Podcast Transcriptions

Pursue What Matters

Episode 144: Book Review – Retrain Your Brain: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in 7 Weeks

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Dr. Melissa Smith 0:00
Do you need to retrain your brain? Do you get caught in disastrous thinking, future trippy and mind reading? Well join me as I review a workbook this month that might just help you.

Dr. Melissa Smith 0:15
Hi, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith, welcome to the pursuit matters podcast where we focus on what it takes to thrive in love and work. While we all become the dumbs of our thoughts from one time to another, right? Life is hard. And if you’ve been listening to the podcast in the past few weeks, you know I’m doing a deep dive on our thoughts. And thoughts are wonderful things, but we need to be careful and not take them as truth. And to not take them too seriously. And so with this theme, today, I am sharing a book with you that I think can be very helpful. Now, before we get going, I want you to know that this book is very practical. So it’s a workbook and it is designed to help you to better understand your thoughts and beliefs. And really retrain your brain as the book says, and so if this could be helpful for you, then definitely check it out. And I will include the link to the book with the show notes, we all can become victims of our thoughts from time to time. Our brains are highly attuned to negative stimuli. And we think in stories and stories help us to make sense of the world. And so in the absence of data, as Dr. Brene Brown has taught us, in the absence of data, we make up stories, and the stories bring us certainty, but they also are full of doom and gloom most often. And so we really do want to be aware of our thoughts and see how they might be tripping us up because they can lead to painful emotions, and unhelpful behaviors as a result. So every week with a podcast, my goal is to help you pursue what matters by strengthening your confidence to lead I try to do that in one of three areas. First, clarity, which is all about connection to purpose, second, curiosity, which is all about self awareness. And third is leading and building a community and we think about those specific leadership skills. While today, with our conversation, we will really be focusing on helping you lead with curiosity. It’s all about self awareness, and being able to be a curious observer of your own experience, and take responsibility for yourself, take responsibility for the thoughts that may not be serving you. And so let’s jump right in and learn more about the book and the author. Okay, so this book is called retrain your brain cognitive behavioral therapy in seven weeks a workbook for managing depression and anxiety. So if you’ve been listening, I just did a podcast on depression and anxiety. And it’s, it’s very common to experience both of these. So about half of those with depression also have anxiety. So they often come hand in hand, and cognitive behavioral therapy is the most researched

Dr. Melissa Smith 3:39
intervention for depression, anxiety, and it’s very effective. And so when we think about the roots of depression, anxiety, and their roots really do lie in our thoughts, and then our behaviors as a result of that. And so CBT is a very appropriate intervention. So we think about the cognitive piece of that. So our thoughts when then we also think about the behavioral piece. So what actions are we taking, and if you listen to the podcast on depression and anxiety, we talked a lot about the thoughts. But we also talked about some of the behaviors that can be very ineffective and unhelpful and actually get people caught even more. And at the end, it’s at its root, it’s avoidance. And so thinking about how that might show up for individuals. And so if you’re looking for some good CBT help, this is a great workbook to take a look at. Now, you don’t have to have depression or anxiety to benefit from this book. We all get tripped up by our thoughts. We’re all vulnerable to cognitive distortions from time to time. And so it’s it’s great to have awareness and these skills can be incredibly helpful, not only for yourself, but in leadership and in parent So definitely recommend you, you increase your learning about this. And if this book can help, then great. So this book is designed to take you through seven, a seven week plan. We’re focusing on CBT techniques. And so let’s learn a little bit about the book. So research has shown that CBT is one of the most effective techniques for finding relief from depression, and anxiety. So after 15 years of successfully treating patients using CBT, psychologist, Dr. Seth Gillihan, that’s the author developed this self directed seven week plan that teaches you practical CBT techniques that can help you feel better. So this is designed to be self directed. So CBT helps you identify and replace thought patterns and behaviors that aren’t working with new ones that work better. Whether feelings of depression and anxiety occur constantly or sporadically, right? We’re all vulnerable to some of these distortions, you can create a CBT toolkit to help you get through those feelings and realize your full potential. And so the book is designed each activity is designed to build on the previous weeks. So you really, you know, start to build a snowball effect in terms of helpfulness and effectiveness. And they use a lot of real life examples. I’ve

