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Practice Makes Cognitive Control of Emotions Effortless and Continuous

Cognitive control of emotions can help you remain calm under pressure, stay positive in moments of adversity, and keep you from becoming overwhelmed by anger or sadness.

Controlling your emotions with cognitive reasoning can be exhausting[1] and the rational brain avoids the effort of correcting the intuitive understanding that triggers intense emotions. It is therefore, not surprising that many unnecessary intense negative emotions go unchecked. With the automatic thinking, that explains them, unchallenged.

Cognitive control of emotions can be trained to occur automatically[2]. Once a brain function becomes automatic, it also becomes efficient, fast, unconscious and relatively effortless.

If you are able to practice cognitive control of your emotions to the point of making it automatic, this will enable you to exert continuous control over negative feelings. Just like your brain controls complex muscle movements when you are walking up the stairs, your brain can be trained to process negative emotions without you needing to even make a decision to start doing so.

Consistently identifying the moments and situations when negative emotions are triggered, together with an exploration and correction of the associated distorted thinking, plays a central role in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Practicing CBT exercises is not an optional, but an essential component of this treatment modality because it facilitates the gradual incorporation of the cognitive skills learned into the patient's mental life.