Cognitive therapy is a modern system of psychotherapy based on the age-old idea that what we think influences our emotions (how we feel), our behavior (how we act), and our physiology (our body reactions). According to this view, thoughts that occur automatically and outside of our awareness that are distorted, exaggerated, mistaken, or unrealistic contribute to the negative emotional feelings that accompany many common problems, such as depression, anxiety, and stress-related disorders. In other words, cognitive therapy assumes that people become depressed or anxious, not because of the events occurring in their lives, but rather because of the way in which they interpret those events.

For instance, if you lose your job, you may interpret that as a disaster, think to yourself "I’ll never get as good a job again", and become quite depressed. Or you might focus on the things you didn’t like about your job and see this as an opportunity to find a better job. Same situation, different thoughts, and thus different feelings.

Another example. We all make mistakes in our lives. If you focus on all the mistakes you’ve made in the past year and berate yourself about those mistakes, then you will probably experience negative feelings. If instead you see those mistakes against the backdrop of your successes, then you will have more positive feelings.

We are usually unaware of the relationship between our thoughts and our feelings because we are preoccupied or engrossed in our active lives. And even if we become aware of our thoughts, we rarely evaluate them as to their accuracy!

To more effectively overcome depression, anxiety, and other common problems people need to learn how to recognize, evaluate, and alter negative thought patterns. Cognitive therapists teach a variety of skills for identifying, analyzing, and ultimately changing inaccurate thought patterns to make them more accurate. By changing these thought patterns you can learn ways to feel better by thinking better!