B – Behaviour

 

Behaviour is the B in CBT. It can be thought of as the last in the line of a chain of events which goes as follows:  Thought (Cognition) – Feeling – Behaviour (or action).  From looking at this chain we can see that our behaviour is heavily influenced by what we are feeling, which in turn, is heavily influenced by our thoughts and beliefs. 

Let me give you an example: You hop on your bathroom scales and think “I am overweight”.  This makes you feel sad/regretful/low/anxious/frustrated/ disappointed/helpless/angry.  These feelings may all lead to different actions and behaviours: crying/withdrawing/pacing/berating yourself/binge eating/starving yourself.  All of these likely actions and behaviours are negative.  It follows: if the thought is negative then (without careful monitoring) the feelings are negative and so the behaviour will be negative.

A different perspective:  Let’s now imagine that you hop on your bathroom scales and you are (still) not impressed by what you see.  This time, however, you monitor your thoughts, realise they are negative and unhelpful, and decide to do something about it.  So you think about your options which are:  (i) “I can choose to like and accept my weight as it is and how I look”, or (ii)” I can choose to change my weight and how I look”. You are now giving yourself options, which helps you to feel more in control, because now it is up to you. 

If you decide to accept how you are then you can work on self acceptance by using affirmations, becoming more authentic and working on your levels of self-esteem and resiliency.  If, however you decide to change how you are and how you look, you will want to work on specific ways of changing your thoughts, feelings and behaviours, depending on what it is you want to change.  In our example you may want to consult a professional about correct exercise and nutrition or research those areas yourself.  You may want to join a gym, take up a new sport or buddy up with a friend, buy a map of local walks and just put one foot in front of the other. 

You may feel that some CBT therapy would be useful to help you understand why you behave the way you do as we have negative automatic thoughts (known as NATs or automatic cognitions) which are so deep-rooted they pop into our mind automatically and are seemingly outside our control.  If this is the case CBT can help you to identify those thoughts and challenge and change them for the better.

The important thing is, whatever you decide to do it will be your choice because your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all choices and, at the end of the day, it is up to you.

So Free your thoughts and live your life.

A – Authenticity

Are you true to yourself?  Do you ‘speak your truth’, in other words, do you say, out loud, and with conviction, the thoughts and feelings that you feel inside?  Do you act according to your beliefs and stand by those thoughts and beliefs?  If you endeavour to live your life according to these and other similar principles, then you are living your life authentically.  Living authentically means having an inner integrity and being honest and up-front with yourself, in order that you can be the same with others; being self-aware and understanding what you believe, want and feel.  Living your life authentically means that you assess a situation before involving yourself, you sometimes put yourself first, and you only say what you really, honestly, truthfully mean. 

Sounds difficult doesn’t it?  Immediately we start to think along the lines of: “What if I upset somebody?” Or “what if people don’t like me saying no?” Or “What if they think I’m a ‘bad’ person?”  Rest assured anybody who matters won’t think that way at all and the reason why is simple. People who live authentic lives are being true to themselves.  They are happier, and more complete, more comfortable under their skin.  Speaking with conviction doesn’t mean a licence to offend people. It means speaking thoughtfully from the heart and being innately honest with yourself and those around you.  It doesn’t mean you have to be selfish either, in fact it is quite the opposite.  Authenticity is a form of assertiveness where you can afford to be considerate of others because you have learned to be considerate of yourself. 

Delete the words “should”, “ought” and “need” from your vocabulary as they all set you up to fail.  Every time you use these words you are telling yourself that you are not doing something that  you feel is expected of you.  Now question any thoughts that contain those words.  What does a thought mean when you think you should do something?  Does it mean that it has to be done because it is expected of me, rather than it being something that I want to do?  Live up to your expectations, not those of somebody else.  Need carries with it a feeling of desperation and a vague sense of anxiety.  Do you really need  those feelings in your life?

It is liberating to be the person you want to be, not the person you have become expected to be.  When you live your life authentically, you become easier and less stressed to live with, happier to live with and kinder to live with.  Authentic living is a win/win situation.   So why not free all those thoughts and feelings around expectations of others and allow yourself  to develop an inner wisdom in order to live your life through your inner self in a way that feels comfortable and right for you?

A – Assertiveness

What Is Assertive Communication

Many people find that a huge amount of the stress they experience is caused by ineffective communication.  How often do you say: “Yes, I’ll do that, I don’t mind”?  And how often do you actually mean you don’t mind?

All too often we put ourselves on the line and over-extend ourselves in order to help somebody else conserve their time and energy! Of course there is nothing wrong in helping somebody because you want to and you choose to.  A problem exists when you would prefer to say “no” but find yourself saying “yes”.  Stress, anxiety and burnout are common allies of people who haven’t learned how to say “no” appropriately.

In order to be assertive about our needs and wishes, we need to practice effective communication.

