Today’s Thought Changing Tip!


Last week, we talked about a self-help book that I recommend, “Feeling Great,” by David Burns, MD, who is a very well-known Cognitive Behavioral Therapist (CBT). The book focuses on looking at the negative way you’re viewing things and changing your thought patterns to positive ones to feel better.

One thought changing method I’ve used with clients for years to help decrease anxiety is finding the ONE thought to hold onto. Often our anxiety or depression is caused by awful things that we’re telling ourselves – that our life will be over, that we can’t handle something, that we don’t know what we would do if x, y, or z happened. That’s even more true these days dealing with the pandemic.

Here’s the trick

The NEW thought must be 100% true. You have to able to believe it 100%.  And, as Dr. Burns would say, it has to leave the old, negative thought in the dust.

Let’s say you’re feeling anxious and keep thinking that you’re going to lose your job because you can’t get everything done at work. It’s all too much and too overwhelming.

  1. Know that it’s your brain’s natural inclination to look for danger – you may lose your job.
  2. Then remember that the thought is alerting you to a value that you hold. That value may be that you want to support yourself and/or your family financially. Give yourself a little credit here.
  3. Now come up with a thought that would help you feel better that is 100% true.

When we begin to check this out, we discover that you could get everything done but it would take some prioritizing and maybe some things would be late. Or sometimes we discover you don’t actually want to do all of those tasks, which may be holding you back. The thought process could be, “I can prioritize to get things done. Some things may be late and that may not be ideal, but eventually it will all get done. I may not like doing this, but right now I’m committed to doing this. I want to support myself and my family financially. Perhaps I can look next week or next month at changing jobs or positions.”

Adding “it may not be ideal ” often makes it 100% true and for most people helps you feel better instead of worse. We often have to work with the “less than ideal” framework to move out of anxiety. This takes putting your ego aside sometimes and admitting you’re not perfect. Once you can embrace that, then anxiety significantly decreases and it gives you a sense of freedom. You can use that energy to help you do whatever you need to do instead of anxiety eating it up.

Once you find the ONE thought, you can continue to go back to it when anxiety arises. And typically, once you find one thought, more helpful thoughts just keep coming.

It helps to do this with someone if you’re not used to it. Part of depression or anxiety or stress (or worry) is that we get stuck in the negative thoughts and have a hard time finding our way out. That someone can be a friend, a family member, or a therapist. But once you have the method down, then it becomes easier to do by yourself in the future.

I hope this helps you or someone you love!

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Yours in health,
Dr. Liz