Yes! Your Thoughts Can Change Your Reality…
What Are Thoughts: A Detailed Anatomy
What happens within your body while you think? Most people believe that’s a simple answer. After all, a thought is simply a word that passes through your brain and spurs you to think further on it, to speak, or to take action. It’s more complicated than that. In fact, it’s still being researched at length! We can still break it down as we understand it.
The first issue with attempting to describe what is going on in your body while you are thinking is that we can’t all agree on what constitutes thoughts. You probably think of a thought as a thing you tell yourself. For example, when your alarm rang out this morning you probably had a thought along the lines of “Just five more minutes,” “I’m not ready to get up,” or quite simply “I don’t want to!”
Let’s focus on that last one and deconstruct it in a bid to figure it out. Did it spontaneously appear in your mind? Or did something trigger it? Was it a manifestation of something deeper like your spirit? Or was it a physical process from your brain? If you were to pose those questions to a variety of different people you will likely get a variety of different answers. Leave that to the philosophers. If you want to look at what happens in your body and mind when you are thinking you have to acknowledge that your thoughts have an influence over your body.
We know this is true, so let’s review what we know for sure your thoughts do to your body.
- Your thoughts can increase stress, which can exacerbate physical illness.
- Your thoughts can alleviate stress.
- Your thoughts can trigger a fear response that puts your body into fight or flight mode.
- Your thoughts can cause a chain reaction that results in contracted muscles.
Let’s go back to that thought. “I don’t want to.”
A scientist would probably argue that your thought wasn’t random or spontaneous, rather it was triggered by something. In this case, it would probably have been the alarm clock buzzing in your ear. It could have been deeper than that. The alarm clock may have triggered a memory about what your day to come looks like and that could have triggered the thought, but what happens once you think the thought?
The brain is complex and there are many different parts interacting and intersecting simultaneously. When you think that thought, all of those components are at work. If the result of the thought is that you don’t want to get up and you hide under your covers, what exactly happened to encourage that action?
Or, if you instead threw the covers up and dragged yourself to the shower, what went differently? Well, all of those different components are at work at the same time while you make a decision, and ultimately, one of them produces your desired behavior.
What about the emotional impact of your thoughts? Your thoughts can influence the chemical messengers in your brain. Optimism has been linked to improved immunity while negative or depressive thinking has been linked to lower immunity.
So, if you hide under your covers, that can trigger a stream of negative thoughts such as life is too hard, I’m too tired to get up, or I just can’t face this day. Whereas the choice to get up might trigger thoughts like I feel better now that I’m up, today will be good, or this is fine. Either way, those complex interactions in your brain are sending signals everywhere else in your body. Your response to your thoughts changes the pathways and signals your neurons send. Thoughts matter.
Your brain constantly receives signals, whether it’s from memories, thoughts, or external stimuli. From there, your brain activates brain wave patterns. The more this happens the more complex your thoughts grow. The more content your brain produces, the more complex things get.
Your emotions and thoughts are linked, and their relationship is bidirectional. Think about it like this. How often have you experienced a serious spike in adrenaline following a fearful thought? How many times have you experienced that same spike in adrenaline when you are about to go on a first date, sit down for an interview, or start your first day of work? When you have a thought, your mind and body experience a corresponding chemical reaction.
This is an important fact to get comfortable with because it highlights how much your thoughts can influence how you feel. By the same token, when you feel down or poorly, you can change that by changing your thoughts. That might sound unusual for some, but if you go back to the idea that your thoughts are a physical entity living in your brain rather than spontaneous, it makes more sense. If you accept this view, the scientific view, that your thoughts are physical components in your brain and that they influence your body, then you now possess one of the most powerful weapons available to you.
If your thoughts are just reactions, how do you take back control and start the process of changing them?
Thoughts don’t exist within a vacuum. As you are reading, there is a good chance you are thinking about new ideas or things that you can put into use to help change your thoughts. You’re already thinking differently. You’re already thinking about feeding different information to the brain and how you can surround yourself with information that will change your thoughts the way you want.
