After reading the British Psychology Society's article on personal experiences with psychology as useful information in the real world, I really attached to Emily Holmes' section on "My Inner CBT Therapist," linked HERE. The article talks about how Holmes talked herself through an anxiety-provoking event and how her thoughts were able to change her behavior.
I deal with a tremendous amount of anxiety every day, mainly because I am also recovering from anorexia and bulimia. Holmes' strategy for overcoming anxiety and changing behaviors has been a crucial part of my recovery experience.
In the past, an upcoming paper would instigate thoughts about needing to distract myself from the anxiety of actually finishing the paper; but, then my anxiety would increase even more because I'd be procrastinating more. Instead of dealing with these thoughts in a healthy way, my thoughts told me that I'd have time to finish my paper if I only ate less, giving myself "more space" and time to work on my homework.
Over many therapy sessions and intensive programming for overcoming my eating disorder, I finally realized that thoughts really do change behaviors. Once I started telling myself that I could starve myself, rather than giving myself no other option, I was able to fight the urge to starve; the need to compensate was avoided for the time being. This process wasn't perfect, and I still had moments of "weaknesses" where I gave in to my eating disorder. However, the more that I practiced changing my thoughts--telling myself that I could overcome the urge--the thoughts became more real. It was much easier to believe the thoughts if I kept repeating them to myself (see Chapter 6 on Learning--via repetition--in the Lilienfield textbook).
For those of you who are interested in more information, feel free to contact me or visit the Emily Program's website for Eating Disorders HERE
HERE is a simple diagram of what CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) focuses on with thoughts and behaviors. This may help clear up any confusion for those of you who have not been exposed to this effective--in my experience--technique.