The power of thought
Photo by withbeautiful
Few people realise just how powerful their thinking is. The thoughts you choose to focus on and the beliefs you choose to hold on to as true for you, can create heaven or hell. The power of thought is closely looked at by cognitive behavioural therapists (CBT). It is widely accepted that thoughts lead to feelings and these feelings then influence our behaviour.
If we have negative automatic thoughts, they will lead to negative emotions and the ensuing behaviour will then be in line with those negative feelings.
THOUGHT: I am unattractive
FEELING: Sadness, anxiety
BEHAVIOUR: Avoidance of the opposite sex, avoid dating etc
If the thought was different but still valid, say for example: “I am not perfect but I have many qualities and characteristics”, the feelings would be more positive. This thought is more neutral and will lead to a happier feeling, say, a feeling of hope. The behaviour from this may be that the person ventures out to meet others.
Our thoughts are often habitual and we don’t even realise the repetitive negative dialogue that is occurring. We limit ourselves when we belittle ourselves and criticise ourselves. One of the cornerstones of CBT is to look at our thinking and get into the habit of questioning the validity of thoughts. Thoughts are nor facts – they are merely our perception of the world. They can be changed and they can be challenged.
CBT therapists challenge thinking by looking at the evidence for the thinking and then consider alternative ways of looking at a situation. Remove the negative automatic thoughts and aim for more neutral interpretations – that one simple trick can overhaul a life from misery to surviving and coping. It is a skill that can be learned. Being an effective ‘thought manager’ is one of the best skills you can ever learn if you care about your state of mind.
Be aware of your ‘mental diet’. What do you tell yourself about the world and about yourself?
Try completing these sentences, without thinking too much about it…
- I am…
- Others are…
- The world is…
The above exercise can sometimes help reveal your underlying thoughts about the world. If you have answered negatively, you will probably find that you spend a lot of time feeling low. Negative thinking can be toxic – comparing ourselves to others, assuming what other’s might be thinking, over generalising, rigid thinking – all of these types of unhelpful thinking (and others )are unhelpful and can lead to unnecessary anxiety and depression.
CBT is great because you can see results fairly quickly. The strategies and interventions need to be repeated for them to become part of your natural behaviour but it’s well worth it. Don’t just accept your thoughts without any challenge or evidence- they aren’t always accurate or necessarily based on what is really going on in reality.