In addition to being a great coping skill, journaling is a powerful and effective way to reflect on and reframe your thoughts. There are a number of different journaling techniques, from brain dumping everything in your head in no structured order to using journal prompts to help guide your thoughts in a direction you’d like to see them grow in.
Another powerful journaling technique is called cognitive behavioral journaling. It’s a more structured, therapy-based journaling practice that uses writing exercises to help you address and challenge your unhelpful thoughts. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular psychotherapeutic treatment that is based on helping individuals restructure and reframe their thoughts in order to manage their overall mental health. Cognitive behavioral journaling really helps hone in on that particular aspect of CBT by addressing thought distortions and keeping track of your thoughts, mood, and overall habits. Below are three cognitive behavioral journaling techniques that we hope you find helpful.
# 1 De-catastrophizing Your Thoughts
Catastrophizing is a type of thought distortion that is typically associated with anxiety and depression. It’s when you immediately jump to worst case scenarios that play over and over again in your mind. For example, if you made a mistake at work, you might conclude that you’ll lose your job and never find another one. Another example might be if you aren’t recovering as quickly as you’d like in your healing journey, you might conclude that you’ll never get better.
Though worrying is completely normal, when those worries start to consistently impact your mood and your life, it is time to try an exercise that could help you examine those thoughts from a different point of view. Answering the following thought challenging questions in your journal could help you slow down your thinking enough to consider realistic scenarios and not just the worst case scenarios.
- What is my worry?
- How likely is my worry to come true?
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- If the worst did happen, what could I do to cope?
- What can I tell myself for reassurance?
#2 Keep a Thought Log
Another cognitive behavioral journaling technique is keeping track of your thoughts by writing about some of your most difficult times AND some of your greatest life moments. By writing about what happened, it could help you examine how what you experienced led to those particular thought patterns and behaviors. It really helps you gain a clearer understanding of why you said or acted in a certain way. You can use the following questions as a guide for this writing exercise.
- Name the experience or life moment and explain what happened.
- What were your thoughts?
- What were your feelings?
- What were your actions?
#3 Mood and Habit Tracker
Keeping track of our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors helps us see how they are all connected. Our habits play a pivotal role in how we feel and think and how we feel and think plays a pivotal role in what we do. Keeping track of your eating, sleeping, exercise, and self-care patterns can help us examine the habits and routines in our lives to determine what’s working and what isn’t. It allows you to see what you want to do more of to increase the positive feelings or how to change your perspective to help you cope with the negative ones.
Give these a try and let us know how they work for you!