The way we think has a direct impact on how we feel and behave. We're constantly making judgements about ourselves, others and the world around us, and while we're doing this we don't always realise that these interpretations are just that, interpretations. They're thoughts, not facts.
To illustrate this, let's imagine you're walking down the street near your home and a neighbour passes by without saying hello. You could have several reactions to this depending on your judgement of the situation, If you think they're ignoring you, you may feel hurt, worried or angry. Your thoughts affect your emotions and what you do next. If you're hurt or angry, you may limit future contact with them. If you're worried you might spend time trying and work out what you've done to upset them. However, if you notice they don't have their glasses on, you'll wave and go over to say hello.
Context makes a difference too. Before Covid19 you might have been troubled by someone stepping away from you. Now, you would recognise it as social distancing to keep one another safe.
It's important to understand this connections between thoughts, feelings and behaviour and to remember that our thought are just that, thoughts. Because we think it, doesn't make it true. There are lots of common thinking errors including:
- Catastrophic thinking - where we assume the worst
- All or nothing thinking - where we find it hard to hold onto shades of grey, e.g. we're either the best or a failure
- Over-generalising - where we take one experience and assume it will apply in every situation
- Mind reading - where we believe we know what's going on in other people's minds. We don't. We're guessing.
- Emotional reasoning - we assume because we feel a certain way that our thoughts about the situation are true
- Fortune-telling - where we make predictions about how things will work out in the future
- Filtering out the positive - where we pay most attention to the negative things that happen and ignore the positive exceptions
We will all make some thinking errors at some times; it's part of being human. However it helps to listen in to the way we talk to ourselves and to check that we're being both fair and kind. Being able to do this gives us cognitive flexibility and that helps with self-compassion. A good rule of thumb is to listen in to your thoughts and ask whether you would say these things to someone you care about. Be your own best friend.
If you'd like to find out more about this, have a look at the Living Life to the Full and Headfit websites at the bottom of this page.