6 steps to using CBT at home

May 11, 2016

This is going to be a long one, but you’re worth it. Grab a cuppa full of what you love.

Comfy? Then I’ll begin….

I wasn’t sure what to do with myself at the start of this year, I was consumed by fear, panic and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness – I began to feel like Brian from Spaced .

I’d been through, let’s say a transitional phase and so I paid a visit to my GP. After a long chat I was referred onto a CBT course, supported by a therapist.

Some may see this as a big confession from me or something to be ashamed to admit, but I think it’s quite the opposite…I’m going to tell you why.

Self improvement is a wonderful thing. I believe that everyone would benefit from using CBT techniques  to enhance and improve their lives. If we had it taught to everyone there would be less mental health problems in the first place, causing less physical illness too.

Let’s imagine you’ve sprained your ankle, do you continue to walk on it, or do you seek medical help? In the same way if you’re experiencing low mood or anxiety, do you seek help or keep it to yourself? It’s much more difficult to talk about an “injury” that we can’t see, which is possibly why the subject of mental health can still be a little taboo.

CBT at home

Let’s go back to the basics: The brain is an organ as it controls the functions of the body. It is sometimes referred to as a muscle of thinking as the brain actually tells your muscles what to do. The brain is the most important organ in the body because it controls all of the bodily functions as well as the other organs. (What would we do without you, Google?)

The brain is a wonderful organ, but it can get into bad habits, especially with negative thinking patterns. 

These patterns have a knock on effect on your entire life – from the friends and relationships you choose, to the work you do. On a daily basis they affect the functioning of your thoughts and can create less than desired feelings.

The skills gained by integrating CBT can work towards improving all areas of your life and relationships, by increasing positive change in how you think and what you do to improve how you feel.

Helping yourself might be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re feeling low. Ask your GP about Silver Cloud. It’s an awesome online platform with easy to follow steps, lots of interesting reading material and activities to help and support you. Meditation exercises pop up from time to time, which keeps it engaging and varied. 

Based on my experience and the things I’ve found most helpful, I’ve compiled a list of things that might help you on a daily basis. A few simple changes to start the progression towards a happier you.

1. Surround yourself with positive people

I have always been very lucky to have close friends, not a huge group but a handful of awesome people. One of which I’ve known since I was in primary school. We have changed, our lives are so different, but we’ve always supported and uplifted one another through tough times. When I say positive people, I don’t mean types who are constantly looking on the bright side, that’s unrealistic, more those people who you can talk deeply with and end up in fits of laughter. We make choices, we make friends, the focus is to make sure they’re the best possible ones. When s**t hits your fan, you’ll normally see who fades and who shines. Cut the faders, embrace the shiners.

2. Wake up earlier

For some people getting out of bed in the morning is the most difficult part of their day. I am not a morning person, or so I thought.. With time I’ve trained my brain into thinking that waking up at 7am to go for a run is a good thing. I admit I battle with the negative thoughts each morning, but it’s getting easier. I observe them and remove them, replacing them with wonderful happy thoughts…that do shine out of my face like sun beams. Waking up earlier means getting to bed earlier too. Remove devices from the bedroom as they trick our minds into thinking it’s daytime.  It’s science OK, so listen up!. We all need a full 8 hours each night -it helps the body to restore, leaving us feeling and looking ace. Your metabolic rate is higher if you sleep well too.

3. Read and write

I am not much of a “reader”. My mum told me that as a child I was in the higher reading group (check me out). Teachers gave me The Hobbit to read aged 7, which I found incredibly complex and dull, with no pictures. Since then I had no real interest in reading, to my detriment.

I’ve been reading “they f**k you up”- a book about the level of nurture you received as a child and how it affects the way you are now. This provokes lots of “oh that’s why I do that!” moments. Also Shantaram which is about one man’s spiritual journey, it’s a doorstop book so I admit I’m struggling to get through it. Having a mix of psychological subjects and fictional stories helps me to keep up my studies, whilst allowing me to go off into a fantasy world.

I love to blog, but sometimes it’s important to spill on a page whatever you’re thinking, no matter how dark or light. There’s no pressure when you’re effectively writing to yourself, and it’s a good technique to crumple it up after and put it in the bin, if it’s negative. If it’s positive, pin it up!

4. Treat yo’ self

I’m not talking about the new summer threads, I’m reffering to activities on a daily basis without costs involved. Because we all know that “the best things in life are freeee”

Write down 10 things you love to do. For some pointers here’s my list:

  1. Non- judgemental painting, with no real end result
  2. Pinterest browsing
  3. Walk or jog in the forest
  4. Yoga (only 10 minutes)
  5. Creating a new Spotify playlist
  6. Cooking from scratch
  7. Photography of anything I fancy
  8. A chat with a friend
  9. Netflix and chill…by myself
  10. Spa bathroom experience

Once you’ve completed any work or home task, have a little treat – it sends a reward signal to yourself, rather like a dog with a treat I suppose. We may be complex in some ways, but in others we are quite simple creatures.

5. Say no and step back

We have a great deal going on in this modern world, whether it’s working 5 days a week, with overtime or balancing looking after children and our homes. The important thing in order to give yourself that space you need to function happily, is saying no. If you don’t want to attend that baby shower of a friend of a friend, it’s OK. You don’t need to explain yourself. Once you’ve said no, step back and give yourself that time, don’t try to fill it with other activities. Also don’t mull over what people will think of you, honestly who cares? You can’t please everyone and the important people in your life will be understanding. The rest don’t matter.

6. Acknowledge thoughts and feelings cycles

Do you catastrophise? This is when you think into the future about a situation that hasn’t yet happened, you begin to believe that it will be bad. This puts enormous strain on your body as you might go through the fight or flight body response – not a nice experience!

Recognising your thought patterns is the first step to overcoming them. When you notice the negative pattern’s start point, simply acknowledge it and remove it. These thoughts may continue to attempt access to your brain many times, the trick is to keep acknowledging, accepting and moving forward. It’s tiring, but it gets easier with practice, whilst becoming empowered as you gain control!

Do get in touch if you’d like to know more about the service I can offer for your home. I have three packages which are simple to purchase, or you can pop me an email with any questions first.  
The next part of this series will focus on the cognitive changes you can make in your home to produce a streamlined, happier life. You can read a bit more about this on a previous post: Interior design at home for personal mental health