One of the hugest challenges facing people who struggle with mental health disorders, namely anxiety and depression, are the unhealthy, unhelpful and irrational thoughts that accompany these illnesses.
So, tonight, I’m going to give you guys a heads up on how irrational thoughts manifest and what you can do to bring about change to redirect your thoughts.
Basically, how it works is like this, your thoughts influence your emotions, and your emotions impact your behaviour. It’s a cycle.
Thought-> Emotion -> Behaviour
So, let me give you some examples to explain how this works.
Say you have social anxiety:
Your irrational thought might be, “If I go to the party no one is going to talk to me.”
This thought is harmful and anxiety inducing, and creates negative emotions such as fear and sadness.
The behaviour looks like you avoiding going to the party. You begin to isolate yourself.
Now, instead, what if you change your thought to, “if I go to the party maybe I’ll make a new friend, and have a good time?”
Your emotions are more likely to be positive. Maybe you’re still anxious but now you’re maybe also excited and have something to look forward to.
And your behaviour is you heading to the party, and hopefully having a good time. Building relationships.
One of my personally most challenging irrational thoughts has been, “what if it gets so bad I can no longer cope?”
This triggers, for obvious reasons, intense and overwhelming feelings of fear. And the onset of panic attacks.
The resulting behaviour is not being able to function, perhaps not being able to leave my bedroom, or talk.
So, the goal is to change those thoughts. To tell myself that I’ve coped well in the past, that thoughts are fleeting, that I can cope. That 99% of my fears have never come true. That I can do anything. That I am built to last.
The emotions that derive from positive thoughts are, well, positive and the behaviours look like me functioning, laughing, living my life.
This kind of redirection of thoughts are what counsellors and therapists employ in clinical settings. It’s what I’ve used in past roles as a counsellor, and as they say, practise what you preach.
The goal of therapy is to change self-limiting beliefs and reshape them into positive thoughts and feelings, and behaviour.
You really are what you think, and you can move mountains if you think you can. Health and positive self-talk are so, so, so important.
Are you looking at the world through your rose coloured glasses? Can you? Or can you try? Practise makes perfect.
If you think positive, you feel positive, your behaviour in turn is healthy. This is where you want to get yourself.
You want to take your “what if switch?” and turn it off. Because it’s simply not helpful. Remember the things you worry may happen, rarely ever happen.
Treat yourself like you would your best friend. Confront negative thoughts. Redirect your thoughts. Over time it gets easier and easier. And because of neuroplasticity (your brain’s ability to rewire itself) your thoughts can and will adapt and change.
If you’re unable to do this on your own, reach out to mental health services in your area. This type of therapy is what social work professionals, and other medical professionals refer to as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). And science tells us it works.
And I’m telling you, from experience, that it did for me. And for many of the clients I have had the fortune of working with.
Wear those rose coloured glasses. Wear them proudly. They look good on you.