Cognitive Restructuring and Reframing Thoughts

In CBT we use a technique called cognitive restructuring to modify our automatic negative thoughts and cognitive distortions to make them better reflect reality. With cognitive restructuring we’re not trying to engage in “positive thinking.” Positive thinking isn’t helpful because it doesn’t reflect reality either. Instead, cognitive restructuring involves reframing our negatively biased thoughts in order to see things from a more balanced perspective.

Cognitive Restructuring and Reframing Thoughts in CBT

This transcription was auto-generated by YouTube and formatted by ChatGPT.

There are times when it’s really hard to slow our minds down and stop our thoughts from racing. This is especially likely to happen if our thoughts have been going on without us being mindful of them, or if our thoughts are associated with a particularly strong emotion. Our thoughts and feelings are closely connected, so if we’re worrying because we’re feeling anxious, our anxiety is likely to cause us to worry even more. This increased worrying feeds back into our anxiety, making us even more anxious.

If you’re having trouble letting go of your thoughts or slowing down your mind, you can try taking a step back from your thoughts and looking at things from a different perspective. This can be done by reframing your thoughts with what we call cognitive restructuring. If you’re able to see things from a different perspective and change the way you’re thinking, you’ll usually notice a corresponding change in your mood. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to help give yourself a different perspective and change the way you’re thinking, and in turn, change the way you feel [see worksheet below].

Once you’ve looked at your thoughts and asked yourself some of these questions, you’ll probably come up with an alternative view that helps balance out your negative thought and leads to a new way of thinking that’s kinder to yourself and more helpful to you. This can improve your mood and make it easier to calm your mind and let your thoughts go. The more often you do this, the more you start to train your mind to think differently in the first place and so these negative thoughts come up less often, which is what we mean by cognitive restructuring: you’re not just changing the way you think in this moment but restructuring the way your mind works and developing a new and less negative way of thinking altogether.

Cognitive restructuring is one of the most important CBT techniques because it enables us to change the way we think, which, as we’ve discussed, is one of the keys to changing the way we feel. If you’d like to practice cognitive restructuring, you’ll find the questions from the video in the Cognitive Restructuring Worksheet (PDF):

In the next post we’ll look at the thought record, which guides us through the process of cognitive restructuring in detail. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them on the YouTube video page.