Spring cleaning for your mind: cultivate healthy goals with REBT

Spring has (almost) sprung! After a long winter, the sun is finally shining brighter, days are getting longer, and nature is bursting with new life. It’s a natural time to feel optimism and motivation for positive change.

Just like we might declutter our homes during spring cleaning, we can also benefit from a ‘spring clean’ of our minds. This metaphorical cleaning involves revisiting our goals and cultivating a mindset that fosters growth.

REBT: A Framework for Rational Optimism

Here’s where Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy (REBT) can help. REBT is a form of therapy that emphasizes the connection between our thoughts, feelings, and actions. It teaches us to take responsibility for our emotions in a way that’s both empowering and realistic.

Its core philosophies are that of emotional responsibility – we are largely responsible for how we feel – and that disturbed emotions are provoked by irrational and unhelpful beliefs. It is by challenging these beliefs and identifying their rational and helpful alternative beliefs that we move to emotional wellbeing.

How can we apply REBT principles to our spring goal refresh? Here are a few tips:

  • Challenge unhelpful beliefs: The winter blues might have left you feeling discouraged about your goals. REBT helps you identify and challenge negative self-talk like ‘Starting towards my goals will be uncomfortable and difficult, and that would be unbearable’. Rather, REBT encourages us to focus on why we want to make the change in the first place, and to understand that even though something is difficult, it is not actually unbearable.

  • Focus on actionable behaviours: Instead of dwelling on the past (‘I should have started this sooner’), shift your focus to a more realistic and rational belief like ‘I would have preferred to have begun sooner, but there’s no rule that says I must have, today is still a good time to start, and even if it is uncomfortable, I can tolerate that’. Then you are more able to think of steps you can take today. What small, achievable things can you do to move closer to your goals? By focusing on the smallest thing, and then the next, we are able to build up to behaviours that are challenging but never overwhelming, keeping us on track and motivated.

  • Celebrate progress, not perfection: Think once more of the changes currently taking place outside in nature. Growth takes time. Flowers bloom at their own pace. Acknowledge and celebrate your progress, no matter how small. This will keep you motivated and cultivate a more realistic sense of achievement. Who says everything has to be perfect? Is there an actual law of nature? Of course there isn’t. We may prefer things to go well, but we can learn to accept that they won’t always. This may be uncomfortable, but definitely tolerable, and certainly in our interests for us to do so. Read up on why progress can sometimes feel slow or difficult, but is always worth the effort here.

By applying these REBT principles, you can revisit your goals with a sense of rational optimism – things might not always be easy, but with determination they can be achieved.

Remember, setbacks are inevitable, but they don’t have to define you. Just like a gardener tends to their plants, you can nurture your goals with self-compassion and a commitment to growth.

So, this spring, don’t just tidy your house or garden. Do your best to clear away unhelpful thoughts and cultivate beliefs that allow you to bloom just like the season.

Nick Jones
REBT/CBT Therapist

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