If you want to actively change your thoughts you first must be aware of what triggers your thoughts, as well as the patterns that you slip into when responding to those triggers. The next time you find yourself lying in bed thinking I don’t want to you should ask yourself what triggered that thought.
There’s a reason that positive thinking has become a popular phenomenon. You might not be able to positive think yourself out of a terminal illness, but you can positively think yourself out of anxiety and into better situations.
When you get clear about your triggers then you can change your thoughts and change how they influence your health and emotions. The alarm clock may have triggered that initial thought because you may have created a pattern of hearing an alarm clock and dreading going to work.
You have effectively worn a groove into your brain that instantly connects the trigger of your alarm clock to not wanting to get out of bed because you hate your job. If you want to change it, you have to either break the thought association or change your trigger.
How? Well, the first step would be trying to force yourself to think differently. So, when your alarm goes you try to consciously think a different thought. A positive thought. Your alarm rings out and you think I’m looking forward to today.
You can also change the sound of your alarm to help facilitate your change in thought and the trigger itself. Many smartphones allow you to link your alarm to Spotify or Calm so you can choose a sound you don’t hate!
It isn’t just your alarm. Think about the thought that often springs to mind when you are caught in traffic. You get irritated, you feel frustrated, and that’s when your body triggers a thought. You feel your muscles tense, your breathing is shallow, and the thought bubbles up I hate traffic.
Instead, recognize what’s happening, relax your muscles, breathe deeply, and think I might as well use this time wisely. Pop on a podcast, music you like, etc. It’s still annoying, but you can change your thoughts on the subject. By doing so you send your brain the signal to chill out.
If you are feeling worried about a presentation, then you may have thoughts like I’m too anxious to focus or This is going to go terribly. You’re going to feel on edge, you’re going to feel panicked and it may end up terribly as a result of those invasive thoughts. If you replace that thought with, I am prepared and I will do my best then you set yourself up for success instead. You are forcing your thoughts to send your brain and body the message that it’s time to calm down and relax.
Now, brain lesions present an interesting point. When a brain lesion is present in a specific area of the brain it can damage certain cognitive abilities. That highlights the point that thoughts are very much physical entities that are influenced and influence the body. Our cognitive function depends on every area of the brain working. When the system is disrupted so is thinking.
That might seem a long and winding explanation for what a thought is and what happens in your body and brain as a result of them. But it’s justifiable because there is so much, we don’t know about the brain. This supercomputer contained within our skulls is an incredible organ and if scientists were to map out the brain’s processes completely, they would effectively be building a supercomputer. People might argue that thoughts are separate from the body and say it’s nonsense to think they can physically influence the body. There is a lot we don’t understand, but we can see the direct influence our thoughts have on our bodies and brains.
You can see it in action every day. It’s the entire basis of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy! This is great news for you because it means you can positively impact your body and brain by making the effort to change your thoughts.
Why You Should Care About What You Are Thinking
So, why should you care about what you are thinking? We already touched on it above. How the thoughts you think have the power to influence both your body and mind. If you were walking down the street by yourself having a conversation aloud, then people might give you funny looks.
But that’s exactly what you do all day long. You are in a constant conversation with yourself, it’s just that the conversation happens within the confines of your mind. It’s thinking.
Your mind is constantly processing your environment. Every day is a non-stop onslaught of questions, observations, and thoughts. If you have ever tried to meditate, then you will know just how quickly thoughts arise and then pass, even when you are actively trying to avoid that from happening.
It wouldn’t be that big of an issue if those non-stop thoughts were positive and empowering. The problem is that our thoughts tend to veer towards the negative and they lead you astray, drag you down, or prevent you from tackling important things you care about.
Thoughts That Hold You Back
- A fearful thought narrows your thinking and it stops you from taking action.
- A stressful thought makes you uncomfortable with the present.
- An anxious thought fills you with bitter feelings about the future.
- A distracting thought will drag your attention away from what matters.
