Clinical Psychologist Dr. Clare Kambamettu has very kindly developed an online CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) course exclusively for A Lust for Life readers. We asked Clare to create this as quite often people are unable to afford face to face sessions, which can sometimes be costly, and others prefer to commence this personal journey in a more private manner. Dr. Clare will be adding more blogs which will take you on a week by week process over the coming weeks.
First, let’s get the formalities out of the way. My name is Clare Kambamettu and I work as a clinical psychologist (that means I help people to explore their thoughts and feelings and to learn strategies which can help them to cope better with difficulties). I live in Galway with my boyfriend Sean and Brian The Cat. ‘Great’ I hear you say ‘but what are you doing writing on this website?’
We all know that our physical health is important and we need to do certain things like exercise, eating well, quitting smoking, drinking more water etc. to keep us well. Yet some of us don’t seem to think of our mental health in the same way. There are lots of things we can do to keep ourselves mentally well but how many of these things do we even know about?
As somebody who works with people who are already experiencing mental ill-health I know that it’s much harder to climb out of a hole than it is to avoid falling into it in the first place. So over the next few weeks I’m going to be writing a series of blogs aimed at helping you to start thinking about your mental health. We will be covering stuff about how we think and feel, mindfulness (more about that later) and how to be kind to ourselves. If you follow the blog and do some reading in between, you’re likely to learn at least a couple of things that might help when life gets you down.
To start off with today I am going to be writing about the importance of our thoughts and feelings.
Cats, and most animals really are pretty good at coping, they rely on their instincts and don’t have to deal with the tricky business of thinking and feeling. When Brian The Cat is hungry, he just mooches around his food bowl for a while, he doesn’t think ’I’m really hungry but I might put pressure on Clare to feed me because I can see she’s busy washing dishes, then I might feel guilty so I’ll just sit over here and wait…’ nor does he think ‘I’m the coolest, hardest, meanest cat in town because I only have one eye, ha ha all the other cats will be scared of me now and I can steal their food…’ he just gets on with his life as a cat.
Our ability to think (i.e. analyse, compare, question, evaluate, interpret complex information and make decisions) and our capacity to feel complex emotions such as humiliation, determinedness and confusion is what makes us different, it makes us human and it’s something to be celebrated. Both thoughts and feelings give us really valuable information and feedback about our environments enabling us to live our lives to the fullest.
Most of us think and feel on auto-pilot; that little voice in your head telling you what to do and how to go about doing it just keeps on going. Even when we are sitting still and not doing anything, that voice is still chattering away telling us things about what we are watching, what we can hear, what we did yesterday and our bodies just keep on producing feelings in response.
ACTION: What are you thinking or feeling right now? Imagine you are wading through your head with a giant butterfly net catching all of the things you are saying to yourself. Can you identify what you are thinking? Can you identify how you are feeling right now? Be patient and spend a few minutes trying to get in touch with how you are thinking and feeling.
One of the most effective therapies in psychology is called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and it’s based on the theory that how we think is linked to how we feel and how we behave. So, if we can change how we think, then surely we can change how we feel and then we can change our behaviour. This is brilliant news because sometimes our thinking and feeling can become destructive and that’s when problems can begin. We get stuck on a loop saying critical things to ourselves and then feeling blue and then behaving in a different way than we might behave if we said something positive to ourselves and felt content and happy. Take the following example
The person who goes to the party is likely to get at least some positive feedback from one of their friends and that means they feel good AND are more likely to go to the next party. The person who doesn’t go doesn’t get positive feedback and goes on thinking that their friends don’t like them. Who would you rather be?
The first step in taking control of how you think, feel and behave is to practice noticing how you are thinking and feeling to begin with. If you’ve never done this before it will take some time. It’s a skill just like juggling giant fireballs, the more practice you put in the better you will get at doing it. Be patient with yourself.
Here’s a link to an easy to use thought record for you to practice with over the coming week. Print it out and fill it in! (Thanks to the kind folks at psychologytools.org for their permission to use this sheet)
Dr. Clare encourages you to take your time with WEEK 1 and when you are ready and have followed the process, you can follow through with WEEK 2 by clicking here.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for information purposes only and represents solely the opinions of this author. If you are seeking diagnosis or treatment of a mental health problem you should consult your GP or mental health professional. The information on this website is NOT a substitute for proper diagnosis, treatment or the provision of advice by an appropriate health professional.