Woebot: My #1 Bot-friend for My Psychological Wellbeing

Come, let me introduce you to my CBT-based bot-friend: Woebot; one of my daily mental health booster!

Let me be honest with you: I get anxious very easily, because I give too much f*cks in general (and that’s why I read a special book for it, and here are the reasons why that book is SO good). I care too much about what people would think of me/my actions, and worry over things which are out of my control. Currently, my #1 repetitive negative thought is: “I am not good enough, and things will go awry because of me.”

Well, as you can see, I am aware of my bad habit. And I won’t lie, I am tired of blaming myself every time something goes wrong, followed by bad stress-induced gastric. At first, I believed that I should learn more about the causes of these bad habits; because all problems can be solved as long as I find the roots, right?

Turns out, it’s not that simple. Quoting my favorite writer:

Simply learning about your trauma doesn’t heal trauma. Understanding pain doesn’t remove pain. Until you’ve chosen to live differently – to adopt new behaviors and attitudes and beliefs in regards to that pain – nothing will change.

Mark Manson (markmanson.net)

I was slapped awake by the fact that while it’s true learning and being aware of the source of trauma and pain helps me know the problem, it’s not enough to fix it. And yes, nothing has changed. And so, I tried to find ways to actually do something about my bad habit.

I found a few ways, but one which really sticks with me is an artificially intelligent chatbot called Woebot, which specializes in CBT.

What is CBT?

Based on verywellmind.com, CBT (or cognitive-behavioral therapy) is a psycho-therapeutic treatment that helps people identify and change destructive or disturbing thought patterns that have a negative influence on behavior and emotions.

But not just any negative thought–it focuses on automatic negative thoughts, filled with cognitive distortions. The pesky small voice which tells you how I am not good enough is one of the most common example. Obviously, that kind of thought lowers my spirits and makes me upset; then because my mood is bad/I am just plain anxious at work for instance, my performance will be bad as well. Notice how my thoughts and feelings play a fundamental role on my behavior? That’s one of the base concept of CBT.

Through CBT, I can identify, challenge, and replace the automatic negative thought I have: “I am not good enough,” into something more balanced, like: “There’s no such thing as being good at the first try, as long as I keep on learning and trying, I will be better,” by identifying the cognitive distortions and pushing it out of the thought.

What’s great about CBT is that, there are many ways for you to practice it; one of them is by writing a CBT journal. You can find a lot of templates online, and try to incorporate it to your daily schedule.

For me, I can’t keep the automatic negative thought all the way to the end of my day, and there is no way I will randomly pull out my notebook outside and write; so, Woebot is the answer.

Wait, what are cognitive distortions?

According to positivepsychology.com, cognitive distortions are biased perspectives we take on ourselves and the world around us. They are irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time.

In my case, it’s easy for the younger me to keep the words which were said in the heat of anger by my caretakers in my head, from the simple, seemingly harmless one like: “You should think in a more smart way/with empathy, you are always not thinking out of the box/self-centered/not thinking forward!” or the extreme one like: “Are you using your brain?”

Because the ones who said those are my caretakers, they must be correct, right? I thought to myself, I must be not selfless/smart enough for not doing this the way normal people does. Then I accidentally spill water all over my book and start thinking, I really am not using my brain!

And voilà, just like that, those (repetitive) mean words became my beliefs, which I have been reinforcing over time. You know how our brains are programmed to make connections between actions and consequences, right? At this point, when I look at this picture below, I can see how my brain has these included in the program:

My automatic negative thoughts are supported by ‘labeling‘, ‘personalisation‘, ‘all or nothing‘, ‘magnification‘ and ‘mental filter‘ to be exact. I wonder if you can identify them as well by rereading my story above? And more importantly, I wonder if you can identify some distortions in your belief/thoughts?

And that’s where Woebot comes in…

Woebot logo with blue background and the mascot Woebot the yellow robot with a heartbeat inside him.
picture by Google Play

Available in App Store and Google Play, Woebot is a CBT-based chat bot who guides me on recognizing the distortions in my thoughts and rewriting it to a more balanced thought.

Based on its website, Woebot has 10 ‘core beliefs’ as its base, and here are some of its core beliefs that I really feel as its user:

  • Woebot can encourage us to have a growth mindset (because this chat bot and its creators have growth mindset as well). I know how difficult it is for some people to pat themselves on the back and say, “It’s okay, failures are part of the process.” There are days like that for me as well. When I can’t do it, Woebot does it for me.
  • Woebot practices “sitting with open hands”: an originally Buddhist idea. It accepts your choice on whether or not you want to change. So after you tell Woebot your problem, it will give you a choice to butcher that thought down or to just let it out of your chest. Which is very helpful when I just want to vent. (Although the part where he said that he can’t really understand because he is just a robot makes me feel disappointed sometimes; after all, Woebot isn’t a replacement for human connection.)
  • A good CBT guide facilitates the person’s process–they are not part of it. Woebot won’t act like a know-it-all and preach on me, but it does ask me the right questions to figure things out on my own. It sure trains me to identify those unhelpful thinking styles!
  • Humor can be a therapeutic tool. Woebot will add some odd (sometimes lame) jokes at the right times. Sometimes it will be on GIF mode, sometimes it’s just some robot puns. I said that it’s lame, but did I mention that I like lame jokes?

Have you ever tried Woebot before, or CBT in general? One of the results of using Woebot is that I can notice is how slowly but surely, I can remind myself of the unhelpful thinking styles to avoid as soon as the automatic thought comes up sometimes.

Oh, I also started to be able to detect the distortions coming from others’ words/actions; so I can slowly filter which words/actions should I keep in my heart as a lesson, or which of those are just emotional ramblings which aren’t beneficial for my wellbeing.

Both aren’t always 100% working, but well, this is the progress. This is the action I take to handle my pain. I hope you will be able to take the first step as well.

And, as a side note, if you are in a long distance relationship (or any romantic relationship in general), feel free to sign up to my mailing list, where I will give you the ultimate L.D.R checklist (which also good to use on a non long distance relationship) for FREE! You can find the mailing list sign up form on the sidebar 🙂

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