Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Change Your Thoughts...Change Your Mood

Now that we know what the top ten thinking errors are and how they can affect our behavior and actions, let's discuss how we can challenge them and substitute them with something more positive and realistic.   Let's review the  previous example given  (see Have You Ever Heard of a Thinking Error - posted on June 7,2010),  involving passing the angry supervisor in the hall.  Below, the first example involves a thinking error that goes unchallenged and the second example involves substitiuting the thinking error with a more realistic thought:

Example # 1:

Event:  Boss walking past you in hall without acknowledging you
Thought:  "I must have done something wrong...I'm such a loser...I don't even exist to him...I'm going to get fired..."
Behavior: Depression, anxiety, guilt---less friendly to co workers, less motivated, quiet, withdrawn, preoccupied.

Example # 2:

Event:  Boss walking past you in the hall without acknowleding you.
Thought:  "I must have done something wrong.....I'm such a loser..I'm going to get fired..."
Recognize Thinking Error:  "STOP! I'm mindreading, jumping to conclusions and fortune telling..."
Challenge The Thinking Error:  "Ummm, he must be preoccupied today..there are a lot of problems that need to be solved around here and he is very busy...I also know from previous experience that he is not particulary friendly to anyone...this is somewhat typical behavior coming from him." 
Substitute a More Realistic Thought(s):  "I can't read his mind.  I won't take this personally.  I am a good worker.  If there is some problem or concern with my work, I'm sure he will tell me, after all he is the boss (and paid the big bucks to supervise). In the meantime, I will just continue to do the best job possible and remain friendly and approachable not only to him but to all of my co-workers."
New Behavior:  Acting with confidence, not reacting, increasing motivation to continue to do good work, increasing friendliness and approachability with coworkers as well as the supervisor.

Can you see how the first scenario would promote depression, anxiety, guilt and a decrease in productivity?  The second scenario would likely promote a sense of  personal wellbeing and the motivation to problem solve.  At the very least it would elminate the self down putting that would affect your mood.

David Goodman, (Emotional Well Being Through Rational Behavior Training) has developed several rules that promote rational thinking:

1.  The situation doesn't do anything to me
The situation doesn't make me anxious or afraid. I say things to myself that produce anxiety and fear.

2.  Everything is exactly the way it should be.
The conditions for things or people to be otherwise don't exist. To say that things should be other than what they are is to believe in magic.  They are what they are because of a long series of causal events
including interpretations, responses from irrational self talk and so on.  To say that things should be different is to throw out causality.

3.  All humans are fallible creatures.  This is inescapable.  If you haven't set reasonable quotas of failure for yourself and others, you increase the prospects for disappointment and unhappiness.  It becomes all too easy to attack yourself and others as worthless, bad and so on.

4.  It takes two to have a conflict.  Before beginning a course of accusation and blame, consider the 30 percent rule.  Any party to a conflict is contributing at least 30 percent of the fuel to keep it going.

5. The original cause is lost in antiquity.
It is a waste of time to try to discover who did what first.  The search for the original cause of chronic painful emotions is extremely difficult.  The best strategy is to make decisions to change your behavior now.

6. We feel the way we think.  This is the positively stated principle behind the first statement in this list.  It reinforces the idea that events don't cause emotions--our interpretation of events cause emotions.

Keep these rules in mind as you teach---yes, teach your mind to go toward more rational thinking.

Next time:  more on  how to refute irrational thoughts and ideas to help you feel better.

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