We have all heard of the 7-minute workout: jumping jacks, wall sits, push-ups, abdominal crunches, step-up on to the chair, squats, triceps dip on chair, plank, high knees running in place, lunges, push-ups with rotation and side planks … WHEW!
You perform each exercise at a high-intensity effort for 30 seconds or hold for 30 seconds.
For exercises that target two sides (such as your legs), alternate sides for 30 seconds. Rest for 5 seconds after each exercise. This circuit can be repeated 2 to 3 times, if desired. The science behind it is to work out to get the maximum results in the minimum amount of time with just your body weight, a chair, and a wall. Awesome!
A 7 Minute Workout for your Thoughts
But what if you could do a 7-minute workout on your thoughts, how these affect your behaviour, your relationships, your finances and where your life is going generally?
You wouldn’t have to do it every day – perhaps 3 times a week. But like regular exercise, it reaps some great rewards.
I like that wall poster that says:
The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, dodging responsibility, pulling people down, digging up dirt, stirring up trouble, throwing their weight around, and pushing their luck.”
We could also add “Crossing your bridges before you come to them!”
There is another way of giving ourselves a short psychological workout without resorting to such dodgy practices. I call it CBT on the run – for busy people.
Introducing CBT on the Run
You take 3 post-it notes and place them one above the other in a line of 3 vertically. You can do this in the back of an exercise book, put them on your sun visor, the bathroom mirror, or on the inside door of your clothes cupboard. Wherever is convenient – and private too.
On the top one you write: your last thought at night…first thought in the morning. This is usually a pretty similar thought and can reveal some of our deepest fears and issues. You do this in 2-5 words – no more. For example, “I’m all alone” or “Bob’s gone”, “Big day today”, “Got to get a job”, “The dog’s sick”. We get that thought out there in the open and expose it for what it is – a thought.
On the second one: you write the emotion or action that feeds into or comes out of that thought. This might be “I’m stuffed” or “Got to get help” or “Need to make a call”, “Bad”, “Need to think it through…”, “Need money”, “Ring Jan”, “I’m sad”, “I’m afraid”. We get that feeling, that possible course of action out there in the open so that we can make it more public and bring it to our conscious attention – it is then in our mental ‘inbasket’ – for action! This helps us to crystallize our thoughts and get motivated. There is no excuse for being tardy any longer.
On the third post-it note: you record where you want to be in one week’s time, eg dog well, job offer, get counselling, read article, do article, meet Jan, get answers, start applying. This means we have to do something: get information, make an appointment, find out more, discuss, process, talk it through with someone, get help, visit an employment agency, visit Centrelink, not take “No” for an answer.
Tap into all those strengths and resilient thoughts and possible actions you have been developing, which are tucked away there in your consciousness and your imagination. Bring them out and get them moving …
Are There any Rules?
There are no rules except to say that you will soon get annoyed or sick of reading what you wrote! At any time, you can screw up one of the post-it notes – but you have to replace it immediately with another thought or message to self. For example, “Feeling lonely” might become “Feeling better” or “Saw Jan today”. Something else might have happened, such as “Bob’s back!”
It’s all about monitoring ourselves or giving ourselves a little time and motion study on our thoughts, and how we react and behave over time.
You might be surprised at the results! The key is to attend to your notes at least twice a day, be honest and change the notes frequently – a bit like having a shower and changing our clothes and undies to keep nice and fresh!
By the end of the week you may be thinking a different thought, feeling a different emotion and following an action plan with a different outcome. Yay!
Author: Susan Ward, B Arts, B Soc Wk, AMHSW.
Susan Ward has a wealth of experience in helping people with issues like trauma, grief and loss, eating disorders, interpersonal violence, social anxiety, stress, depression, and difficult relationships.
To make an appointment with Accredited Mental Health Social Worker Susan Ward try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call Vision Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3088 5422.
A Good Book to Read: Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Dummies by Rhena Branch and Rob Wilson (John Wiley and Sons, 2020 New Jersey).