Dr. Melissa Smith 6:24
had a chance to review the workbook, and they’ve done a nice job. It’s simple. It’s not too complicated, which is good. And that’s a little bit about this book. Okay, so now let’s hear what others are saying about the book. So this is from Robin Fazio. Psychologist. If you are struggling with depression anxiety, this manual is unequivocably a must have this easy to follow up guide clearly and systematically outlines the principles of CBT personal application. This book is masterfully written with relatable examples, allowing the reader to connect and feel understood offering hope for those who are looking to regain control over their lives. So they say it’s a great addition to the self help library. Another review approachable and comprehensive, driven by illustrative cases and useful exercises with clear concise summaries of the underlying theory and supporting evidence must read for anyone seeking life improvement through reduced depression and anxiety. So some nice reviews there. And it’s got a lot of a lot of positive reviews. Also online if you think about Goodreads, and Amazon reviews. So now let’s learn a little bit about the author. So Seth Gillihan. And that’s g i ll Ihan, is a licensed psychologist and Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychology in the psychiatry department at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a clinical practice in Haverford, Pennsylvania, where he specializes in CBT and mindfulness based interventions. Okay, so this book came out in 2016, CBT has been around a while. So it’s not like we’re having incredible innovations every six months. So 2016 works just fine for this kind of content. Okay, so if you’ve been listening along to the podcast, the past few weeks, you have probably had a little bit of a primer in to CBT. So when we think about cognitive behavioral therapy, what we’re really paying attention to, are the relation between our thoughts, our feelings, and our behaviors. And the idea here is that each of these three elements can affect the other elements. So for example, if you are if you have a thought, that thought can lead to emote and emotion, and then that emotion can lead to a behavior, right, it can also work the other way around, where maybe there is a behavior that leads to a feeling that then leads to a belief. And so we want to recognize that these relationships run both ways. And so cognitive behavioral therapy is all about understanding the relationship between your thoughts, your feelings, or emotions and your behaviors. So one of the examples that he uses in the book is a situation of trying to cross a bridge while hiking. Okay. So one of the some of the feelings that you might have include being afraid or discouraged. Some of the thoughts you might have is it’s not safe, I might lose control. I’m a coward. Some of the behaviors could include taking routes that avoid bridges, getting off a bridge if it feels dangerous. Now, you might just start with one of those experiences, right? So you’re crossing a bridge while you’re trying to cross the bridge while hiking and you feel afraid. Okay, and then as soon as that feeling comes up, right, your brain comes in and attaches a thought to it. Maybe that thought is it’s not safe. And so what is the behavior, you take routes that avoid bridges, or maybe as you notice that you’re afraid your thought is, I’m such a coward, right, which is going to lead to feeling discouraged, it’s going to lead to some shame. And so we want to pay attention to the fact that these relationships move in both directions. And you can have situations you can have behaviors that set off feelings that set off thoughts, and vice versa. And that’s really the core of understanding what’s happening with CBT. So whenever you come up against a situation that’s maybe difficult or challenging for you, it can be really helpful to get very curious, and to identify, Okay, what did I feel? So

Dr. Melissa Smith 11:00
what were my emotions or feelings? What did I think? What were my thoughts and beliefs? And what did I do? So what were my behaviors or actions. And as you lean into this process, what you can find is that you’ll start to notice some patterns for yourself, we each have some patterns when it comes to our thinking. And these patterns, you know, are the result of many factors, maybe childhood experiences, some difficulty with relationships, right? Like it can be even like a challenging work situation, can can spur up some of these painful thoughts and memories. And then when we’re in a new situation, right, and those same feelings are triggered, we can come right back to some of these core beliefs and thoughts of I’m stupid, I’m never good enough. And that really can start to create a storm that moves us more towards depression, and or anxiety. And so the first step would be to really identify when you come up against a situation what what are your thoughts? What are your emotions? And what are your actions so you can start to become a curious observer, to your experience. So when we think about why CBT and why does CBT work? It, it really has been around for a long time. So it’s been a research approach for a few years. But the the philosophy behind CBT has been around a long time. So for example, the Greek philosopher Epictetus wrote nearly 2000 years ago, people are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them. And that is exactly what we think about when it comes to CBT. We’re usually not upset about the event, we’re usually upset about our thoughts, our emotions about the event. And those are two different things. And this is the work of CBT is to really help you to pull those apart, so that you’re not responding to the thoughts in your head or the stories in your head, but you’re actually responding to life on the ground and what’s actually happening in the situation. Okay, so one of the things that I’ve talked about the underlies both depression, and anxiety, includes avoidance. Now, avoidance is really tricky. It’s something that we really want to nip in the bud because it’s so unhelpful when it comes to overcoming challenges. And so let’s, let’s think about avoidance. The tricky thing about avoidance is that in the short term, it works. So we come up against a situation. And it might be uncomfortable, right? It might be something that we don’t want to do. And so by avoiding it, right, we, we get some relief. But in the long term, we maybe fell to grow, or we fell to get support. And so there’s an example in the workbook that I think is helpful. So this is talking about cat who has some anxiety. She wanted to she was invited to a party she wanted to go, she knew it would be fun, but at the same time, she had anxiety about it. She was a little nervous about the gathering. Would she have anything interesting to say what would others think of her? And so when we think about that invitation, so that is the experience. Cat had two choices. So her first option was to go out. Her second option was to stay in. So let’s follow that out. If We think about cat deciding to go out. So the short term effect is probably some discomfort, and probably some high effort, right, it requires some effort to get out to socialize. And if you have some social anxiety on board, that’s going to be pretty uncomfortable. So that is the short term effect. But if we think about the long term effect of going out, it is to build rewarding friendships, right, because it takes effort you need to, you need to engage socially to in order to build rewarding friendships. And that’s one of the things that cat wanted in her life. Now, let’s go back to the second option, which is cat could stay in. So the short term effect of that is comfort, right? Oh, I don’t have to deal with my anxiety, I don’t have to think about what to say. So the short term effect is comfort and low effort. But what is the long term effect of that option.

