Learn About the Basis of Our Journals and How to Use Them

What is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

If you have ever seen a mental health professional, you have probably participated in some form of cognitive behavioural therapy.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that assists in the reevaluation of unhelpful thought patterns. Unhelpful thought patterns can result in negative thoughts, emotions and behaviours projected on oneself, others and/or situations which contribute towards depression, stress and anxiety. 

The aim of CBT is to encourage change in emotionally driven automatic thought processes that cause negative thoughts and cognitive distortions. To achieve this, thought processes are broken down into sections to better understand the process. These sections may include the situation that has triggered the thought/behaviour, the mood currently feeling, automatic thoughts, and evidence for and against your automatic thought. Evaluation of these sections lead to a more clarified and healthier pattern of thinking.

Who can benefit from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy?

CBT can be used to help a broad range of issues. Whether you experience occasional emotional distress or are living with reoccurring mental health problems, CBT can be applied to conquer unhealthy and unhelpful thought patterns .

For example, CBT can help with:

- The management of mental illness symptoms related to depression, anxiety, stress, personality disorders, eating disorders, substance use disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder.

- Coping with averse situations that cause negative emotions such as grief, guilt, embarrassment, anger, and loss.

- Relationship problems.

- Cognitive distortions including overgeneralisation, catastrophising, personalisation, black and white thinking, jumping to conclusions, and illusions of control. 

How is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy reflected in the 'Think Smarter, Not Harder' journal?

Journalling for mental health has been considered an essential tool for CBT. It allows you to take time out to reflect on your thoughts and feelings, which in turn assists in the understanding of your thought patterns.

When you have all the information in front of you written down, it is easier to reevaluate your thought pattern that has led to your negative thoughts and feelings. From this, you can question the accuracy of the information you have noted and begin to think critically about a new form of thought process to relieve stress, anxiety or depression.

The 'Think Smarter, Not Harder' journal incorporates a thought record which helps users of the journal to keep a record of their thoughts, learn where their thoughts have come from, and encourages reconsideration of the accuracy of their thoughts by considering other possible ways of thinking. Writing down your thoughts this way is said to help with anxiety long term as it exercises the brains neuroplasticity, which allows the brain to adapt to new pathways of thinking. The more you practice, the more you rewire your brain to think in a more positive way when confronted with adverse situations. Over time, this should prompt a healthier way of thinking to reduce overthinking and overanalysing in the long term.

How do I use my 'Think Smarter, Not Harder' journal?

So, you have all the information about CBT. Now to get into how to use the 'Think Smarter, Not Harder' journal.

The template has 6 columns with 6 steps: situation; mood; automatic thought; evidence for the automatic thought; other ways of thinking, and; new thought. 

Situation: Here is where you write down the situation that has caused you distress. This is any event that has elicited an emotional response, whether it be something you have done, something someone else has done, something someone else has done to you, a specific time of difficulty, a bad thought that just won't go away, negative thoughts or feelings about something in particular... basically anything!

Mood: Here is where you write down the mood(s) and/or emotion(s) that have resulted from the event. Try to be extra specific here as it will help you to unravel and better understand your emotions. Try to stay clear of noting down 'primary' emotions and rather note down 'secondary' emotions. Primary emotions are usually direct emotions as a result of secondary emotions. For example the primary emotion 'sadness' may be a result of secondary emotions such as loneliness, grief, embarrassment, or shame; 'anger' may be a result of betrayal, jealousy, frustration, resentment, humiliation or disrespect; 'fear' may be the result of helplessness, worry, insecurity, rejection, or nervousness. You may also like to add a scale to indicate the extent you feel the mood/emotion.

Automatic Thought: Here is where you write the thought that has arose from the event that is causing you distress. This can be either a sudden thought or a recurring thought. If it is a recurring thought that you have written down, this is a good opportunity to keep record of it and look back on how you wrote your way out of it previously to assist in managing the thought in the future. 

Evidence for My Thought: Here is where you write down all the evidence that supports your automatic thought. There may be little or a lot of evidence. If there is little evidence for your thought, then this may prompt you to reevaluate the accuracy of your automatic thought. If there is a lot of evidence, that is okay too; but you may have forgotten some other important underlying factors that are opposed to your automatic thought - which is where the next step comes in to play.

Other Ways of Thinking: This section has been left open ended as there are many ways it can be. For example, you can use it to:

- Write down evidence that goes against your thought.

- Write down the earliest memory you have of experiencing this thought to understand where it is coming from.

- Note any cognitive distortions
       ~ Black-and-white thinking: also known as all or nothing thinking.
       ~ Overgeneralising: using the result of one adverse event to predict future results.
       ~ Mental filtering: focusing on one negative piece of information and ignoring the positives.
       ~ Disqualifying the positives: attributing the positives to external factors and disregarding our achievements.
       ~ Jumping to conclusions: or fortune telling. Basing future events on current events.
       ~ Catastrophising: exaggerating the importance of a mistake or failure.
       ~ Emotional Reasoning: mistaking your emotions as facts.
       ~ 'Should' statements: distortions based on what we feel we, or others, should, must and ought to be or do.
       ~ Personalisation: implying personal attacks or personal blame.
       ~ Control fallacies: distortions around how much or how little control we have over a situation.

- Write down other underlying issues that you are experiencing that may have caused an 'out of the ordinary' response to the current event.

- Write down external/situational factors that dismisses perceived personal attack (e.g. consider underlying factors that may result in others acting in a certain way).

- Write down how this type of thought pattern has been unhelpful to you in the past.

- Write down how damaging the current situation is to you. Ask yourself, 'is it important enough to have caused this much distress?' 

- Write down possible solutions or goals to overcome the outcome of an event.

There are no limitations to this section!

My New Thought: Now that you have gathered all of the information about the event, your feelings, thought process and other possible explanations, it's time to write down a new, healthier thought. This can be one thought or multiple. You can look back at your template if ever find yourself ruminating about the same thought in the future.

For examples, see the filled out template below:

Happy Journaling!
Hindsight and Co. x