There are six steps to keeping a thought record.
Step 1. When you feel a particularly unpleasant or intense emotion, take the time to complete a thought record, rather than just enduring the emotion until it passes.
Step 2. Divide a piece of paper into four columns. Label the first column Mood, the second Thought, the third Evidence Supporting the Thought and the fourth Evidence Refuting the Thought. In the first column, write the emotions you're feeling, then rate the intensity of each emotion on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 means you aren’t experiencing that emotion at all, and 100 means you’re feeling it at its most intense extreme. Note that the act of rating your emotion may actually help to alleviate some of the intensity of the pain.
Step 3. Ask yourself the following question: “I’m feeling __ right now; what’s going through my mind?” Reflect on the thoughts that underlie your emotion.
Step 4. Now assess the truth of these thoughts, honestly and factually. This can be an emotionally intense step, and it may be a challenge to see through your depressive thinking to the truth of the situation. If you notice yourself automatically thinking, “Yes! That thought is totally true!” consider whether it is, in fact, 100 percent accurate or whether the truth is more gray than black or white.
Step 5. Negative thoughts can feel so real that it may be difficult to see through them. Come up with evidence to refute your negative thoughts. If something is true, then it’s true; however, many times our negative thoughts aren't true or can't be proven true. During this step, try to be as objective as possible. If it helps, pretend that you're a lawyer defending your client (you) from your thoughts.
Step 6. Now look at the evidence in both columns and rate your emotions again. Has the intensity of your emotions lessened? It’s normal and healthy to experience sadness, grief, and other difficult emotions; however, our thoughts often take our painful emotions and use them as evidence to prove that we are worthless or incompetent. Keeping a thought record can help you regain both a realistic perspective and your equilibrium when you are faced with painful or difficult emotions. This is not about sugar-coating reality or fooling yourself. It's about seeing reality clearly, both the positive and the negative.
Find out more about this book:Depression 101: A Practical Guide to Treatments, Self-Help Strategies, and Preventing Relapse