The Immense Power of Positive Thinking

If you have ever felt sad, depressed or anxious, I want you to read to the end of this blog and click on the link to the TED talk by Dr David Burns. It’s a powerful description of how we can use our cognitive brains to positively affect our moods, and to change lives. Watch all the way to the end!

I started reading and learning about cognitive therapy several years ago. I have always been fascinated by mood. What is it that happens inside our brains that leaves us feeling elated (“on top of the world”) or gloomy (“down in the dumps”), and everything in between? More importantly, how can we influence what happens in there so that we can spend more time feeling high than low?

A famous American psychiatrist, Aaron Beck, first developed cognitive therapy in the ‘60s. His early work defined the cognitive model, which states that thoughts, feelings and behavior are all connected. His approach can be distilled to three essential insights:

  1. Our thoughts create our moods, and our emotions are the result of the way we interpret the world around us.
  2. Depression and anxiety are often the result of distorted thoughts.
  3. We can be trained to change the way we think, which changes the way we feel.

Cognitive therapy is based on this connectivity, and essentially uses the power of cognition (thought) to influence mood and behavior.

Cognitive therapy is the most researched form of psychotherapy and has demonstrated excellent results. A powerful example is in the treatment of depression, where it has been shown to be at least as good as (many say better than) anti-depressant drugs. Depressed thinking is characteristically distorted. Most of us can recall episodes in our lives when we were sad or anxious. We expected the worst. When the sun rose the next morning, and the things we were dreading did not come true, we felt better. And then, if we looked back with bravery and honesty, we might have realized that our fears were exaggerated – we had imagined outcomes that were distorted and unrealistic. Cognitive therapists help depressed patients to identify the thoughts that distress them, and to evaluate how realistic they are, before teaching them exercises that modify this distorted thinking. When their thoughts become more realistic, they feel better.

Dr David Burns, a world-renowned psychiatrist at Stanford University, led the cognitive therapy revolution in depression. He wrote a pivotal book, Feeling Good, which is often used as a therapeutic intervention on its own. The book is given to patients with depression. This “bibliotherapy” has been shown to improve depression in as many as 70% of the patients in some landmark studies.

This evidence confirms for me the immense power of the cognitive brain on our overall emotional and mental state. If cognitive training can resolve severe depression, it suggests techniques that may help us all to become more powerful, happy people. Most of us suffer from self-abusive ideation. We beat ourselves down, preventing the success we deserve. We tell ourselves we are undeserving. These thoughts are the enemy of BodyWHealth. When we consistently hold thoughts that affirm our worthiness, BodyWHealth follows and its abundant riches. Please review the Belief Trilogy: three blogs that explain the anatomy and power of BELIEF, and outline ways for you to unleash the power of BELIEF in your life.

If you’re interested in learning more, especially about the role of cognitive therapy in depression, here are several excellent resources:

“Feeling Good”, the book by Dr David Burns, and his website: www.feelinggood.com

“Depression: A change of mind”; a good review of the underlying science (what we know and what we don’t know) by Emily Anthes published in the prestigious Nature magazine: http://www.nature.com/news/depression-a-change-of-mind-1.16325

Finally, my personal favorite; the deeply moving TED Talk with Dr David Burns: www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1T5uMeYv9Q

Have fun,

Roddy

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