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How to Stop Negative Self-talk with Thought Logs

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Welcome back to the third, and final installment of the How to stop negative self-talk series!

As you may recall, in the first article we discussed the basic concept of the Cognitive Triangle. In the second article, we explored examples of Cognitive Distortions and how they can influence our thinking.

For more information on the various types of cognitive distortions (there are many), I highly recommend using this article from PsychologyToday. This will provide you with straightforward definitions and examples.

Now we are going to bring it all together and outline a thought log!

What is a Thought Log?

Simply put, a thought log is a document with columns and rows, in which you record experiences, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors throughout your day (or at the end of the day). Additionally, a thought log will often include columns for cognitive distortions, evidence in favor of the thought, and evidence against the thought.

Here is an example:

How to stop negative self-talk with thought logs

Example Thought Log

As you may have noticed, the first 4 columns are from the cognitive triangle: Events, Thoughts, Emotions/Body Sensations, and Actions.

Additionally, we have added: Cognitive Distortions, Evidence for/against the thought, and New Thoughts and Emotions.

Let’s look at an example:

Notice how in the above example, the negative/unhelpful thoughts are labeled using cognitive distortions. The thoughts “I’m probably going to fail…” and “It’s going to be too difficult” are examples of All-or-nothing thinking and jumping to conclusions.

In the next column, evidence for & against the thought is given as well.

And finally, in the last column, the resulting thoughts & emotions (after labeling and challenging the original thinking) are written down.

Why use a Thought Log?

Perhaps the most important question here is: ‘Why should I use a thought log?’ or ‘How will this help me feel less stressed, anxious, or depressed?!’

These are normal questions to ask. Fortunately, there is a simple answer:

Because It Works!

Simply put, research has consistently shown that various cognitive-behavioral techniques, such as thought logs, are effective in improving mood and functioning.

Some of the reasons why keeping a thought log can help to improve moods, include:

  • Developing the habit of writing down your thoughts, emotions, and actions can help you to become more introspective.
  • By identifying cognitive distortions, you can begin to recognize to challenge unhelpful/negative thinking. In time, this will improve your overall mood.
  • By looking for evidence for & against the thought, you continue to challenge exaggerated or negative thinking. As a result, you can take on a more balanced view of yourself and your experience.
  • Over time, you will begin to see patterns and themes to your thinking. This will allow you to more easily challenge your thoughts in the present when anxiety and depression creep in.
  • Generally speaking, this practice will help you to take your thoughts less seriously and remember that thoughts aren’t always “the truth.”

Save For Later

How to Stop Negative Self-Talk by Using Thought Logs

Further Reading

Over to you

How has this blog post helped you? Are you interested in starting a thought log?

Please let us know in the comments!

James Voss, MA, LMHCA

[email protected]

James is a mental health counselor, specializing in the treatment of anxiety, depression, and substance use related issues. James emphasizes the therapeutic relationship with his clients and uses a wide range of techniques to help reduce distress and foster psychological flexibility.

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