Dr. Melissa Smith 15:58
And for cat, the long term effect is continued loneliness. So she’s isolated, she’s lonely, she doesn’t have these strong social connections. And so this is what you need to understand about avoidance. In the short term, it works, right. So cat by staying in, right by avoiding not social situation, she stayed comfortable, and it didn’t require much effort. But long term effect, it really didn’t serve her. And so when it comes to anxiety and depression, you often need to embrace the discomfort, you need to be willing to do what you don’t want to do. Recognizing that in the short term, that’s going to be uncomfortable, that’s going to require some effort, that’s going to be challenging for you. But if you can hang in there, the long term effect is very beneficial, right. So we make connections, we grow in confidence, and competence. And so that is a principle of CBT, that can be very, very helpful. So if you are someone you love struggle with depression or anxiety, your biggest enemy is avoidance, he really, the only thing to avoid is avoidance. So we really want to tackle these things that that are, are difficult for us. Now, we want to do that with some support and encouragement. And you can do that by starting out with small steps. But it’s really important to face those challenges. Okay, another thing that he covers in the workbook is help to identify thoughts. Now this can be kind of tricky, because for many of us, we believe that our thoughts, our truth, and we just we don’t even recognize them as thoughts. So it’s not uncommon to say, gosh, like I don’t, I didn’t even recognize that I had a thought it’s just something happened. And so we want to really develop these skills of self awareness so that we can really start to tease apart our thoughts and our emotions. And so when you think about a situation, right, start to get curious about what am I thinking, what am I feeling? What am I doing, and you can start by looking back on something. So you could think about something that happened not too long ago that was upsetting to you, right? You’ll probably be able to remember that, that it was upsetting to you. And you could start with either thoughts or emotions. So you could start with what was I feeling? Well, I was feeling really sad, or I was feeling really hurt, or I was feeling really lonely. And then from that you want to follow the thread to what were the thoughts you were having? Or what guesses do you have about the thoughts that you are having? And so maybe what you get to is, oh, I was feeling so lonely. I know what I was doing. I was scrolling through social media. And I saw that some people I knew were hanging out and look like they were having a lot of fun. Now, it’s not an uncommon experience or hate for anyone on social media. And so what might have been the thought, as a result of that action at that emotion, maybe the thought was no one likes me, I’ll always be alone. They have it better, right? There can be all sorts of thoughts. And so you can see how these three components can work together to really lead to more misery ultimately. And that’s when we think about the triad of misery. That’s exactly what happens for many of us. And so we just want to start getting curious like what are my thoughts? What are my emotions? And what are my actions and think about yourself as a detective. All right, trying to make sense of what is happening. Okay, so one of the other topics that is covered in the workbook includes errors in thinking. And so I talked about cognitive distortions, not too long ago. And so go check out that podcast if you haven’t heard it already. But it’s important to recognize that we do make thinking errors, not all of our thoughts are accurate. And so there’s a nice exercise where we can start to examine the evidence of our thoughts it to determine if our thoughts are,

