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How Can I Actively Challenge My Beliefs? Cognitive Therapy Can Help…

In many cases, depression actually is the result of habitual negative (automatic) thoughts. When bad things happen, we begin chastising ourselves with thoughts such as: I’m no goodI’m a total failure or Nothing ever goes my way. Our feelings follow what we are thinking, and negative thoughts like these can send us spiraling down into depression. I call this ‘going down the rabbit hole’.

This concept is the guiding principle behind cognitive therapy, a type of psychotherapy developed by psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck in the 1960s. If we think something often enough, we begin to believe it’s true and our feelings match what we are thinking about ourselves. To conquer depression, we must stop those automatic negative thoughts and replace them with more positive, more truthful ones. By controlling these thoughts, we can actively work against depression, perhaps heading it off before it takes hold.

Below are some questions which I advise many of my clients to answer to challenge the thoughts which they believe are not healthy. Try and use these questions to actively challenge your own beliefs:

1. What’s the evidence for and against this thought?

2. What would I tell a friend with this same situation (rather than what I tell myself?)

3. What’s the worst that could realistically happen? How bad would that be?

4. Am I over-generalizing from a past experience?

5. Are there any other explanations besides placing the blame solely on myself?

6. Is there any way to see this in a positive light?

7. Is this situation really in my control right now?

8. What difference will this make next week, month or year?

9. What advice would my therapist or my friend give me regarding this situation?

10. What can I accept about the situation?

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