Negative thoughts hook us in more than positive ones: SUSANNAH TAYLOR EXPLAINS why we all need DIY therapy
With the world in the grip of a mental-health crisis and not enough practitioners to go round, psychotherapist Owen O’Kane’s new book How to Be Your Own Therapist*, which is out this week, couldn’t come at a better time. The former NHS mental health clinical lead has created an easy-to-read therapy crash course that anyone can benefit from. As he says, ‘A lot of adults are going through life using childhood coping strategies. And that, in my experience, is the root of much human distress.’ Here’s his key advice…
Psychotherapist Owen O’Kane, a former NHS mental health clinical lead has created an easy-to-read therapy crash course that anyone can benefit from
Try this wake-up call
- Just as reading a book about exercise won’t get you fit, simply reading a book about therapy won’t help your mental health – you need to do something, starting with this four-minute self-therapy session each morning:
- Ask yourself: ‘How am I doing today?’ Whether you feel sad or jubilant, determining your mood can help you plan your day.
- Next think about what you need today. Maybe, for example, you’re feeling angry or lonely. If so, what can you do to look after yourself accordingly?
- Focus on gratitude and intention. Think of three things you are grateful for, then think of three intentions for the day.
- Finally, ground yourself. To do this, O’Kane encourages us to close our eyes and picture a place that represents beauty and peace then think of a word to describe it, – for example ‘joy’. He then suggests tapping each thigh rhythmically, which will help reinforce the sense of ease.
Write down your story
If you like, you can split it into decades. Without ruminating or overthinking, jot down the things that felt good in your life and those that felt bad. O’Kane says that it’s really important to be honest with yourself, as we can often sugar-coat events – and, while this process can bring up difficult feelings, it’s important we unearth them in order to make sense of who we are today.
Don’t believe everything you think
Negative thoughts hook us in more than the good ones. ‘They have a magnetic quality,’ says O’Kane, which makes us more likely to listen to them. But, he adds, our thoughts are not always true. ‘We tend to accept our thoughts as factual, but sometimes they are random and make no sense,’ he says. Try questioning the ones that make you feel bad by writing them down and examining them. Is there irrefutable proof that what you are thinking is true? Then replace that thought with something more helpful.
Question your beliefs
Many of us hold on to the beliefs we were taught as children. Things such as: I must be successful, I must make lots of money, I should have a proper job. O’Kane encourages us to make a list of all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ in our life and then ask whether there is a more flexible way of thinking.
Ask yourself: Are you connecting with life?
Often when we are going through tough times we stop engaging with life. Part of O’Kane’s treatment plan for clients is to make sure they are connecting with something – whether that be work, socialising, exercising or a hobby.
Remember, you matter
Without knowing it, many of us treat ourselves like an enemy. In his book O’Kane teaches us to talk to ourselves ‘as if we are someone who matters’, and to look after ourselves with good nutrition, exercise and by taking time out.
We’re all ears for Healing
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