Learning From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This month marks close to eight months of learning to use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help combat my anxiety, my therapist and made the decision to take some time off so that I could work on my health. Still, every day I apply everything that I have learned and are still applying them today. So I wanted to share one of the things that I have learned.

One thing I have learned is called “Nonjudgemental Focused Emotional Awareness” associated with mindfulness breathing.

The point of this exercise is to see how you do at not judging the thoughts that come through your head while you are focusing on your breathing. In my own experience, it has been helpful to break down my thoughts into a spreadsheet that breaks down each session.

The practice asks for two-ten minute sessions of mindfulness breathing. It is never easy staying in the moment when doing focus breathing, so this activity asks you to focus on when your thoughts wondered in the session and how you judged these thoughts.

At the beginning of my CBT journey, my thoughts during mindfulness breathing were mostly focused on my current stress at the time with my most recent bouts of anxiety and depression.

The first step is to log these thoughts in a way that you can look at them after the session. I used a spreadsheet.

The next step is to analyze the physical sensations and emotions related to these thoughts. It was not uncommon during these sessions to feel overly anxious, have fatigue and all the physical sensations that come with anxiety and panic attacks. (See my Poem Little White Pill.)

This step gives real insight into how physical sensations and emotions play an important part in judging your experience when doing mindfulness.

The third steps ask you to analyze your behaviors at the time. Trouble keeping your eyes closed, fidgeting, can’t keep still, or any behaviors associated with that session. These are often distractions based on a mind that is wandering around in thoughts for so long.

Tthe last step and the hardest for me is to rate on a scale of 0-10 on how effective you were about not judging the experience. The higher the score on the scale means that you were more judgmental. In my own experience, I often scored 7-9 because I was at the beginning of my CBT journey, and I really had trouble letting the thoughts that came to me during mindfulness breathing to control me and I always judged myself harshly.

This exercise in being non-judgmental on the thoughts that run through your head can make major differences in your anxiety, it really made a difference for me. Over time, I was able to use this practice to let go of my negative thoughts, and even when they entered my mind during mindfulness breathing and meditation I learned to bring myself back to my breath and let these thoughts go.

The only time it has not been overly effective is when it comes to my social anxiety, but I am learning to be better at letting the negative thoughts associated with social anxiety.

I hope this post is helpful. I know that every CBT book out there is a little different so the practices may vary. I am going to my therapist for my CBT training but there are good books out there in the world.

Lastly, what are your experiences with CBT?

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

Photo Credit: unsplash-logoJonatan Pie

35 thoughts on “Learning From Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

  1. I have been doing CBT for 10 years now. It really does help with the paranoia, at least for me. I still under react to certain things because I think it is my mental illness and not a normal reaction. I don’t know what is ‘healthy ‘ and what isn’t all the time. CBT helped me realize I have to look at everything that happens to me like it has happened to someone I love. It is the only way I know how I should react in situations. I find it doesn’t help with my panic attacks though, since sometimes I don’t realize I am having one until I am shaking or crippled with anxiety.

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  2. CBT has been very helpful to me, although I definitely don’t practise my mindfulness breathing as much as I should. Having said that, when my anxiety is preventing me from sleeping it’s often the first thing I turn to. It helps shut the anxiety off before it gets to be too much.

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  3. thank you for the insight–i think i have always rejected breathing exercises because there is so much mental pandemonium that i always ended up being more stressed about my inability to focus on my breathing. i like the idea of allowing your thoughts to be what they are during the exercise and learning to let that or the anxiety around them go, rather than having to block everything out in order to focus on your breathing.

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  4. I’m not sure whether or not my therapist and I work on CBT — we’ve never used a workbook and I’ve been seeing her for most of 23 years. I, do, however, have thoughts wander into my head while doing my silent/mindfulness meditations. I’ve learned not to judge them, and most of the thoughts have to do with writing — story revisions, future blog posts, etc. I’m glad your mindfulness breathing is improving in terms of the thoughts that enter your head.

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  5. Pingback: Blog on CBT – worry-less-journey

  6. Ooh CBT is a good topic. I remember when I fell ill to depression the first time around my parents had printed out a couple of handouts on what kinds of therapies there were for depression and anxiety. Most of the time when I was here, I saw someone who definitely used CBT as a way to help me. She would ask me to look at this chart of faces and id have to indicate which emotion I was feeling. little stuff like that.

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    • I was in a worse place than I am in now when I started. I only finally started to find my way over the past year but I have had some big gaps in between the CBT training. I am getting back on track this summer.


  8. I have a love hate relationship with CBT. On a cognitive/logical level, I get it, and I understand it, and it *is* helpful when I try to engage, but the other half the time, I end up spending the entire session arguing with my therapist about the skills and announcing that it doesn’t work/it’s too hard.

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    • I know where you are coming from. I have had my frustrations with CBT as well because it has worked and not worked for me. I wish it was a cure all. All we can do is focus on the positive aspects.


  9. I’ve had a couple of experiences with CBT, one for psychosis, one just general and I found it great for anxiety as I had a lot of negative cognitive distortions. One of my favorite things is a type of distraction that allows you to do three fun things at once each engaging a different sense…it’s a real pick me up if you’re feeling low.


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