It’s hard to be sure if some of our behaviors are beneficial or not. For example, sometimes we overthink a situation. This ruminating can cause a lot of stress. But it also reaffirms that we care a lot and can almost feel helpful. So should we continue this behavior of overthinking?
We can use an exercise named cost benefit analysis to identify which behaviors are beneficial or not. It’s a quick writing exercise that helps us regain control of our behaviors and habits.
🔬 How it works
Cost benefit analysis makes the costs of our bad behaviors more clear. Psychologists believe that this awareness makes us more likely to abandon bad behaviors. (Overcoming Resistance, Ellis, 2007)
The biggest benefit you will likely see from doing cost benefit analysis is a feeling of control and empowerment over your unwanted behaviors.
We will identify the costs and benefits of different behaviors, and then score them at the end.
There’s a few steps:
Choose a behavior you want to examine, then identify an alternate behavior that might be more beneficial to you.
alternate behavior: acceptance and letting go
Write all the negative consequences of this behavior.
causes stress (5)
wastes time (3)
could bother others (4)
Write all the benefits of this behavior.
affirms that I care deeply about some situation (3)
can make me feel more safe / prepared (3)
Write the “costs” of the alternate behavior.
I might be too accepting and get hurt (2)
Not knowing what could happen (4)
Write the benefits of the alternate behavior.
less stress (5)
less time spent ruminating (3)
build confidence against uncertainty (5)
For every cost or benefit you wrote, think about the impact (good or bad) that each of these reasons has on your life. Score each reason with a number between 1 and 5 (5 being extremely impactful).
Add up the scores. You will probably notice that the bad behavior hurts more than it helps, and that the alternative behavior could help more than it hurts.
cost of bad behavior: 12
benefit of bad behavior: 6
cost of alternate behavior: 6
benefit of alternate behavior: 13
✍️ Try now
Identify a behavior that you’re conflicted about. Then grab a pen and paper or use a mental health app to complete this exercise.
Writing the answer is critical because it makes you more likely to reinforce the exercise (seriously, doing this exercise “in your head” is worthless).
📺 Video demonstration
Cost benefit analysis will help you decide which behaviors you need to change. And more importantly, it builds momentum for making those changes.
Momentum is critical to forming new habits. You can learn more about this in a previous article titled identity based habits.
📖 Read more
How a CBT therapist uses cost benefit analysis: https://www.efficacy.org.uk/blog/cognitive-behavioural-therapy/how-a-cbt-therapist-uses-cost-benefit-analysis/
Overcoming Resistance: https://books.google.com/books?id=58VpGb1SEXAC&pg=PA70
📱 Practice more
Download Bold CBT. It’s an iOS app that I made with a lot of mental health exercises like this.
🙏 Thank you
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