You can’t control when these thoughts surface. However, you can create strategies to respond to them to ensure they don’t drag you down. Do you know what gives you that power? The truth. The central fact that thoughts, quite simply, are not always true. You might think it, but it doesn’t mean you need to believe it.
You may know that people with depression often experience thoughts of no one likes me, so they withdraw from their friends. You might experience this thought, but it doesn’t mean that it’s an accurate reflection of your world. Your thoughts are a story that you tell yourself in a bid to make sense of your world.
So, someone teetering on the brink of depression may believe no one likes them so they stop reaching out to friends. The truth is, they stopped reaching out before that and their friends got caught up with life and it happens. This just bolsters the idea that this thought was true, even though it couldn’t be more false. Your thoughts are an interpretation of your world, not a universal truth.
If you hold onto thoughts as universal truths, you are going to experience unpleasant feelings. You need to equip yourself with the right tools to deal with your thoughts effectively.
Some thoughts appear spontaneous, but they have been triggered by something, some thoughts are recurring thus representing a larger narrative in your mind. It’s helpful to have more than one strategy to deal with your thoughts due to their differing natures.
- Mental noting can help you release momentary thoughts. It’s easy to feel down one moment and then find yourself laughing the next when someone cracks a joke. That is a great example of how fleeting thoughts are and how temporary the mental state they cause can be. That means you have the power to avoid being carried away on a sea of negativity as a result of these fleeting thoughts.
Mental noting is simply the practice of gently noting sensations and thoughts are they arise and labeling them with a single-word descriptor. Why? It helps you remain present and it helps you build self-awareness. It puts space between you and the negative thought and gives you the power in this interaction.
- Deeper work can help you release recurring thoughts. Often, recurring thoughts involve the word should. These thoughts tend to be persistent and at times, you may feel as though your mind is a broken record. American author Byron Katie created The Work (ref.).
It’s a process that encourages you to identify the thoughts that cause you suffering and question them. The basic idea is that your negative thoughts cause you suffering and because your thoughts aren’t always true and you can choose not to believe them, then your suffering is optional.
Identify the thought and question whether it’s true. Turn that thought around. Recognize your thoughts for what they truly are – temporary and mostly untrue. It might seem uncomfortable or sad, but it should be empowering. Accepting that your thoughts are often untrue should be freeing. The pain they cause you is unnecessary. You simply need to get control over your thoughts and put them to positive use.
This brings us to the next point…
Your Attitude Is Created By Your Thoughts
Your attitude is a long-lived thought. Your attitude was developed by repeated thoughts and those thoughts being reinforced by more repeated thoughts.
To create your reality is to understand the power of thought. What you experience or perceive in your world began in your inner world, in your thoughts. If you wish to become the master of your destiny you need to direct your thoughts to improve your mental state and ultimately, your attitude. When you do this, you start to attract your desires, you gain a deeper understanding of your truths and knowledge of how to change your reality.
Everything within you, your inner state and inner world, starts with a thought. You might think about feelings or beliefs as though they are independent of thoughts, but those feelings and beliefs also stemmed from thoughts. A belief is merely a persistent thought, whether it’s conscious or not. You thought it often enough that it seeped into your subconscious mind and began to form part of your belief system. It formed your core beliefs or values.
Even a single thought you think in reaction to an external event can be impressionable enough to create a permanent belief. Then those beliefs confirm the way you think, and those beliefs justify the way you think. The same again can be said for your feelings. Your thoughts surrounding an event, whether it’s imagined or real, result in feelings. Your feelings affirm your thoughts and they sustain each other.
Just as your food diet can influence your overall health and wellness, so can your mental diet influence your mental state. If you pay close attention to what you consume, then you can maintain a healthy inner world. Your inner world is fueled by thoughts. So, think about how your beliefs, assumptions, emotions, or thoughts are formed. That’s what determines your attitude.
Your attitude fuels your actions, it sets the tone for your day, it influences how you interact with others and it all stems from your thoughts. The circumstances or conditions of your life are also a result of your thoughts and if you don’t have a great attitude or you’re not in a great place, you should look to your thoughts to see what changes you can make.
