“Procrastination is something best put off until tomorrow.” — Gerald Vaughan
The desire to do nothing could be a good change of pace. Or it could be a problem.
When you lack the motivation to do anything, or you are overwhelmed by the urge to do nothing, you can do something.
Intercept Your Automatic Thoughts
The Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts is a technique to use when you’re overwhelmed by the urge to do nothing that just won’t go away.
What I like about this technique is you intercept your automatic thoughts and challenge your thinking.
In Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, Dr. David Burns introduces the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts to help you take action and overcome what he calls “doing nothingism.”
Defeat “Doing Nothingism” with a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts
The Daily Record of Dysfunction thoughts works because it addresses two things:
- You capture your automatic thoughts. This is the process of paying attention to what your automatic thoughts are about a given task or situation. The automatic thoughts can be negative in nature and can gradually undermine your desire to take action, or they can wear you down over time.
- You create rational responses. This is your chance to be mindful and write down a rational response to your automatic thoughts. By noticing your automatic thoughts, you can respond to them more deliberately and start to tune yourself to take action and adopt more effective thoughts.
Steps To Use a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts
Navigating the maze of our minds requires structured tools that can help us identify and address dysfunctional thoughts.
The Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts, as proposed by Burns, offers a systematic approach to this.
Here are the key steps to creating a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts according to Burns:
- Create the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts Table
- Write down the situation or task.
- Write down your thoughts.
- Write down rational responses.
Let’s delve deeper into each step:
1. Create the Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts Table
Purpose: This table serves as a structured framework to capture, analyze, and address dysfunctional thoughts on a daily basis.
- Take a blank sheet of paper.
- Draw five vertical lines, effectively dividing the paper into six distinct columns.
Assign labels to each column as follows:
- Date: To record when the thought occurred.
- Situation: A brief description of the scenario or event that triggered the thought.
- Emotions: Capture the feelings or emotions that arose in response to the situation.
- Automatic Thoughts: Jot down the immediate thoughts or reactions you had.
- Rational Responses: This space is for you to challenge those automatic thoughts and provide a more balanced or rational perspective.
By consistently using this table, you create a tangible record of your thought patterns, allowing you to recognize trends, challenge negative beliefs, and cultivate a more balanced mindset.
2. Write down the situation or task.
Purpose: Capturing the specific event or task provides context to understand the origin of your thoughts.
In the “Situation” column of your table, briefly describe the event, interaction, or task that triggered a significant emotional or cognitive response. This acts as a reference point, helping you pinpoint what situations might be consistent triggers or challenges for you.
3. Write down your thoughts.
Purpose: Recognizing and recording your spontaneous thoughts provides insight into your automatic cognitive reactions to specific situations.
In the “Automatic Thoughts” column, jot down the initial thoughts or reactions that surface in response to the event or task.
These are often the unfiltered, immediate beliefs or perceptions you hold, and by documenting them, you create an opportunity to later analyze and potentially reframe them for a healthier perspective.
4. Write down rational responses.
Purpose: By formulating balanced and reasoned responses, you challenge and counteract any distorted or unrealistic thoughts.
In the “Rational Responses” column, articulate well-thought-out responses that address and counter the automatic thoughts.
These responses should be grounded in reality and offer a more balanced perspective, helping you see beyond any initial cognitive biases or distortions.
Example Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts
Burns include an example of a Daily Record of Dysfunctional Thoughts:
|Date||Situation||Emotions||Automatic Thoughts||Rational Responses||Outcome|
|7/15/99||I stayed in bed all day Sunday – slept off and on – no desire or energy to get up or do anything productive.||Depressed; Exhausted; Guilty; Self-Hatred; Lonely||I have no desire to do anything.||That’s because I’m doing nothing. Remember motivation follows action!||Felt some relief and decided to get up and take a shower at least.|
|–||–||–||I don’t have the energy to get out of bed.||I can get out of bed; I’m not crippled.||–|
|–||–||–||I’m a failure as a person.||I do succeed at things when I want to. Doing nothing makes me depressed and bored but it doesn’t mean I’m “a failure as a person” because there is no such thing!||–|
|–||–||–||I have no real interests.||I do have interests but not when I’m doing nothing. If I get started at something, I’ll probably get more interested.||–|
Defeat your desire to “do nothing”. You’ve got the tools now.
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