How to Use CBT and Meditation to Calm Your Mind
CBT is ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ and is basically a psychotherapeutic technique. That means that it’s a tool set used by psychologists to help us overcome various different types of mental health problems, anxieties stress etc. with meditation and relaxation techniques. Ultimately, this works by teaching us to change our thought processes and to take control of them and it shows us how to detach ourselves from unhelpful ruminations. Sound familiar?
Using cognitive behavioural therapy techniques, you can decide that you’re not going to think ‘what if I fall’ anymore and that instead you’re going to think ‘I’m perfectly safe and secure’ whilst meditating. And likewise, this can be applied to any other area of your life. Instead of thinking ‘there’s so much I need to be stressed about right now’, you can instead think ‘I’m going to take this one step at a time’ or ‘I love a challenge’. You haven’t changed your situation, but you’ve changed your response to the situation. Suddenly, life has more meaning, more color and more excitement.
THAT is how you become happy.
CBT Another Type of Meditation Therapy
Another kind of meditation therapy that you might be interested to try is ‘mindfulness’. And mindfulness meditation is particularly useful because it plays a big role when it comes to cognitive behavioural therapy and will be very useful for changing your thought patterns.
Whereas the idea with transcendental meditation was to make your thoughts completely disappear, here that is not the aim at all. In this case, the aim is rather to invite those thoughts and allow them to pass by. The difference is that you’re not going to be focussing on those thoughts or engaging with them emotionally. Instead, you’re simply going to let your thoughts ‘appear’ and then ‘drift by’. You’re not letting the thoughts dictate to you how you should feel, instead you’re just noticing them and remaining completely detached.
Provide Helpful Introspection
This now means that you’re not stressed anymore because you’re not letting the thoughts affect you that way. At the same time though, this can provide very helpful introspection therapy. In other words, you’re learning what kind of thoughts you have regularly and this allows you to subsequently reflect on those thoughts and to think about the impact they might be having on your mood.
What’s more, is that you can then go about changing those thoughts in order to become happier, relaxed, more content and less stressed permanently – and even to cure phobias.
That’s where the ‘CBT’ part of all this comes in. But for now, just watch your thoughts drift by like clouds and don’t let them effect you.
The Basics of CBT for Eliminating Stress
Whether you have normal levels of moderate anxiety, or you experience large amounts of stress leading to panic attacks and health problems, CBT technique is the number one tool for dealing with it. CBT stands for ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ and is the preferred tool for therapists trying to deal with all manner of different psychological disorders.
This is partly because CBT has a huge amount of evidence supporting its effectiveness. But what also makes cognitive behavioural therapy techniques so useful is the fact that it is portable and affordable. CBT involves teaching practices which can be learned even remotely over the internet. This means you can teach yourself the methods and be incredibly effective at controlling your emotions and your stress responses.
How CBT Works
The basic idea behind CBT is that we ‘think ourselves’ into our mental states. Associations and conditioning partly affect our emotional response to stimuli, but so too does what we think. For example, when you’re afraid of talking in public, it’s probably because you are thinking of all the things that could go wrong. You maybe think ‘people will laugh at me’, or ‘what if I stutter’ or ‘what if I faint?’.
Thinking these things – and visualizing them as we tend to do – can be enough to trigger the release of hormones or other hormones and this then makes us panic and possibly even causes us to make those mistakes! The trick then is to change those thoughts so that you no longer believe those things will happen. And if you can do that, then you can completely remove the fear and the response.
The way you are taught to do this with CBT techniques is through something called ‘cognitive restructuring’. This is a set of tools that you can utilize in order to ‘reprogram’ your thoughts and change your beliefs.
One example of this is something called ‘thought challenging’. Here, you simply challenge the negative thoughts that are causing you to be stressed or afraid by looking at how realistic they are. Would people really laugh at you if you stuttered? In all likelihood no – they would be sympathetic. Are you really likely to faint? Probably not.
Another very useful tool is something called ‘hypothesis testing technique’. Here you don’t just convince yourself that your fear is unlikely – you actually prove it to yourself to make sure you really believe it. So how might you do that? One example is that you might put yourself in the situation you are afraid of and see what happens. So in this case, that might mean giving a speech in front of people and then purposefully stuttering to see if people react badly.