The state of things, whether it’s your health, wealth, career, or relationships, is an accurate reflection of your thoughts in every area. That doesn’t mean that every poor person thinks negatively.
What it does mean is two people can have the same bank balance and have quite different thoughts on where things stand in their lives. One person might think I’m scraping by while another thinks I have enough. That shows in attitude.
It isn’t a case of circumstances fueling your thoughts, it’s the other way around. The more we think about things a certain way the more we enforce those as truth. It’s a vicious cycle. Think about it like this. Creating your reality? That’s an inside job. You fuel it with the power of your thoughts, for better or worse.
Your Thoughts Determine Mindset
If you want to win at life, then your thoughts need to work for you. Just as your thoughts influence your attitude so do your thoughts influence your mindset. The key to whether you succeed, or fail is within your thoughts. You become those thoughts.
You may have heard about the growth mindset and you may have heard that unlocking it is the key to unlocking your potential. You can’t do that without understanding the power of your mind. So, let’s take a look at the correlation between your thoughts and your actions and how those thoughts become reality.
If you want to maximize your potential, then you have to learn how to effectively communicate with others to do so. Those are external conversations that you have. The challenge you are faced with is that external dialogue is the manifestation of what’s going on internally.
The conversation you have with someone else is an extension of the dialogue in your head. This is especially true if you’re someone who doesn’t listen properly and instead forms what you plan to say in response to whoever is speaking. The point is, whatever the topic, your thoughts can talk you into or out of what you say next.
Some people are in a constant internal conversation and that can be anxiety-inducing. That’s why it’s so important to get to grips with your thoughts to dictate a positive mindset. A good example of how your thoughts turn into your reality is this.
Imagine that your favorite fruit has appeared in front of you. It’s perfectly ripe, it’s exactly as you like it. Now pick it up and lift it to your nose, taking a deep sniff. Can you smell it? It’s so fresh. Put your fruit back on the nearest surface and hold it firmly.
Pick up a sharp knife to cut through your fruit, top to bottom. You don’t need to worry about all the juices running all over the surface, you can deal with that later. Put your knife down and pick up half of your fruit and take another whiff of it. It’s so fresh that you can imagine exactly how it will taste.
Take a bite. Don’t be shy, have a big chomp out of it and allow it to roll over your tongue, spreading its juices in your mouth. Isn’t it delicious? How about another bite now? Wow, it gets even better.
So, are you salivating? That’s how you turn a thought into a reality. You just created a physical reaction to your thoughts. You can do that for yourself to create a positive mindset.
Your Thoughts Determine Your Mood
You are a thinking creature and your mind is working nonstop to create thoughts. We don’t really know exactly how they originate, but as noted above there is generally a trigger that causes them to appear as if from thin air. They’re an intrinsic part of the human existence.
Our thoughts typically take their theme from our experiences. When you experience jealousy in reality it’s because you first experienced jealousy internally. You have experienced a chat in your inner world about this person and why you should be jealous of them. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression in your reality, then you have been experiencing depressive thoughts. Those thoughts often lead us further into depression and should be a red flag that something has changed mood-wise.
We are rarely aware of our automatic thoughts, so we rarely notice the impact those thoughts have on our emotions. If you ask someone with depression, why they are sad then they might not have an immediate answer.
At least, until you ask that question that then triggers thoughts on the topic. If you ask what was going on in their life before their depression, then they may realize they were having depressive thoughts in the run-up to the change in their mood. Yes, this is a simplistic explanation for a complicated illness, but the point is our thoughts are influencing our mood before we realize it.
We don’t tend to notice until things come to a head and when they do, tracing things back to figure out where it all went wrong can be time-consuming. That’s when we realize it’s been going on for a while.
Your mind is automatically producing thoughts, so you need to pause and reflect on them often to be more aware of the emotions those thoughts are creating within you. Thoughts stem from within you and they influence or downright determine attitude, action, reaction, perceptions, and of course, mood. You are never in one emotional place for too long.
