Change Your Mind & Change Your Experience Of Life…

CYMCYLThe title of this post sounds a little dramatic, but the way we think shapes how we feel, what we do, and what we experience in life. The way we think can bring unhappiness, anxiety and stress, and these can lead to unhelpful behaviours and difficult situations. So, while changing our minds won’t change the people around us, or change what has happened, or change the physical limitations the world places on us, changing unhelpful thoughts can help us process and deal with situations, make us feel better, help us cope, and ultimately lead to more satisfying life experiences. In this blog post–the fourth and final post introducing Cognitive Behavioural Therapy–I will be talking to you about three ways you can challenge and change the way you think to help you improve your life.

Think Outside The Box

We’re all explainers. We can’t help but try and categorise and label people, events and experiences. Understanding can be important to us, it helps us process our experiences, recognise when an event requires a response, and determine whether we can trust in the people around us. However, whether we want to admit it or not, we can be quick to judge when we don’t have possession of all the facts, our thinking can be prejudiced by previous experiences, we can have go to explanations we rely on too often, and the labels we use might well be unfair black or white generalisations that stick faster than if they were superglued. This wouldn’t be so much an issue if it wasn’t for how influential our thoughts can be on our feelings, actions and our relationships with others.

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It’s OK To Feel Your Feelings… (we all have them)

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We all have feelings—happiness, anxiety, stress, unhappiness—and we feel them every day to varying degrees. Regardless of your age, gender, race, sexuality, status, strength, class or education, you could also experience emotional difficulties—too much of these feelings. Personal problems do not discriminate. In the UK, 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem each year. You are not alone in experiencing your difficulties—it’s not just you.

Why do we feel the way we feel?

Our feelings can be influenced by hormones, our chemistry, illness, side-effects of medication, stimulant and relaxant foods/drinks/drugs, but largely because of what we’re thinking.

Situations themselves are not emotional. It’s what we think—our interpretation or perception—about the situation and the meanings we draw from them which upset us. To understand that more, and for an introduction to the self-help approach of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) then check out my first blog post Think Better To Feel Better.

So, just what are feelings?

Feelings are the emotional reactions that we have and the physical symptoms that accompany them. Emotionally, there are four types of feelings; happy, sad, angry and scared. Every emotion—no matter how colourful our description—can be reduced down to these four. This can be helpful to remember as it makes recognising and communicating what we are feeling easier. Symptoms are the sensations and reactions of our body that help us know what emotion we’re feeling. These can often be unpleasant, especially with anxiety and stress attacks. A feeling is not an interpretation, an opinion, a guess, or an explanation—these are characteristic of thoughts.

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