3 CBT activities to help you ease your anxieties

Maggie Morrow, counselling, CBT therapy, life coach and psychotherapist London. MSc Integrative Psychotherapy, BSc Psychology, Adv Dip, UKCP.
Author: Maggie Morrow, Award Winning Psychotherapist, Counsellor & Life Coach
Last updated: 16th March 2023

CBT Diagram

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is based on the idea that thoughts, feelings and behaviours are interconnected and that by changing one you can change the others. It’s an effective ‘talking therapy’ technique that’s been known to help people deal with a variety of mental health issues, from anxiety and depression to self-esteem and substance misuse.

Put simply, the goal is to learn skills that you can take home and use to address real-life problems as they arise. The more you become comfortable using these techniques, the more of a habit CBT will become. We wrote a detailed blog about CBT here.

Here are 3 self-help techniques you can practise at home:

1 – Practice mindfulness and meditation

It is well known that practising mindfulness can have a wide range of positive impacts on mental health. Put briefly, mindfulness means intentionally and consciously paying attention to being in the present moment without letting judgement get in the way. It can help people suffering from harmful automatic thoughts to disengage from obsessive rumination and stay firmly grounded in the present.

For instance, if you’re constantly worrying about work problems when you’re trying to fall asleep, or you can’t concentrate on an important assignment because your mind keeps darting to an argument with a friend, you’re not focused on what is happening in the present moment.

Use your breath and your senses to bring yourself back to the here and now. Here are some short meditation practices that will help to train your mind.

2 – Take little baby steps

Ask yourself the old question: How do you eat an elephant? And the answer is always: One bite at a time. Whether you’re working to overcome depression or breaking an unhealthy habit, change won’t be happening overnight. The trick is to break the big goal down into lots of little easy-to-score goals. Psychologists call this ‘successive approximation’.

Map out the path to victory by setting yourself up for lots of little progressive ‘wins’ and celebrate each of your key achievement. Be proud of any positive change, however small, and recognise the fact that progress isn’t linear. Not only will this make the long journey to better mental health seem much less daunting, progress will happen slowly but surely.

3 – Reframe your negative thoughts

When you feel negative or depressed, it can be difficult to recognise that there are good things in life too. This can be particularly pronounced during autumn or winter, especially if you are suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

Try to rebalance your mind by a simple exercise of writing down three positive things in your day. Continue your gratitude journal every day; it’s a powerful tool to help forge new associations in your mind that make it easier to see the positives.

You can intensify the process by consciously countering negative thoughts straight away. For example, if your first thought upon entering a room is that you hate the colour of the wall, push yourself to notice 5 things you like in the room (e.g. nice view from the window, lovely lampshade etc).

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Maggie Morrow, counselling, CBT therapy, life coach and psychotherapist London. MSc Integrative Psychotherapy, BSc Psychology, Adv Dip, UKCP.

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