You can feel hopeless one second and a silver lining can improve your mood and make it all seem okay again. Just the same, you can easily feel sad suddenly when everything is going well. Your mood can change at the drop of a hat and while you can’t avoid mood changes altogether, you can manage them with your thoughts.
When you make decisions in a low mood, then you are less likely to make rational choices. The same can be true if you make a decision when you’re in a particularly good mood because you may feel as though nothing can go wrong.
Low moods come with negative feelings and you should try to use your thoughts to normalize your mood before taking any action. When in a low or negative mood you are more likely to react than respond. You cannot ignore those moods, you must take the time to analyze them and the thoughts they stem from.
For example, you may be experiencing a low mood and you have traced it to a series of recurring thoughts. By taking time to reflect on those thoughts and interrogate them you have realized that those thoughts are false. They have no basis in reality, yet they have heavily influenced your mood for a period of time. You can counter this with affirmations, challenging and questioning your thoughts/beliefs, visualizations, and thought stopping.
Let’s think about it differently. You can be more aware of your thoughts by paying attention to your mood. When you notice changes in your mood, you can pay closer attention to what’s going on in your thoughts. It’s a great reminder or signal that you have veered into negativity.
The best way to manage your moods by managing your thoughts is by remaining focused on the present moment. When you realize your thoughts have veered away from the present, gently guide them back to it. A bit like you direct your mind back to your breath during meditation.
Your Thoughts Determine Your Actions
Before you act, you think. You may hear people excusing bad behavior because they have acted before they thought, but they did think they simply chose to react. Whatever action you take… it’s spurred by a thought, and sometimes, it’s a single thought.
Whether a thought is complex or simple, they lead us to take actions that define us. Sometimes they fuel our inaction as well, it starts in your mind and you make a choice not to act. Either way, at the foundation of action and inaction, is thought. But, when thoughts beget action, action begets results.
In the Dhammapada, a collection of the Buddha’s sayings and one of the most widely read Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha is quoted as saying this: “The thought manifests the word. The word manifests the deed. The deed develops into habit and habit hardens into character.”
Thought dictates all. It all comes back to your thoughts.
Pay attention to your thoughts, take care of them, allow them time, examine them, define them, question them, evaluate them, classify them. Is a thought negative? Can you trace it to your past? Do you find that you are consumed by ideas and thoughts that don’t serve you positively? Are there thoughts you need to let go of?
You can’t exactly change your thoughts altogether because they’re automatic. You can manage them, redirect them, and improve them. Your thoughts are based on experiences and events and what you can do is train yourself in how to react to them. Instead of the automatic reaction that spirals into bad habits, you can examine that thought and think about it where it came from. If there is truth in it, you can interrogate it further.
If there’s no truth it in, then you can dismiss it. Though, you might want to analyze it further to determine where exactly that specific thought and the ones like it keep coming from. The longer you train your mind to react to those thoughts differently, the easier it will be to think differently in the future. It will take time so be patient.
Your Thoughts Determine Your Beliefs
Have you ever stopped to consider where your beliefs began? They don’t just appear in your head from nowhere. Your beliefs are created over an extended period of time and they come from a consistent thought pattern. If you think of your mind as a large mountain with different caverns and caves.
A belief is a truth, to you, that has been formed by a constant trickle of your thoughts. Those thoughts trickled through your mind and deposited impressions in the caves, to create the caverns.
In one cavern, you will find your beliefs about children, family, sex, love, and relationships. In another cavern, you will find your religious and political leanings. There are hundreds of thousands of these formations all over your mind. They may be tiny or giant, negative, or positive, and everything in between.
Over time, some of your beliefs may have grown to be quite large. They are so big they feel indestructible. They might as well be set in stone. Whereas some are razor-thin, their foundation isn’t solid enough to withstand much pressure.
This may be a crude metaphor, but the idea behind it is to illustrate how a constant stream or trend of thoughts can determine your beliefs. That isn’t always a bad thing.
