Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and meditation are a match made in heaven.
CBT is a talking treatment or psychotherapy. It helps people understand the reciprocal relationship of thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
CBT can help you change what you think (cognitive) and what you do (Behaviour)
Cognitive behaviour therapy talks about how the past has influenced our lives but unlike other talking treatments it focuses more on the here and now. CBT looks for ways to improve your mental health now.
If we understand that it is not the event that causes emotions but rather our interpretation of the event, we can begin to change how we think.
We interpose our meaning and judgements onto the event and this is what causes emotions. (To be perfectly honest it is extremely difficult to judge any event as you would need an inconceivable amount of data from the past and of things to come to judge it correctly, but most of insist on on judging events anyway even if it causes suffering!)
CBT guides us to change our thoughts and behaviours which leads to feeling better, mentally and physically.
CBT explains how an anxious, depressed or angry person gets caught up in a vicious cycle.
For example a vicious cycle of anxiety may look like this:
'something bad is going to happen to me today'
'I feel bad so it must be bad'
'I can not cope with what's going to happen'
Physical sensations of anxiety, nausea, heart palpitations, tightness in chest and so on.
Avoid people, try to escape or freeze
Try to get rid of the feelings using a coping mechanism, perhaps excessive cleaning or nail bitting, all in an attempt to feel better and escape the anxiety.
This is a perpetual vicious cycle.
Cognitive behaviour therapy looks at breaking the cycle. This is achieved by changing, thoughts and behaviours which leads to feeling better.
CBT gives the client the tools they need to become their own teacher. This is a wonderful idea and it works as long as the client keeps practicing the techniques the counsellor has given them.
Although CBT is a talking therapy it does require practical training and this is where meditation comes in.
Meditation speeds up the process of breaking the vicious cycles of anger, depression and anxiety.
There are thousands of different meditations, but with CBT the first meditation we should learn is one that increases our awareness of thoughts and feelings as they arise. That way we can become the observer of our thoughts and feelings without actually carrying out the behaviours. This enables us to notice our thoughts are not always helpful and right
Another meditation which combines perfectly with CBT is body scan meditation. This increase are awareness of physical sensations, relaxes the body and helps when anger or anxiety arise.
Sometimes physical sensations precede thoughts and behaviours. if we catch this early then we can adjust and break the vicious cycle.
When we combine the above meditations with a daily practice of Anapanasati which translates to "mindful of breathing" we can break the vicious cycles for good.
Mindful of breathing is a closed meditation which helps focus the mind in the present.
If we can learn to focus on exactly what we are doing, then thoughts and behaviours from the past can't intrude on the present. This also helps break the vicious cycles.
Meditation is not just for people who have mental health issues, it is for everyone. It improves all aspects of life and when practiced each day it becomes enjoyable and as easy as taking a breath of fresh air.
Please see the video below for more information.