#0011 — Thought Record

How to understand where stress is coming from.


Do you ever get anxious and not understand why?


🛑 Problem:

Sometimes it’s hard to know where our stress is coming from. We need to understand what’s causing our worries before we can solve them.


✅ Solution:

We can use a Thought Record exercise to reveal patterns in what’s causing our stress.

Thought records can solve a few different problems, but we are going to focus on identifying sources of stress for this example.


📝 Thought record:

A thought record is a quick writing exercise. It’s an essential part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Thought records are done on worksheets like this:


🔎 How it works:

This exercise can be done in the moment when you’re feeling stressed, or at the end of your day when you have time to reflect.

After completing enough thought records, you may be able to see patterns and common triggers that lead to stress.

For example, lots of people experience anxiety and depression on the weekends. This happens because they’re not at work and have lots of free time by themselves. Their minds begin to wander. The connection between weekend-loneliness and stress can be identified by completing thought records over time.


🤲 Example:


📺 (Amazing) Video demonstration:

Using a thought record to identify the source of depression.


✍️ Try now:

When and where are you more likely to let your emotions get the best of you?

Print this worksheet or download a CBT app to fill out a thought record now. Don't try to do this exercise in your head because writing it out is more effective.


📈 Some stats:

I don’t have data on this exercise specifically, but there is a lot of data on the effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for which this exercise is a critical part of:

  • A 2012 meta-study of 269 studies about CBT found that there is “very strong” evidence that CBT successfully treats anxiety, anger management, and stress. — Department of Psychology, Boston University

  • A 2008 study found that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is as effective as antidepressant drug therapy at reducing depression symptoms. — University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

  • A 2008 study examined 300 CBT patients and determined that CBT significantly alleviated symptoms of worrying and depression. — Department for Anxiety Disorders Overwaal, Forum GGz Nijmegen, The Netherlands


🌇 Conclusion:

Thought records can solve a few different problems, but they are uniquely great at identifying patterns in our emotions and behaviors.

If you already know when/where/why your stress comes from, then the triple column technique is a great exercise to try next.


📖 Read more:

Why do I need to record my thoughts? https://www.psychologytools.com/self-help/thought-records/

Cognitive restructuring: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_restructuring

Blank thought record worksheet: https://www.therapistaid.com/worksheets/thought-record.pdf


📱 Practice more:

Download Bold CBT. It’s an iOS app that I made which makes it easier to do mental health exercises like this one.


🙏 Thank you

I’m grateful that you read this far! Please send me an email to tell me what you think. Your feedback makes the newsletter better for everyone.

  • john@boldCBT.com

Please subscribe to get more mental health exercises like this each week.