By Christopher Emmanuel
How thoughts affect your mood
Do thoughts drive emotions, or emotions drive thoughts? If you don’t have the answer to this question, contemplate this notion: according to Darwinian theory of evolution, one of the major reasons we evolved is because we had the capacity to delay our instincts. If we feel hungry we could wait before we eat. If we feel fearful we can still bring ourselves to act beyond our fears. Our thoughts have a profound affect on our emotions, and by learning how to think in our own best interest, we improve our emotional condition.
The fact that thoughts affect feelings is good news, because we can review our thoughts, talk about them, compare them with other people's thoughts, decide if we agree or disagree with our own thoughts, and so on. We don't have anywhere near as much access to our emotions as we have to our thoughts. The part of our brain that gives us the ability to think, called the prefrontal cortex, is what makes the human brain so specialized, and distinguishes us from other animals. By using our thoughts to refine and guide our emotions we are maximizing our human potential.
Changing our own thought habits requires practice and hard work. To understand, dispute and then correct the beliefs that make us miserable. Through introspection and skill building, we can learn to counterbalance these negative thoughts, and replace them with positive ones.
Below are some ways to change your thoughts to create better feelings:
First: Notice your thoughts. By becoming aware of the thoughts that make us miserable, we become better able to communicate them with others, and think about them ourselves. This clear perception itself improves our sense of understanding of ourselves, and can open channels to how others affect our feelings.
Second: Abandon pointless lines of thinking. We learn to let go of pointless lines of thinking, when we realize our misery is based on unsubstantiated fantasies of what someone might be thinking, or of what might happen in the future. We can begin to relax our grip on these thoughts that seem so compelling and important.
Third: Challenge thoughts that drag you down. You can begin to actively question your line of thinking. If you realize that a thought such as "He always treats me shabbily" makes you feel miserable, you can recognize it and confront it. In this case, you would realize that by generalizing you are making yourselves upset. Instead of focusing only on his negative behavior, you would also include times when he behaves more generously. By opening yourselves up to this recognition, even if he only treated you well one time, you can break your negative generalization and open yourself to more positive ways of thinking about any situation.
Fourth: Self-talk & lift your feelings: Instead of disputing negative thoughts habits, consciously flip them the other way and substitute more positive ones. For example, reverse the negative ideas and consciously predict a positive outcome. See all the good things in life that you can be grateful for. Even making simple optimistic statements like "this too shall pass" or "everything is for the best" you can get to the other side of rough spots with a more positive frame of mind.
Living well requires insights and learning about our own internal environment. One of the most accessible places to look for ways to feel better is our own thought stream. As we explore our thoughts, we find many opportunities for improving them. We learn first how to detect, and then how to dispute our habitual thinking. By escaping the trap of unproductive habitual thinking, we can become free to think thoughts that deliver more productive and more harmonious results.
Books by Christopher Emmanuel can be purchased at his Art Gallery in The Sunbreeze Hotel , Art of Touch, Pages Book Store, Black orchid Spa and Sol Spa.