Dr. Melissa Smith 20:43
if they’re accurate, or if they represent an error in our thinking. And so you can start by identifying a troublesome thought, right, so maybe it’s, no one loves me. And on one side of a piece of paper, you make a list of evidence for my thought, Okay, so the thought is, nobody loves me. And you make a list of evidence for your thought. So not evidence in your head, but evidence in real life. And then on the other side of the paper, you make a list of evidence against my thought. So what is the evidence that shows that I am loved that people do care about me that do people do enjoy being with me, this can be so helpful, such a helpful activity to help you break through your cognitive distortions, because if you’re like most of us, we get pretty comfortable with our current cognitive distortions. And if we’re not careful, we start to take those as truth, right as as the core of who we are. And of course, that is not helpful at all. And so we really do want to use that skill to help us challenge those cognitive distortions, because what happens over time is when we let these cognitive distortions run unchecked, they become, you know, some common themes, or even some core beliefs for us if we’re not careful. And that can be really disastrous. And that’s really where depression and anxiety can get very entrenched over time. And so we really do want to call ourselves out on some of those cognitive distortions. So when it comes to depression, right, we tend to have thoughts about ourselves that are very, very negative. So we might assume we’ll fail or that if we failed, it’s because we’re defective in some fundamental way. And so when things go wrong, we’ll take it personally. And we may assume we’ll always mess things up. And so these could be some core themes or some core beliefs that you might have. So if you deal with depression, this comes from our author, look for signs that your thoughts about yourself are harsher than they need to be based on the facts. This is why we want to use the evidence for and against a thought. When we take a close look at our depression related thoughts and assumptions. We often find they’re unfounded, or at best, loosely based in reality, also look for thoughts that start with I should so this is a very cognitive, very common cognitive distortion. These kinds of thoughts are often heavy handed, and not based in reality. So we want to stay away from those should statements. So the goal in questioning our negative thoughts, right to get curious about them, is not to convince ourselves that nothing is our fault. Rather, our goal is to see ourselves more clearly. So we want to practice seeing our imperfections as part of the whole picture of who we are, rather than, you know, labeling or judging ourselves for the fact that we’re human, and we’re going to make mistakes. So those are some common themes when it comes to depression. And then I’ll just wrap up with some themes that are common to anxiety. So this is where we want to get curious. And we don’t want to take those thoughts at face value. So when we’re highly anxious, we tend to overestimate the probability that what we’re afraid of will happen. So for example, in panic disorder, will we often believe that we will think or suffocate as a result of the panic attack? Sometimes people feel like they’re going to die, it can feel like that. We, we also might get to a point where we can’t trust ourselves because what if I have a panic attack and so we end up avoiding things in life that could potentially include some anxiety so whether it’s avoiding airplane flights, whether it’s Avoiding social situations. And so when it comes to

Dr. Melissa Smith 25:05
anxiety, right, we really tend to over inflate and overestimate the probability of what we’re worrying about happening. And with that, right, there’s overwhelmed, but there’s also this sense of incompetence. Like I can’t handle it, if something bad happens, the other thing that happens with anxiety is we tend to exaggerate the cost of the outcome we’re afraid of. So you know, if we go to a social situation, and we don’t know what to say, we’re going to be so embarrassed in front of everyone, everyone’s gonna make fun of us. And the reality is, that’s probably not going to happen. You know, we all make social missteps from time to time. And so we we really want to be careful about not having such a spotlight on our fears, and potential outcomes. So again, this is where it’s really helpful to look at evidence for and against our thoughts, because most of the time, when we, when we dig closer, when we take a closer look, there’s not much evidence to support our panic, or anxiety or depressive thoughts. And so we really do want to take responsibility for ourselves by identifying and understanding some of our core beliefs, our core fears, and how they might trip us up from time to time. And so that is the book that we have for you today. So you can head on over to my website to check out the show notes. Find a link to the book and other resources by going to www.drmelissasmith.com/144-retrainyourbrain. One more time. That’s www.drmelissasmith.com/144-retrainyourbrain. I am, I’m social. I’d love to connect with you on social media. I’ve always got more great content for each episode on Instagram. So definitely join me there. And of course, if you would like to leave a review that would be so great. It helps people discover the podcast and I would love your feedback. In the meantime, I’m Dr. Melissa Smith. Remember love and work, work and love. That’s all there is. Until next time, take good care.

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