If you experienced a positive stream of thoughts, then your beliefs would be positive. Likewise, if that stream is filled with negative thoughts, then you will likely have beliefs entrenched in negativity. So, to sum it up, a belief is merely a thought that you keep thinking.
You might be thinking hold on, my beliefs have been influenced by other people too! For example, you may have religious beliefs that were impressed on you by your parents from a young age. You might feel like you didn’t have much choice.
But, if you are an adult who holds onto those religious beliefs, you made a decision to keep thinking those thoughts and to keep believing those beliefs. A lot of people leave their parents’ religion as they grow up. That’s for you to decide.
The original source doesn’t matter much, the point is your thoughts can either further an unhealthy belief system or they can change it, whatever that belief system might be.
Impact Of Your Thoughts On Your Life
Sometimes, you get caught up thinking about where you are and wondering how you ended up there. What decision did you make to lead you to this point? It might be choosing to eat healthily and binging all weekend derailing the idea to change your lifestyle.
It could be something with dire consequences, like choosing to flirt with a married co-worker when you yourself are married. We have all manner of decisions to make and those choices we make are led by our thoughts.
When you look above and consider that your thoughts influence your mindset, attitude, mood, beliefs, and actions. Therefore, your thoughts impact your life in all of those different ways. Your mood, mindset, and attitude influence who you are on a daily basis. Your beliefs and actions move you forward, backward, sideways, or keep you stuck exactly where you have always been. All of that stems from your thoughts.
Your thoughts are actively contributing to your reality, that’s a pretty big impact! This is why it’s so important for you to take control of those thoughts. If you want to provoke the right emotions, as well as the correct behavioral responses, then you need to get to grips with your thought process and where and how it’s guiding you.
Evaluating And Defeating Thought Patterns
If you want to defeat unhelpful thoughts, then you have to first become aware of them which means to defeat you have to evaluate. What you are looking for is thinking errors. What is a thinking error? It boils down to this – a thinking error is an unhelpful pattern of thinking.
It’s thinking that sounds or seems plausible, but on further analysis involves a distortion of reality. By identifying thinking errors, you can defeat those negative thought patterns and embrace positive ones instead.
Questions To Identify Your Unhelpful Thoughts
Thinking errors are often similar to each other, but below you will find a series of questions to search for evidence that contradicts your unhelpful thoughts.
- Is there an experience that shows me this thought is not rooted in fact?
- What would I tell a loved one experiencing this thought?
- If someone I loved knew I was thinking this, what advice would they offer? What evidence would they show me to disprove my thought?
- When I’m not thinking this thought, how much differently do I think about my situation?
- When I experienced these thoughts and feelings in the past, what helped me feel better?
- Have I been in a similar situation before? How did it unfold? How can I apply those lessons now?
- What small things might contradict these thoughts that I previously discounted as unimportant?
- If I imagine myself five years in the future, how will I view this situation looking back? What part of the experience or situation will I focus on?
- Am I ignoring any positives in this situation?
- Am I jumping to unjustified conclusions?
- Am I placing the blame on myself for something out of my control?
18 Types Of Cognitive Distortion
A cognitive distortion is similar to a thinking error and many of the two overlap. However, the difference is that a distortion actively tries to convince you something untrue is absolutely true. It’s inaccurate thinking that reinforces the negative emotions or thoughts you are experiencing. If you want your thoughts to change your reality, then you need to get to grips with cognitive distortion!
