Practices in cognitive restructuring, like mindfulness meditation and self-compassion exercises, can help relieve stress and anxiety and improve your mood. And so, yoga on.
Cognitive restructuring? Sounds a little 1984/The Matrix sci-fi. Get out of our brains! But the truth is we’re all guilty of some sort of cognitive distortions at one time or another. Taking things too personally, minimizing achievements, having an “all or nothing” attitude, making negative predictions, thinking in “shoulds” and “musts,” assuming your current feelings will stay the same in the future are all examples of cognitive distortions that come easy for we humans living in society.
Hello little voices in your head that give you a hard time for not balancing so well today in class or forgetting to pay a bill or holding a grudge against a neighbor and so on. We could also call them vrittis, or fluctuations of the mind, eh? (Here’s a list of 50 cognitive distortions for reference and to make you paranoid. Kidding. Seriously, though, try noticing your automatic thoughts when you read them!)
There is good news. And opportunity, with a special nod to yoga practitioners, to switch off the internal broken record of negativity and misinterpretation. This post from Lifehacker by clinical and social psychologist Alice Boyes, PhD. features tips for cognitive restructuring as part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), one of the most effective treatments for common problems like depression, anxiety and eating disorders. Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that these techniques include practicing awareness of your thoughts, mindfulness meditation and self-compassion. Sound familiar?
Mindful awareness of what thoughts you’re having is an essential first step in cognitive restructuring.
Cognitive restructuring will help you balance and/or quell those nasty distortions. Now before you go running around telling everyone you have 42 different cognitive distortions, take a moment, take a breath and let it go. Yoga on.
Has yoga helped you be more aware of and maybe help assuage the inner critic?
If you have the time, this is an interesting Google Tech Talk on the Cognitive Neuroscience of Mindfulness Meditation with Phillipe Golden.
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I think CBT can help many people and it’s good to promote it. However, for people with deep emotional problems it often leads to a relentless effort of self improvement, with people trying so hard to “fix” all their negative thoughts and issues. No one is perfect and I think sometimes people think being a yogi means being serenely happy and calm 24/7, which is not the point at all.
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