At some point or another, we are all guilty of unhealthy thinking. Whether it is hearing friends whisper behind you and assuming that they are talking negatively about you, or getting mad at your spouse because for the one millionth time they forgot to put the dishes in the sink.
Unhealthy thinking becomes a problem when the negative thoughts appear more than the positive. Luckily for all of us, there are ways to deal with these unhealthy thinking patterns. With the New Year quickly approaching, now is the time to start working on New Year’s Resolutions.
Why not choose to make your goal for the year to be emotionally healthy and start training your mind to think in a healthier way?
So the next time you find yourself angry or upset because you can’t seem to get past a situation that happened, I encourage you to consider these five questions.
1. What is my thought?
What are you telling yourself that is causing you to feel bad or to behave in a negative way? We all have rules in life that we follow. You might think “I always have to be perfect” or “I should always put other people’s needs before my own.” Other possible thoughts are “Everyone will notice if I make a mistake”, “I’m not good enough”, or “It’s my fault”. Once you have figured out your thought, it’s time to ask yourself the next four questions.
2. What would my best friend tell me?
It’s always good to give yourself a little perspective. If you can’t shake a feeling of shame because you walked around work with toilet paper stuck to your shoe, what would your best friend tell you? Better yet, what would you tell them? Chances are you are being more critical of yourself than anyone else would be.
3. Would my thought hold up in court?
Sometimes we find ourselves convinced of things that would not make sense if we tried to explain them to someone else. I often have clients come to my office and tell me that they think things are their fault. When you imagine yourself in front of a jury trying to convince them that it’s your fault that you were robbed at gunpoint when you were grocery shopping, you start to realize that sometimes we tell ourselves things that just aren’t true, and more importantly are not healthy.
4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having this thought?
This question is for all of the stubborn people out there that have decided that you have unhealthy thoughts and you aren’t willing to change them. I encourage you to consider if having the thought is helpful to you, and if it isn’t helpful, maybe it’s time to come up with some new thoughts.
5. What can I tell myself instead?
This is the most important question in this exercise. Coming up with a healthier, more realistic way of looking at the situation is your goal. It might take some practice to believe your new thought, but the more you practice and review it, the more success you will have and the happier you will feel.
Sarah French is a Therapist at JF&CS who specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Depression, Anxiety, and Trauma.