How CBT has helped me (Pt. 1)

How CBT has helped me (Pt. 1)

I have mentioned quite often in previous blog posts and tweets how beneficial physical exercise has been to my mental health (particularly my mood) but there are other tools I apply from my mental wellbeing toolkit.  This article will explain how I use my understanding of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) to help me every day and by writing this it will help me brush up on my skills.

So the ‘C’ in CBT stands for ‘Cognition’ which means:

“the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses”

To keep it simple think of a cognition as simply as a ‘thought’ for now rather than how it got into your mind. Usually after a cognition (thought) a person usually does some behaviour (an action). Now after a person does a behaviour (action) they would have a feeling (emotional).

My favourite crisps

As part of therapy, reading self help books on CBT and my own self reflection it became apparent to me there were cognition’s and behaviours that were unhelpful for me and made the symptoms of my mental illness and obesity worse.

For example:

  1. I see a packet of Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps on the coffee table (observation from my eyes).
  2. I then want to eat the Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps and decided to so (Cognition or Thoughts)
  3. I then eat the Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps (Behaviour)
  4. I then feel happy (Feeling)

Therefore I can see how my feelings and thus my mood is affected by my cognition’s and behaviour.  How I became obese on a simplistic level was based on daily repetitions of the above cycle until it started going something like this:

  1. I feel sad, bored, fatigued and depressed (Feeling)
  2. I see a packet of Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps on the coffee table (observation from my eyes).
  3. I then want to eat the Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps and decided to so (Cognition or Thoughts)
  4. I then eat the Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps (Behaviour)
  5. I then feel guilt, shame and depressed (Feeling)

The diagram below illustrates the description above (and as you can see it can operate in the reverse as well):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the true self mastery of CBT is applied when I can challenge the unhelpful thought (cognition) to prevent unwanted behaviour or feelings. For example:

  1. I see a packet of Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps on the coffee table (observation from my eyes).
  2. I then want to eat the Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps and…   STOP! But have I had enough already? Yes, but I am hungry! Well then I shall eat a Banana (Cognition or Thoughts).
  3. I then eat a Banana (Behaviour).
  4. I then feel happy for eating healthy (feeling)

Note: There is also lots of tryptophan in a Banana which is converted in the body to Serotonin (the brain chemical anti-depressants are trying to re-uptake in the brain).  So that’s another reason I was possibly happy.

Suffice to say I learned to stop eating Walkers Prawn Cocktail Crisps, lost 35KG in weight and now only eat them in moderation which is the perfect balance for me.  Though I now live in fear as a result of the “Choose me or lose me” competition with the Paprika flavour that these crisps will be withdrawn from the shelves entirely next year.  As you can see life can make it hard for us to practise CBT to the outcome we want!

I have also learned that I can’t challenge every cognition and behaviour.  I had to practise and master challenging my cognition/behaviour regularly (such as the Walkers Crisps desire) which can sometimes be exhausting before building the strength and confidence to challenge other cognition’s.  Though I have had to accept (which was not easy) there are some I cannot change with CBT.  So I use other tools in my mental wellbeing toolkit to manage them.  So far I have mentioned two – Exercise and CBT.  I have a few more up my sleeve! So keep reading if you want to know what they are.

I will write another article on other aspects of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) another time.

I am not a qualified therapist on CBT so do not take my understanding of it as professional advise.  Please consult qualified and experienced therapists or read CBT books written by such professionals.

CBT Therapy

  • You can find BACP accredited private therapists in CBT throughout the UK on the Counselling Directory
  • Your GP and local NHS Mental Health Trust can also refer you to free consultations with CBT therapists (Expect to wait though).

FREE CBT Online E-Course

Living Life To The Full

Recommended CBT Self Help Books


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