Thoughts are powerful. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at an example. We will pick an event, let’s say, a flat tire. Someone goes to leave for work and they find they have a flat tire. Maybe they think “Oh, no! Not today! I can’t be late for work! Why do things like this always happen to me???” What would they be feeling if this was their thought process? Likely mad, sad, and discouraged. But what if the same event happened and the thought process was “Ok, not ideal but I can handle this. Let me just call my boss to tell him/her I will be late. I know I can handle this, but it will take some time.” Likely that person would feel frustrated but confident. Or what if the thought was “Oh, I’m so glad that did not happen on the highway on my way to work. That could have been very dangerous.” Likely the person would be feeling grateful. We did not change the event that happened, but rather we changed the thought, that really changed the rest of the story.
We all have on average about 4,000 thoughts a day. That is a lot of thoughts! And they each have an impact on our mood and our behavior. So as you can see, thoughts are powerful!
The first step in changing your thoughts is identifying them. We can not change our thoughts if we don’t know what they are.
Second step is deciding if your thoughts are serving you.
Some thoughts are helpful, but some are not. Some thoughts are correct, but others are not. If someone you knew told you something you would think about it and consider if what they were telling you was right or not. For example, if a friend says “you are selfish” you would think about it and respond according. Maybe you would say “No, I’m not!” or maybe you would say “You’re right. I really should work on that.” But yet if you have this thought in your head you are more likely to just believe it. We tell oursevles negative statements like “I am fat.” “I am stupid.” Or “I can’t get anything right.” And we just accept it as truth. But often, its not true! So let’s start by identifying our own thoughts and then deciding if a thought is true or not and even if it is true is it helpful?
Third step is brainstorming ways the unhelpful thought is NOT true
If the unhelpful thought is “I have no friends.” You may think “well that’s not entirely true, there’s Sally, Fred, Jim, and Pam.” Or if the thought is “I can’t do anything right” you may brainstorm those areas of life that would suggest this is not true. Maybe you are good at art, cooking or have great relationships.
Fourth step is identifying new, more helpful thoughts
If the original thought is “I have no friends.” It may be hard to convince yourself of a thought like “I have lots of friends.” but may find it easier to believe a thought that uses the evidence you brainstormed from step three. The alternative thought may be “I do have friends, there’s Sally, Fred, Jim, and Pam.” Or if the unhelpful thought is “I can’t do anything right.” again using evidence from step three, you might think “I am very talented at art, have great relationships and am a good cook.”
It is helpful to write these down. So first, make a list of those unhelpful thoughts then come up with one, two, or three thought alternatives. Your lists may look something like this.
Original Thought Thought Alternatives
I can’t do anything right I do things right at work often. I’ve even got a raise last year.
I am very talented at art.
I am great at relationships.
Life is hard. Right now things are hard, but I know they will get better.
This is a time of growth and learning in my life.
I am grateful for my supports as I go through this hard time.
I am stupid. I am smart in my own way.
I am good at art and cooking.
I have no friends. I do have friends, there’s Sally, Fred, Jim, and Pam.
I may not have a lot of friends but the friends I have are close.
I should be working out. I will ease in to adding more exercise.
I will start an exercise routine when I have more time.
I’m fat and now I can’t eat cake. I am choosing to not eat cake to help me reach my goals.
I am not where I want to be with my weight but I’ve been losing some.
Bad things always happen to me. Sometimes hard things happen in life.
The hard times are making me stronger.
Last week I won tickets on the radio and that was a good thing.
Another option you have is to write down those helpful thought alternatives and put them somewhere you can see them, maybe its on your mirror at home, in your car, or in your wallet to pull out as needed.
So now that you know what to do, its’ your turn. Happy brainstorming!