Thoughts. Everyone has them. As we go about our days we’ve got a constant stream of thoughts running through our heads.
Some thoughts are helpful – helping us to focus, achieve our goals, helping us to feel confident and connected in our relationships – while other thoughts bring us down, making us second guess ourselves, criticise ourselves, view the world in distorted ways and ultimately lead to us feeling anxious, depressed, isolated or powerless.
What’s more, unhelpful or distorted thoughts and feelings can trigger negative behaviours taking you on a downward spiral and lowering your mood further.
For example, if Jen didn’t say hi to me when she came into work this morning a healthy thought might be “I’ll catch up with her later and see if she’s OK” or “she probably just forgot to say hi to me because she was having a chat with David”.
If I was having unhelpful thoughts I might think “she’s really mad at me. She’s stonewalling me. She doesn’t want to be friends. I must have done something to really upset her. Why didn’t I call her yesterday? I’m so stupid. I’m a rubbish friend. She’ll never give me a second chance. I’m going to have to avoid her.”
These unhelpful thoughts would trigger negative feelings – feelings of anxiety, guilt, sadness and possibly anger towards myself.
These thoughts and feelings might lead to unhelpful behaviours such as me avoiding eye contact with Jen and avoiding the lunch room to make sure I don’t bump into her. I could begin to doubt other relationships in my life. I might smoke or drink more than usual as I try to reduce my feelings of guilt and anxiety.
Until you talk with Jen you won’t know why she behaved that way. It could be any number of reasons why she didn’t say ‘hello”.
Can you see how these different thoughts lead to different types of feelings and can positively or negatively influence our feelings and how we behave in a situation?
Our thoughts hold amazing power over our levels of happiness and well-being.
So, how can we break free of the unhealthy, warped thinking?
Once you can identify your unhelpful thinking styles, you can start to notice them – they very often occur just before and during distressing situations. Once you can notice them, then that can help you to challenge or distance yourself from those thoughts, and see the situation in a different and more helpful way.
So how can you identify those unhealthy thinking patterns and deal with them?
Read part 2 of this article and start taking mastery of your thinking and your well-being.