Some points to bear in mind:

  • Think very carefully before agreeing to take something on.
  • When you want something, know what it is you are asking for and rehearse it first.
  • Always ensure that you talk from your ‘adult’ self.  A child talks “up” from a position of inferiority; a parent talks “down” from a position of superiority; an adult talks “across” from a position of authority and neutrality.
  • If it is important to you then it matters. Remain assertive, use the “stuck record” method if that helps.  This means choosing a phrase that sums up your position and then simply repeating it, in a quiet, authoritive way.  This will help you to refrain from becoming aggressive and over-stating your case, or passive and under-stating it.
  • Listen carefully to the other person and repeat back what they have said (reflective listening).
  • Be concise. 
  • Be positive – expect a good outcome and you will invariably get one.
  • Be aware of your body language – try to keep your body and facial expressions relaxed.
  • Remain polite at all costs and don’t lose your temper! 

Major keys to remaining assertive:  

  • Mutual respect for both your needs and the needs of others; 
  • Active Listening;
  • Understanding and respecting each other’s position.

A – Anger

 

A – Anger

Simply put, anger is about a perceived lack of control over a situation, person, thought, belief or feeling. I write perceived because, as with all of our feelings, beliefs and thoughts, it doesn’t matter whether they are actually real or not, what matters is that we believe them to be true.

As shown (right), there are many things that might trigger anger and because we are all unique, the triggers will be different for each of us. However, anger is not all bad since it can be positive force or a negative one, depending upon how that anger is used and the type of behaviour that is chosen to express it. Used positively, anger brings forth change, it gets people thinking, changes views and opinions and it promotes discussion which in turn leads to action and change.  The acceptable way to use anger to promote change is to convert the frustration behind that anger into assertive action. Assertive action is an appropriate and acceptable method for putting your views, wishes and opinions across.

Aggressive anger, on the other hand, is not good for anybody.  It seeks to diminish the person you are angry at and at the same time diminishes you by making you feel bad.  Even if you are able to justify your anger to yourself, you still have to convince other people that your behaviour is acceptable and that is not an easy task if your behaviour is inappropriate. 

So how do we convert anger in our everyday lives?  Some examples:

  • Let’s say a work colleague is rude to you, instead of being rude back, try politely explaining to that person that you feel they are being rude and that you don’t respond positively to rudeness.
  • Anger is sometimes a result of feeling threatened.  If we feel insecure we over-defend ourselves by fighting back.  A more appropriate response would be to ask ourselves why we feel insecure, and seek ways to dealing with it.
  • When somebody cuts you up next time in the car, try to empathise with them instead of cursing them. Try rationalising the situation by considering that their journey may be more urgent than yours.  Or maybe normally they are a good driver but today, like all of us, they had a brief lapse in concentration.
  • Golden rule: Think first before you respond.  Anger is a primitive emotion that we use without thought.  If you are able to think first, respond second, you are a long way towards conquering your anger.

 

A – Affirmations

                                                                                Affirmations             

CBT is about challenging negative thoughts, seeking to change them into neutral ones and allowing positive thoughts to follow.  Affirmations are a very powerful tool that can be used to help achieve those changes with a great number of challenging issues such as: Anxiety, Depression, Low Self-Esteem, Phobias and OCD.  Affirmations are often under-valued and this is probably due to a lack of understanding about how they work and how they can be used to greatest effect.  Firstly let’s take a look at how they work.

 How Affirmations Work

Consider, for example, somebody who has a lack of self-confidence.  He will have, running around his head, all his NATs (negative automatic thoughts) relating to his low levels of self-confidence.  The sole purpose of these NATs is to constantly remind, re-affirm and reinforce the feelings surrounding his lack of confidence. This internal voice repeats negative statements to the self, such as “I am no good at talking to people”, “I’m rubbish at learning new skills”, “I can’t get anything right”, etc are all examples of NATs.  These subconscious thoughts are very good at consistently reminding the desperately under-confident individual just how useless he is in the confidence stakes, and what is really important is he believes them! 

Now let’s take a look at somebody who has successfully used affirmations to help him overcome his lack of confidence.  He has chosen several positive affirmations that he uses frequently to habitually remind himself that he can realise whatever he wants to achieve by telling himself: “I know that I can master anything I want to” and he has built up faith in himself by replacing negative statements with positive statements such as “today I am willing to fail in order to succeed tomorrow” and “I have complete trust in myself”.  Our newly Mr Confident is happy in his thoughts because he has consciously replaced his subconscious NATs with positive thoughts.  Sounds easy right? It is as long as you stick at it and have faith in it.

 Rules For Effective Affirmations

  1. Choose affirmations that resonate with you.  They must ‘ring true’ in order that you can believe them of yourself.  In other words be authentic with yourself by not trying to tell yourself something you don’t mean.  If it doesn’t ‘feel’ right, don’t use it.
  2. Repeat them when they matter.  If your affirmation relates to confidence, then remind yourself before encountering a situation that will require confidence, for example before an important meeting:  “I have all the tools I need to succeed”.
  3. Remember that affirmations are most effective when you are feeling relaxed and your ‘guard’ is down, as the more relaxed we are, the more receptive and accepting we are to new thoughts, feelings and ideas.    
  4. Try to record them and play them to yourself so that you can listen to them – a good time to listen is before sleep and while you are asleep as your subconscious will still hear them and again, be more receptive.

Affirm your belief in affirmations and start using them today! 

If you would like a free mp3 downloaded affirmation, please leave a comment and by clicking on the speech bubble above and then going to the resources page.