Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Exercises You Can Do At Home!

Lately Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been all the rage in the therapy world. Anyone interested in changing their thoughts and behavior can benefit in a relatively short period of time. With the high level of structure in CBT, it can seem daunting to know where to get started. You’ve come to the right place!

At its simplest, CBT is designed to change unhelpful thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors to improve emotional regulation and solve problems with coping strategies. In other words, with practice you can change negative thoughts (“I am terrible at everything I do,”) to thoughts that allow for positivity and growth (“I didn’t do as well as I hoped but I will be better next time”). Over time, you will become more self-confident and have a better outlook on life. Reaching your goals will suddenly become a much easier task. A therapist can help you through the process of deconstructing and redirecting negative thoughts and behaviors, but there are many ways you can get started at home. If you’ve been in cognitive behavioral therapy before, you might even recognize some of these exercises! 

5 Essential CBT Tools:

  • Journaling to self-reflect and identify thought patterns.
    • Journal entries can be about anything as long as they gather your mood and thoughts. These can include the time the mood or thought occurred, the source of it, the intensity, your reaction, and any other important factors. 
  • Exposures to practice mindful responses and understand that sensations of panic are not dangerous.
    • This paradoxical technique helps you ease anxiety about certain things by exposing yourself to them. Completing an anxiety hierarchy ( can help determine how to feasibly confront these stressors. 
  • Progressive muscle relaxation to promote calm, mindful focus, and physical relaxation.
    • Like a body scan, you relax the muscles in one part of your body at a time until your whole body is relaxed. You can practice this technique on your own or with a guide such as this video from the American Lung Association. If you have trouble falling asleep this is a great technique to use!
  • Mindful breathing to promote calm and focus.
    • Like PMR, practicing your breathing helps retrain your body to take steady, full breaths as opposed to the shallow, quick breaths we tend to use in our stressful lives. This is a great technique to practice on your own at any time!
  • Cognitive restructuring to explore causes of faulty thoughts that will be reframed and restructured.
    • To do this you must first identify harmful automatic thoughts, which often include: 
      • Recognizing that a belief is harmful allows you to begin the process of changing it. Determine your own negative beliefs and cognitive distortions by keeping a log of any of these thoughts as they come up. Then practice reframing thoughts into positive thoughts that you can use to correct yourself. 
      • For example: “I hate my new office!” becomes “This window lets in a lot of natural light!”

This is a great starting point if you want to know how CBT can help you

Try using these 5 tools for the next week and see where they take you! . Don’t worry if these don’t seem to help with every problem you’re facing. Some issues need to be tackled in other ways or with the help of a trained professional. For example, you may find that your anxiety is too intense to handle on your own. We can can help you come up with manageable steps to facing some of those fears if you’d like to practice exposures. We can also help you identify patterns and guide you through restructuring your thoughts and behaviors. 

To schedule an appointment, contact us here or call (217)203-2008.