Just remind yourself: it really doesn’t matter what they think. Now let yourself stand there and try to reduce stress. When you see that there is no negative outcome, you’ll remove the stress entirely. Finally, cognitive behavioural therapy training also incorporates meditation, exposure therapy and other known techniques to give you a powerful tool set for overcoming stress, phobias and more.
How to Combat Bad Emotions with Mindfulness and CBT
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that has been practiced for centuries, but has recently seen a resurgence in popularity owing to cognitive behavioral therapy and modern psychotherapeutic approaches.
The basic idea is that you’re using meditative techniques to become more aware of your own mind and of your own emotions. You’re becoming detached from your body and calming the judgmental part of your brain but at the same time you’re not going to ‘switch off’ those emotions but rather you’re going to ‘observe’ them. The idea is that you’re going to watch your thoughts and take notice of your emotions, but in a detached manner so that they can’t harm you.
This practice has two benefits. The first is that it allows you to distance yourself from the kinds of ruminations that can otherwise cause stress, depression, phobias and more. The second is that it allows you to better understand the way your own mind works. And it is this second point that makes it an incredibly powerful therapy tool for combating a large number of emotional troubles.
Turning Towards Emotions
The problem with emotion you see is that it robs us of our rationality. And this becomes especially true if we try to deny it, if we try and suppress it or if we generally don’t treat it the way we should. Most of us when we’re upset will react by trying to ignore it, by pretending that we’re fine – or possibly by adopting the technique of being unintentionally completely oblivious to it. As you probably have guessed, none of these approaches is particularly helpful or effective in combating those negative feelings.
So let’s say for instance that you’re feeling very stressed, anxious and depressed. Maybe you had an argument with your partner, maybe you had a bad day at work. Maybe you just got out of the wrong side of bed!
Either way, you’re now in a position where you feel low and as such you begin to look at everything through very negative glasses. You try and stop being depressed, but all you can keep thinking about is what a bad day you’ve had. About how it’s never going to get any better.
About how nobody really gets you. About how your partner is no good for you. Using CBT practices though and embracing the fact that you’re distressed, you’re able to instead simply turn towards those negative emotions and say ‘yes, I am feeling stressed/anxious/depressed’.
And as soon as you do this, you will find that they become much more manageable and that you become much more detached from them. More specifically, you can focus on the fact that your thoughts are a result of your bad emotion (not a reflection on reality as it actually is) and you can remind yourself of the impermanence of that stress.
How to Control Your Brain, Your Thoughts and Your Emotions
Meditation is the first step to becoming more in control of your mind, your emotions and the way you choose to feel, think and act. Once you learn to use meditative techniques, you’ll create a ‘safe’ place that you can escape to any time you choose. This will allow you to become completely relaxed and to ‘detach’ yourself from the petty concerns that you might have and all those not so petty ones.
Because, at the end of the day, constantly thinking about your debt or about your relationship problems isn’t going to help. It’s certainly not going to help on the bus on the way into work in the mornings. So if you can learn to tap into a calm and relaxed state, you can give your mind and body the rest and recuperation they need in order to attack the day ahead with the most energy and the most vigor.
Meditate to Enter a Theta State
Studies show us that meditation can help us to enter a ‘theta state’ in our brain, where many of our brainwaves will start to slow down, showing reduced activity. This is very good therapy for us and can help to lower blood pressure, improve mood and generally help us to become calmer, happier and more focussed. Instead of worrying and stressing, we are simply ‘existing’.
At the same time though, meditation and CBT techniques are also useful for other reasons. That’s because it’s training. What you’re effectively doing is educating your brain to learn how to focus and you’re schooling yourself to learn how to direct your attention the way you want to. Now you’re teaching yourself to avoid the temptation to think about certain things and to decide where and what you want to send your focus.
This actually creates more neural connections in the brain and it leads you to become smarter, improving your memory, your IQ and your attention.
But at the same time, this also teaches us that we are not slaves to our emotions or to our thought processes. Rather, we can control them at will in order to ensure that we’re always in the most productive and useful mental state for the given scenario.