Based on concepts of cognitive therapy, health promotion, decision making and quality of life, the technique 'Think healthy and feel the difference' uses the analogy with the figures of gray and green avocados. The technique's goal is to transform unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors in healthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors, thus improving one's quality of life.
Fear to make an oral presentation or to take a test; feel sadness; watch an episode of a tv show rather than practice a physical activity; eat two slices of chocolate cake on the first day of the diet; leave a task for later; feel anger and give a rough answer, among other complaints, can happen to anyone. At times, it is hard to tell what is considered "normal or not." Everything depends on the frequency and intensity of such complaints, and on how these things can impact one's life and relationship with others.
When you are in distress (gray avocado), your thoughts (cognitions) and behavior are distorted by emotion imbalance. You evaluate a situation through "distorted lenses" or "magnifying glasses". The magnifying lenses act like a telescope, making an issue bigger and harder than it actually is. In order to spend more time in the "green avocado," you must analyze unhealthy thoughts and build healthy thoughts.
The "transition" from the green avocado to the gray avocado, and vice-versa is a reflection of mental health. In order to live healthy, you should not aim to constantly keep yourself in the green avocado, because it is perfectly natural that various instances of your life and your routine unbalance your emotions. The real challenge is to think healthy and to work out the emotion out of balance, thus returning to the green avocado. Stay tuned for the amount of time you spend in the gray avocado and in the green avocado- it is up to you.
In the avocado figure, the three levels of thinking investigated in cognitive therapy are represented:
1. Fruit peel: "apparently superficial way" (automatic thought). The automatic thought occurs in various everyday situations, arises spontaneously, and is not related to reflection or deliberation. It is simply a summary of what is happening. The distorted cognition is superficial and the effect on negative emotion is light.
2. Fruit pulp: represents the conditional beliefs and underlying assumptions. The cognition level is activated when the person makes predictions about the consequences of his or her behavior, or behaves according to social rules, obligations or assumptions (with "If ... then ..." statements). The behavioral experiments (trying healthier and functional behaviors as well as experimenting with different ingredients and ways in the avocado's vitamins) are used to test the healthier conditional beliefs that were restructured. The restructure of the conditional belief - fruit mass - represents the possibility of doing things differently. Each person has his or her own recipe to make the vitamin tastier. Behavioral experiments can also be done in several ways, "with various recipes".
Some conditional beliefs are healthy such as "If I do not give up my project, I can succeed." However, others are dysfunctional, for example, "If it is not perfect, then I better give up." In general, when an individual maintains a behavior that causes difficulties, he or she is driven by a conditional belief. The more the patient identifies the conditional belief that maintains certain behaviors, better conditions he or she will have to try alternative behaviors through behavioral experiments.When an unhealthy conditional belief is activated, negative emotion can cause moderate damage.
3. Caroço da fruta: represents the core beliefs (sentences with the verbs "have and be"), "like if they were the DNA with absolute and rigid thoughts" and that are not questioned when you are not balanced. Unhealthy core beliefs (I am irresponsible or I am fated to be a failure) are restructured in healthy core beliefs (I am careful; people have difficulty just as I have). When an unhealthy core belief is activated, negative emotion can cause severe damage.
To complete the analogy, the "fruit" of the core belief and the conditional belief is well illustrated. Therefore, the avocado figure makes clear the idea that one's thoughts are directly linked. Some people wonder if the figure could be an egg, for example, which also illustrates the distinction among the three levels of thinking. Since the core belief is the level of more rigid thinking, the avocado pit is better than the egg yolk because the egg yolk remains soft even if it is well cooked.
Thoughts, behaviors and emotions start to be "dominated" by you as a result of the use of cognitive therapy. It becomes easier to identify the avocado that works at certain different times, and what is the best intervention to be used in order to improve emotion and behavior.
The process goal is not to destroy the "gray avocado", the unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors, because that is impossible. The objective is to build healthier and more functional conditional beliefs, and thus enabling these assumptions to naturally grow from healthier core beliefs, or reborn with automatic thoughts that naturally cover up other thoughts ("green avocado"). With that being made, the three levels of thinking are restructured.
The determination of a personal, nontransferable and specific goal facilitates the process improvements. The goal should be achievable for you, and not for anyone else. The specific objectives could be: "learn to deal with emotions in balance, take care of food and sleep, practice physical activity as planned, talk assertively, among others."