CBT An Anxiety
My sense of happiness boosts is that they comes in different flavors. Some work directly on my mood, without getting my intellect involved. Going outside is a great example of that; so is spending time with friends. Others take just a touch of thinking, like the Three Good Things exercise. It isn’t all cerebral, but there is an element of analysis and deliberate focus.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is definitely at the intellectual end of the scale for me. If you haven’t tried it before, CBT focuses on retraining your thought patterns. Since thoughts can lead to and/or reinforce emotions, by changing your thought patterns you can change your emotional state.
My experience is that this is partly true. At this point in my life there is a distinct physical state that I associate with depression, and trying to think my way out of that state has been unsuccessful (or even counter-productive). When I’m in that state, I’m much better off staying out of my brain. But at other times, CBT can be a useful way to confront some of the ongoing anxieties that can sit, leech-like, in my brain, draining away little streams of happiness.
CBT is a collection of techniques, but for today’s exercise I chose to use the “Vertical Arrow Technique” described on page 122 of The Feeling Good Handbook. I’ve also seen this technique, or a similar one, described as the “five why’s.” In essence, I started with something that is a nagging source of anxiety to me: the fact that my kids seem to want to be glued to their screens all the time. I wrote this at the top of a page, then put an arrow under it, pointing down. The arrow represented the question “If this thought were true, why would it be upsetting to me?” I then wrote down the next layer down of my anxiety, drew another arrow, and repeated as long as I still had deeper negative thoughts.
I don’t always find this technique to provide instant solutions, but it certainly can help clarify my anxieties, and sometimes show where my fears are a little excessive.