Thought Tracking Sheet: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

DenaSeptember 20, 2022

It has been two decades since I learned the power of thought tracking and it saved my life. I first wrote about thought tracking in 2009, today, 13 years later, I am sharing the tool so that you can use it yourself. I have created this free thought tracking sheet that you can use to track, understand, and change your thoughts.

Click here to download the sheet now. Read on for more information about how the sheet works and how to use it.

For people who suffer from anxiety, distorted thoughts are very common—so common, in fact, that they become automatic. Learning how to stop automatic, negative, irrational thoughts is a powerful tool for overcoming anxiety.

Using a thought tracking sheet like this one is an effective method for changing our thought processes. You can use this sheet, to track your thoughts as they occur to you. Or at the end of the day, you can reflect on thoughts that you had throughout the day, and fill in this sheet. If you do wait to the end of the day to fill in your sheet, it may be helpful to jot things down during the day to come back to later.

When you download the sheets, you will find 2 pages. The first is a sample sheet that show examples of how to use the sheet. The second is a blank sheet for you to fill in yourself. You can print this and write in your thoughts or the sheet is available as a Google Drive document if you prefer to type your thoughts in.

As you use begin to use this powerful tool, you will be amazed at the results. Tracking your thoughts in this manner will absolutely change your life if you stick with it. Commit to this process and watch your life transform.

Now let’s talk about thought tracking and why it is so powerful.

Anxiety is caused by negative, irrational thoughts. All people experience negative, irrational thoughts occasionally. However, in the anxious mind negative, irrational thoughts are too frequent and intense. It is healthy to have a balance of rational, healthy thoughts and occasional negative, irrational thoughts. But when there is an imbalance, anxiety arises. The frequency and intensity of the negative, irrational thoughts makes way for mental illness. The person is unable to see through the negativity and irrationality. Anxiety consumes them.

This was the case for me for the first 20 years of my life and as such, I was so overwhelmed by my anxiety that I became suicidal. This is why I say that learning to change my thoughts saved my life. I am most certain that if I had stayed on the path that I was on, I would not be alive today.

This is the power of changing your thought process. It can transform and save your life.

By using a thought tracking sheet like this one, with practice, you can learn to change your negative, irrational thoughts into positive, rational thoughts. YOu can eliminate anxiety, overcome mental illness, and live in peace.

You Are Not Your Thoughts and Your Thoughts Are Not Always True

The first step to changing your thoughts is to understand that you are not your thoughts, you are the conscious presence behind your thoughts. If you quiet your mind for a moment and be still, so that no thoughts are running through your mind, you will notice that you still exist. You are still present. You are still breathing. That presence is who you are. Your thoughts are not you, they are just thoughts.

To overcome anxiety, we must recognize our thoughts for what they are and understand that they are not who we are. This distinction is critical. We must never be completely identified with our thoughts. We must always remember that our thoughts come and go. They are not real and we do not have to believe them. Our thoughts are not always true or valid. Just because you think something, that doesn’t make it true. Learn to question your thoughts. They are just thoughts, passing through your mind. You have control over your thoughts, not the other way around.

Identifying the Types of Thoughts

Negative irrational thoughts are just that—negative and irrational. Likewise, positive, rational thoughts are positive and rational. Most anxious people have been anxious for so long that they do not even realize that most of their thoughts are negative and irrational. In other words, they can’t see the forest through the trees.

This is why thought tracking is so important. We write our thoughts down and they are suddenly very clear and visible to us. From here, we can recognize our thoughts for what they are and we can begin to change them. Many people want to skip the part where you have to write down your thoughts because it can be tedious. But for the anxious mind this is a most critical step. We must first write down our thoughts and manually change them. With time, this will happen automatically. But in the beginning, writing them down is critical. It is like learning any new skill. You must start out slow and eventually, you will master it.

For me, it took about 6 months of writing my thoughts down, and then one day it began to happen automatically. I no longer needed to write them down. Your mind will just begin to transform thoughts automatically. It will be incredible and life changing. But do not rush to that point. Put in the work now of writing down your thoughts. It will be worth it.

The easiest way to sight the difference between negative, irrational thoughts and positive rational thoughts is by comparing examples. Let’s look at a few now.

Negative Irrational: It is raining out this morning. I am definitely going to have a bad day.
Positive Rational: It is raining out this morning. What a gift! It has been dry for awhile, we desperately need the water.

Negative Irrational: My parents are on the verge of losing their house. This is all my fault. I should have never been born.
Positive Rational: It is unfortunate about my parent’s financial situation. Still, I recognize that their problems are not my own. I will offer them love and support with healthy boundaries in place.

Negative Irrational: That guy just hit my car bumper. Just my luck. I can’t afford this. I’m going to be late for work. I’m going to get fired. Bad things always happen to me. If I lose my job, I will lose my house. I am on the verge of being homeless.
Positive Rational: That guy just hit my car bumper. Thank goodness that I am not hurt and we were both doing the speed limit. This could have been a lot worse.

In these examples we can see the difference between the thought types. There are many more examples on the sheet. Every thought has the potential to be either negative or positive. And every thought has the potential to be either irrational or rational. Learning to switch our thought process in this way is the path to freedom from anxiety.

How to Change Your Thoughts by Practice

Writing thoughts down on your thought tracking sheet throughout the day is the best method of tracking your thoughts. Every time you start to feel anxious, write down the thoughts that pass through your mind. If you have time in the moment, you can begin to analyze your thoughts by filling out the other columns on the sheet.

Write down the situation, what actually happened to cause the thoughts. Write down the actual thoughts. Write down the emotions that the thoughts made you feel. Write down your behavior in reaction to the thoughts. And finally, write down an alternate thought. Your original thought will usually be negative and irrational, so your alternate thought should be positive and rational.

It’s that simple! This process, as simple as it may seem, absolutely has the power to change your life. I am telling you this from experience. It completely changed, and saved, my life. It can do the same for you if you stick with it.

In Closing

If you haven’t done so yet, go ahead and download your free thought tracking sheet.

What I have shared here today is the basic outline for tracking your thoughts. WHile I used this method to get a strong handle on my anxiety, sometimes my anxiety catches up with me, even today, two decades since I started this practice. Whenever that happens, I just go back to the basic. I track my thoughts again until I find my mindset changing.

Over the years, I have continued to educate myself about the power of thinking, human behavior and cognitive behavioral therapy. I have learned so much and in coming posts, I will share much more. Stay tuned.

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