT focuses on two specific qualities. First, you open up your thoughts and feelings to a broader perspective.

You take your thoughts and feelings and reflect on them as they relate to your whole life. By putting your feelings down on paper and looking at the big picture, it’s easier to work through them.

Second, by putting thoughts down on paper, you can get a better perspective on why you are feeling the way you do. This makes it easier for you to change your views.

For CBT, journaling should follow a basic format.

  1. Start with the emotions you want to focus on. Use statements like “I felt” or “I feel.”
  2. Describe the event that makes you come to those emotions.
  3. Explain why this made you feel the way you do.
  4. Challenge yourself to change your thoughts and reactions.
  5. Examine how you could respond differently.

Cognitive journaling works if you get in the habit of doing it regularly and address negative thoughts as soon as possible.

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive Muscle Relaxation - Tool 2Tension and stress often manifest themselves throughout the body. They can cause headaches and a general feeling of being unwell. For progressive muscle relaxation, start by tensing all of the muscles in one area of the body, for example, your leg.

Slowly relax one group of muscles at a time until all of the muscles in your leg are relaxed. Do this with all areas of your body. This is an excellent way to help calm your nerves and preoccupy your mind when it starts thinking negative thoughts.

3. Relaxed Breathing

Relaxed Breathing - Tool 3 for Stopping Anxious or Negative ThoughtsIndividuals who suffer from panic attacks and anxiety may use deep breathing to slow the heart and overcome an episode. There are many ways to make your breathing regular and to relax the entire body.

One way is to get into a comfortable position. Breathe in deeply through your nose. Let your stomach and diaphragm fill completely with air.

Hold this for a few seconds, then breathe out slowly through the mouth. Place your hand on your stomach so you can feel the air releasing when you exhale and feel it rise when you inhale.

Take at least three more full breaths or until your heart begins to slow and you feel relaxed. Relaxed breathing can provide a wealth of benefits, including:

  • Lowering the stress hormones in your body
  • Lowering your heart rate
  • Helping to lower blood pressure
  • Improving core muscle stability
  • Helping you cope with post-traumatic stress
  • Improving your ability to tolerate exercise

4. Cognitive Restructuring

Tool 4 - Stopping Anxious or Negative ThoughtsCognitive restructuring examines your negative thoughts and figuring out what made you come to these realizations. Once you identify these distortions, you can work to overcome them.

Most patients with depression didn’t start out feeling the way they do. Something triggered or caused these reactions, which led to an automatic response.

Think back to when you first started feeling the way you do about a particular event or situation. Challenge these negative thoughts. For example, if you think that having a lot of money makes you a respected member of society and then you lose your money in the stock market, such a loss can make you feel negative about yourself.

Rather than allowing these erroneous assumptions to take root, examine what makes a person respected. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of your faulty beliefs, you learn to concentrate on the positive.

The main goal is to treat yourself with compassion once you realize you’re having intrusive thoughts. Instead of feeling like a failure, learn to accept mistakes and unwanted thoughts and focus on changing them. As you start to be kinder to yourself, you’ll notice you are kinder to those around you.

5. ABC Functional Analysis

ABC Functional AnalysisAlso referred to as antecedent-behavior-consequence analysis, the ABC model helps people examine specific behaviors that they want to change, the triggers of those behaviors and how the triggers impact daily life. With this model, you start by identifying and writing down a specific negative behavior, what led up to it (the antecedent) and what happened right after the event (the consequence).

This is one of the simplest forms of behavioral observation. It provides insight into an individual’s environment.

The chart is labeled with the date. Then each date lists the behaviors in order as they occurred, followed by the antecedent, the behavior and the consequence.

Once you’ve connected several days or weeks of data, it’s possible to go back and see the patterns that exist. If the results lead to a wide range of behaviors that are hard to analyze on your own, it may be a good idea to locate a professional with a background in applied behavior analysis.

If you or your loved one is suffering from substance abuse or a mental health issue and are finding it hard to cope on your own, FHE can help. Contact us at (844) 299-0618 to start your journey toward recovery. We have a team of caring staff members available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to talk to you, discuss your treatment options and answer any questions you might have.


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