In this blog we are looking at the Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Program (AUTBP) from our Living Life to the Full Course in closer detail to explain some of the frequently asked questions about how to use these really useful strategies to tackle unhelpful thinking styles.
The Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Program from the ‘Why Does Everything Always Go Wrong’ module in LLTTF course aims to help you to tackle unhelpful thoughts which come into your head and get lodged there, sending you into a downwards spiral of negative thinking.
These unhelpful thoughts can spoil your life- affect what you think about, how you feel emotionally and physically and also what you do… and before you know it you are stuck in a vicious cycle. Unhelpful thoughts can become bad habits which affect you all the time and impact your life.
You can use our ‘Unhelpful Thought Spotter’ worksheet to help you to work out if you are ‘mind reading’ – imagining what other proper think about you, and having bad thoughts and other unhelpful thinking styles.
So what do we do about these unhelpful thoughts that go round in our heads? Is it possible just to not think about something when it is in our heads? It can be really difficult to just forget something that is bothering you, so here is an effective way to deal with bad thoughts and bust them for good:
Our Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Program (AUBTBP) has 5 steps:
Step1: Label It- spot one as soon as it enters your head and give it a ‘bad thought’ label. It is important to recognise a bad thought for what it is- it isn’t real or truth. Is it an unhelpful thinking style, mind reading, or are you catastrophising? Criticising yourself and beating yourself up? You can use the unhelpful thought spotter to do this, when you label it, it loses it’s power and loses its strength.
Step 2: Leave It- let it be, imagine it in a corner by itself, just let it be. A bad thought is like a celebrity, it thrives on attention! Leaving a bad thought lets it shuffle away. If the thought is still really loud and insistent, then you need to move on to the next step…
Step 3: Stand Up to It! Unhelpful Thoughts are like bullies! So stand up to it, like you would to a bully. These bad thoughts sound strong but are weak underneath and remember that it is only a bad thought and not the truth.
Step 4: Be nice to yourself. If an unhelpful thought is telling you you’re useless or bound to fail, give yourself the same advice that a loved one would tell you. Think of someone you trust – what would they say?
Step 5: Look at things differently… Imagine if it was a friend experiencing the same feelings and not you having the unhelpful thought, what would you say to them? It is also worth putting the thought or worry into a true perspective- will it matter in 6 months? Think about how others would deal with the problem.
By using any or all of these techniques you will bust even the toughest of unhelpful thoughts.
So by trying the above techniques, at first glance, you might think that by making a note of any negative thoughts that they can then be processed in a thoughts record sheet you are contradicting the advice given to ignore the thought and also stand up to it. However, CBT as an approach is probably best thought of as the “CBTs” with numerous developments of the model over the last 20 to 30 years.
The traditional thought record and challenge structured approach can work well with some people, however it can be quite difficult to implement for some people, especially for those who find it difficult to flexibly gather evidence for and against a particular thought and come up with a balanced conclusion that they can then put into practice, this can require a high degree of cognitive flexibility and educational attainment.
The five areas approach we use in Living Life to the Full (LLTTF) instead draws on a flexible range of new cognitive strategies for helping people to make change, including mindfulness, compassionate mind, behavioural experiments, as well as identifying 7 helpful questions to help the user start to look at their situation differently. These approaches are now widely used and offer an alternative to the original classic tried and tested CBT approach.
We also find them particularly appropriate in a self-help setting where support may not be available.
Our evaluations of the program and feedback from individuals confirm that many people seem to benefit from the way our approach is structured and our publicised randomised control trial in 2018 in the British Journal of Psychiatry confirms improvement in low mood and anxiety.
So looking specifically at step 3 – ‘Standing up to the unhelpful thought’ – this contracts with step 2 and provides an alternative way of thinking about the unhelpful thoughts. In step 2, which is based on mindfulness strategies the suggestion is to not be caught up with the thought by overthinking it.
Step 3 uses a different strategy which focuses on behaviour. It encourages the person to do the opposite of what the unhelpful thought is suggesting in order to test out and discover the impact of the unhelpful thought and by acting against it, it helps the person to discover that they can gain surprising benefits if they change their behaviour to act.
To practise the ‘Amazing Unhelpful Thought Busting Programme’ and use the associated worksheets, you can sign up for free at www.llttf.com or find the module in our ebook ‘Why Does Everything Always Go Wrong’ https://llttf.com/ebooks/llttf-e-books-adults/
The Living Life to the Full Team.