CBT is based on the idea that feelings can be affected by our thoughts and behaviors. Thoughts are internal ways in which we talk to ourselves and behaviors are the actions we take in everyday life
Unhelpful thoughts and unhelpful behaviors lead to negative feelings, while, helpful thoughts and helpful behaviors are related to positive feelings. It is cyclical, feelings lead to thoughts which then leads you to act in a certain way- behavior. Behavior can lead to negative thoughts and negative feelings. Negative thoughts can lead to negative behaviors and then negative feelings.
According to Michael Blomquist the author of ‘Skills Training for Struggling Kids’, “The take home messages is that understanding our feelings and how they affect us can lead us to do something to prevent our feelings from getting the better of us…we cannot make our feelings just go away, we can manage them. This can be accomplished by expressing our feelings…or by changing our thinking and behaving..”
Unhelpful thoughts affect feelings and behaviors:
- Unhelpful thought: I am going to fail my test!
- Negative Feelings: Anxiety
- Unhelpful Behavior: Crying or avoiding studying
- Unhelpful thought: My friend is so rude!
- Negative Feelings: Anger
- Unhelpful Behavior: Don’t talk to friend
It is better if we think more helpful thoughts for positive thoughts. Here are some examples of how helpful thoughts affect our feelings and behaviors:
- Helpful thought: I will study as best as I can for my test.
- Positive Feelings: Confidence/ Calm
- Helpful Behavior: Good effort with reading.
- Helpful thought: She is usually a good friend
- Positive Feelings: Calm
- Helpful Behavior = Call up friend and ask if anything is going on
Children will need help thinking helpful and positive thoughts and also help to understand that they can change their thinking patterns.
When child is experiencing an unhelpful thought you can ask the following questions:
Example: I can’t read! I am stupid!
- Are you thinking unhelpful thoughts?
“Yes, I am thinking I am stupid!”
- Are these thoughts going to help me?
“No it makes me feel like giving up.”
- What is a different and more helpful way I can think?
“I can do this. I can ask for help or think of a better strategy to do this.
For older children we can ask them a few more questions to help direct them toward more positive thinking:
Example: My friend did not call me back. She doesn’t want to be my friends anymore
Am I thinking unhelpful thoughts? “Yes I am thinking that she does not want to be my friend anymore!”
How are these unhelpful thoughts going to make me feel and act?:“I feel angry lonely and sad. It makes me want to say angry things to her.
What is a different and more helpful way I can think? “Maybe she was busy or she didn’t see that I called. That is probably what is going on.
What kind of helpful thoughts am I having? “Positive thoughts”
How are those helpful thoughts going to make feel and act?: “Calmer and hopeful. I will let her know that I called yesterday and see if she wants to make plans today.”
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