Positive or negative feelings affect what happen to us. For example, if we are given a birthday present, we feel elated and happy, but if our child breaks our birthday present, we feel angry and upset. In other words, the situation we are in has a direct effect on our feelings.
Thoughts control our feelings
However, it can be more complicated. For example, if we were given a birthday present of too high value and from a person we do not particularly like, we may end up feeling guilty, frustrated and worried. Or if our child broke the present that we’ve never really liked, we may feel relieved or pleased. In these examples not only the situation influences how we feel but also our thoughts can control how we feel. There is a strong relationship between our thoughts and feelings.
Our thoughts can be helpful or unhelpful. The unhelpful ones have a negative impact on our feelings (or mood) and can make it harder for us to deal with difficult situations. The helpful ones have a helpful impact on our mood and can make is slightly easier to deal with difficult situations.
When we are depressed or anxious, out thoughts tend to be exaggerated and contain some distortions. This can make us feel worse about ourselves. If we can recognise those distorted thoughts, we can try to tackle them.
Below are a list of Unhelpful thoughts:
Catastrophising– this is when we exaggerate the problems and imperfections. Negative things that may not be true become definite in our mind and we end up thinking it will end as a disaster. When this happens, we minimise our strengths and ability to cope with the problem.
Mental filtering – This is when we ignore the positive details and focus on the negative details of a situation.
All-or-nothing thinking – this is when we focus on the extremes of a situation. For example, things are either very good (one extreme) or very bad (the other extreme) or we believe that we have to do things perfectly (one extreme) and if we can’t, we don’t do them at all (the other extreme).
Overgeneralization – This is when we draw a conclusion that is based on only one single incident or piece of evidence and we then believe that this applies all of the time with everything. For example, one thing goes wrong because of something we did and we end up thinking ‘I’m always doing everything wrong.’
Mind reading – This is when we think that we know what someone else will think, feel or act, particularly in relation to us, when we actually don’t know.
Fortune telling – This is when we anticipate that things will turn out badly, and we are convinced that our prediction is already an established fact.
Magnifying – We exaggerate the degree or intensity of a problem and make things feel large and overwhelming.
‘Shoulds’ – Should is something we often say to ourselves. For example, ‘I should be able to walk further than this.’ ‘Must’, ‘have to’ and ‘ought to’ are similar unhelpful words to use. Using these words puts us under a lot of pressure.
Once you can identify these negative thoughts, you can try to learn ways of thinking that can be more helpful and realistic. This will be tackled in the next blog post. Can you think of ways your negative thoughts can affect the way you feel?