In the 1960s, psychologist Aaron Beck developed Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in order to help people:

  1. recognize the impact of their dysfunctional thoughts (interpretations, beliefs, predictions) and
  2. modify their thoughts (interpretations, beliefs, predictions) to be more accurate and useful

As he challenged his clients to “think differently” and more positively, CBT became the most empirically-based “cure” for depression and anxiety, an outcome that still exists today.

How did he teach clients to recognize the impact of and modify their thoughts?  He took a process that our brain uses naturally — reframing — and he made it intentional (and he called the technique “cognitive restructuring” for any of you who want the official term used in CBT).

This exercise is about intentionally using your Values in Action (VIA) strengths as the tool to shift your thoughts (interpretations, beliefs, predictions) to change your experience into a more positive and nurturing one.

Instructions:

  • Consider an activity that falls in your “Don’t enjoy, but is necessary” category.  My example is daily physical therapy, which has gotten more and more difficult to approach as I enter my sixth month of PT.
  • Notice the impact on your body when it is time to begin this activity.
  • Observe your self-talk as you approach the activity… being gentle with yourself when you hear the internal chatter, no matter what it is like.  It will most likely have a quality of, “This is something I want to AVOID because __fill-in-the-blank__.”
  • Don’t forget to use your Return and Rest practices to increase your ability to focus!
  • Now purposefully change your self-talk by choosing one of your VIA strengths to bring to the activity with you.  Seek a quality of, “This is something I don’t mind APPROACHING because I get to use my __fill-in-the-blank VIA_ strength.” In my case, I use two VIA strengths that work well together:  I tell myself I’m learning a little bit of what physically handicapped individuals might feel like so I have greater compassion (Perspective value) and use my Love of Learning to keep track of my physical and emotional reactions, like a scientist.
  • Notice the impact on your body as you reframe the activity to be less avoidance- and more approach-oriented.
  • Keep bringing the spotlight of attention to the “value behind the activity” approach orientation as long as you can do it gently.
© Copyright 2013 Maria Hunt
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