Rethink unhelpful thoughts

Virtual First | Well-being Kit

Remote work means spending more time alone, with nothing but an IV drip of emails and your own mental chatter to keep you company. Sitting with thoughts all day can be, well, thought-provoking. But when your thoughts aren’t helpful, they can also lead to poor moods and behaviors. Use this exercise to improve your thinking patterns, with tips from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

20MINS/DAY  |  PERSONAL EXERCISE

Step 1: Learn common thinking styles

Is your brain a big bully or your BFF? There are a few common thinking styles—like magnifying a small problem or focusing only on the negative—that cause us trouble. Take a look at thinking styles 101 below. When you’re done, reflect:

  • The unhelpful thinking style I most often use is ________
  • I’m best at reframing unhelpful thoughts when ________
Thinking Styles 101

Step 2: Track your thoughts

Thoughts come and go all day long, often under the radar of consciousness. Simply noticing them can help you better understand yourself. Pick a time to track your thoughts—could be 20 minutes per day or per week. Then fill out the thought tracker (below) during that time. When you’re done, reflect: 

  • The situations that triggered my most unhelpful thoughts were ______ 
  • The situations that triggered my most helpful thoughts were _______ 
  • When I have an unhelpful thought, I tend to ________
Thought tracker

What’s on your mind?

Use this tracker to learn how different situations trigger your thoughts and actions. (Stumped about feelings? Try the feelings cheat sheet, too.)

Step 3: Rewrite unhelpful thoughts

Let’s challenge your unhelpful thoughts with a technique called “examining the evidence.” Pick a thought to rewrite and fill out the unhelpful thoughts worksheet below. When you’re done, reflect: Did I feel any different after rewriting my thoughts? What surprised, confused, or challenged me?
Unhelpful thoughts worksheet

It’s time to train your brain.

Use this worksheet to change an unhelpful thought into a helpful one.

Unhelpful thoughts worksheet

Extra credit: Cultivate healthy thoughts

Supreme mental health isn’t something we’re all born with—it’s a skill. And like any skill, this one takes practice. Make thought tracking and rewriting a regular part of your self-care routine. What happens when you pay more attention to your mind’s chatter? 

More resources

3 easy wins

Build the habit

  • Tomorrow: Pay attention to your thoughts for 10 seconds
  • Next week: Pick ONE unhelpful thought and rewrite it
  • Quarterly: Track your thoughts for a week. What do you notice?