Black & white, all or nothing
|You don’t see the shades of gray in any situation, it’s one or the other.||“I have to get up early so there’s no point going out later if I can’t stay out late.”|
|You make a negative assumption that something will happen again because it’s happened before.||“The last time I tried, I felt terrible after exercising so there’s no point trying to start an exercise routine again.”|
|This is when you ignore the positive parts of your life and dwell only on the negative.||“This has been a terrible week, I’ve achieved nothing.”|
Statements of must and should
|Holding fixed expectations of how people should behave. You overestimate the impact of these not being met.||“I must try harder.”|
“I should be better at coping.”
|You blow everything out of proportion, everything is always worse than it really is.||“I’m exhausted and sore today, what if I have cancer?”|
|Believing that your emotions are evidence of truth or fact.||“I feel like I’m a failure so others must see me as a failure.”|
|When you fix a label on others (or yourself) without looking at the evidence to the contrary.||“My colleagues are insensitive to my needs and feelings.”|
“I am woefully incompetent.”
|Giving unwarranted attention to specific negative details rather than taking in the big picture.||“This result was awful, I’m not going to deliver on this project.” this, despite the rest of the project going well.|
|Mind Reading||Rather than communicating with others, you make assumptions about what they think, feel, or know.||“They will think I’m lying about being sick because I don’t look physically unwell.”|
|Personalization||The belief that others behave negatively because of you. It’s seeing their behavior and believing it’s about you.||“My boss seemed mad when I popped in to clarify my project.” when you missed your boss’s boss giving them a hard time minutes before you arrived.|
|Tunnel Vision||When you only recognize the negative aspects of an event or situation.||“I feel just as depressed today as I was before I started taking anti-depressants, they aren’t working.”|
|Jumping to Conclusions||Similar to mind-reading, but a broader cognitive distortion. You make assumptions based on no evidence.||“Martin is holding a grudge against me,” you tell yourself without speaking to Martin.|
|Control Fallacies||This is a distortion of two beliefs that are different but related regarding control in every area of your life. If you feel control is external, then you put yourself in the role of victim. |
Internal control puts the onus on you, but that means you also take on the responsibility for everyone else’s happiness, pain, and sadness.
|“My boss made me work overtime so of course, my work was poor!”|
“Why are you so unhappy? Is this because of me?
|Fallacies of Fairness||The fallacy of fairness leaves you feeling resentful about what you believe you know is fair versus what others consider fair. If you constantly apply a measuring stick to what is fair then you are going to feel resentful, hopeless, and angry.||“Life just isn’t fair!”|
|The Blame Game||Others are always responsible for your emotional pain or problems. Conversely, some may place all of the blame on themselves for things even obviously out of their control.||“Why are you trying to make me feeling bad about myself?”|
|Fallacy of Change||If you cajole just right or pressure someone enough, they will change to suit you. Your happiness hinges on your ability to change them. Your success hinges on your ability to change people. This generally revolves specifically around relationships.||“If I can just make him change his habits, we’ll have the perfect relationship.”|
|Being Right. Always||You can’t always be right and it’s time to get comfortable with that. The problem with this cognitive distortion is it results in you constantly putting the opinions and actions of others on trial. The idea of being wrong is unbearable, it’s unthinkable! This means they will go to just about any length to prove they are right.||“I don’t care how much this argument negatively impacts your feelings, I need to prove you wrong.”|
|Heaven’s Reward Fallacy||Finally, the false belief that self-denial or sacrifice will pay off. That if you just refuse yourself this and put off that it will all pay off and you will finally get exactly what you want. This results in profound bitterness when that reward doesn’t come to fruition.||“I can see my family and friends as soon as I’ve secured this promotion. All of my late nights will pay off.”|
Self-Supportive Thought Patterns
Your internal dialogue matters. While it can be positive and negative, it’s important that you seize on the encouraging thoughts and nurture the positivity. Positive thinking is a great tool for managing stress, but it’s also a necessary tool to changing your life.
It can help you improve your performance, contribute to improved well-being, increase your vitality, give you greater life satisfaction, boost your immune system, relieve pain, improve cardiovascular health, and therefore extend your lifespan!
When you experience a negative thought, challenge it, and replace it with a positive thought! We’ll get deeper into how you can do that in the next section, but for now, let’s look at some examples.
|If I change my mind everyone will be disappointed.||I am allowed to change my mind and others will understand.|
|If I fail, I will embarrass myself.||I am proud that I tried. It took courage.|
|I’m so out of shape and overweight it’s too late to change.||I am strong, capable, and I can get healthier because I want to.|
|I let my team down by not making my presentation perfect.||It was a team effort and we succeed together.|
|I’ve never tried this I’m going to fail.||This is a great chance to learn something new.|
|There’s no chance this will work.||I can make this work.|
What this requires is practice! You can see from those negative thoughts that they are lies. There is no evidence to prove them true so it’s important you replace them with a positive counter-thought.
- Identify your self-talk traps. Pinpoint the moments you experience most of your negative self-talk so you can anticipate and prepare for it.
- Be aware of your emotions and take time to check-in.
- Look for humor in any situation to increase positive self-talk and relieve tension.
- Spend time around positive people. Absorb their positivity and take a leaf out of their book.
- Use positive affirmations to instill positive thoughts in your mind.
Encouraging positive self-talk will help you improve your overall outlook on life, and it can have a major, lasting impact on your reality!
Eliminating Negative Thought Patterns: What You Can Do
So, how do you ditch those bad thought patterns? The first step is getting to grips with your thinking patterns. It’s important that you understand your pattern of thinking and why it is as it is. Ultimately, an unhealthy or unhelpful thinking pattern I a distortion of reality. Let’s take it step by step.
Coping With Criticism
Often, constructive criticism feels like an attack that only serves to exacerbate your negative patterns of thinking. You take this one piece of criticism and use it as evidence to support all of your false thoughts. You need to learn how to cope with judgment, rejection, and criticism.
Generally, one learns these skills within the context of therapy, but there are plenty of online resources you can pursue that relate to real-world situations. It’s an excellent skill to have and it will help you avoid giving space to negative thoughts.
Mindfulness is an excellent way to get to grips with your thoughts. While it isn’t necessarily the same as meditation, you can mindfully meditate if meditation is a practice you enjoy. Ultimately, mindfulness on its own is the practice of detachment. You separate yourself from your emotions and thoughts and you observe them as an external bystander.
You observe each feeling and thought as though it is merely an object floating before you. You can stop it, turn it, observe it, and allow it to pass by you. The purpose of mindfulness is to take back control. More specifically for this situation, getting control of your emotional reactions by forcing your thinking brain to take over.
Don’t Thought Stop
Thought stopping is an appropriate tool, but only when you’re dealing with extremely traumatic thoughts or feelings and need a break. In general, you should avoid it. It’s the opposite of practicing mindfulness because it’s eliminating those negative thoughts without first dealing with them. You can’t eliminate them forever so they will continue to crop up.
You’re probably familiar with gratitude journals by now, but a thought diary is also an incredibly useful tool. You simply use it to record some of your most negative or niggling daily thoughts. This record can help you identify patterns of thinking, triggers, and aid you in creating an action plan to deal with them once and for all. It may highlight certain tasks, people, or situations that send your thoughts into a negative spiral. That’s important information for you to determine your next steps.
For example, a thought diary can highlight that you have an issue with a particular colleague during the same task. Is it the colleague or is it the task? If you complete other tasks with the same colleague with no issue, then look at the task to determine what larger issue is at play.
Or perhaps you can do the same task with others with no issue and this highlights that the colleague is the trigger for your negative thoughts. You can do this for any pattern of negative thinking. Trace it to the source and deal with it there – like weed killer!
Of course, it’s all been building to this. The best way to change your thoughts is to replace negative ones with positive ones. We touched on it briefly above, providing you with some examples of exactly how you can do that.
There is no point dealing with triggers, understanding your thoughts, where they come from, and how to deal with them, if you don’t then take action to replace those thoughts with something positive. All of the steps are important, but the final step is what will help you change your reality. How radical the change is, is entirely up to you. How radical do you want to make it?
Your thoughts are powerful, but whether they sway your reality negatively or positively is entirely in your hands. With practice and patience, you can improve your thoughts and directly impact your mood, attitude, mindset, decisions, and life! It’s up to you to take the reins and make positive changes in your life today.
I do hope that the advice and tools provided with you in this text will help you move forward in your journey to change your reality by harnessing the power of your thoughts.
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