• Colleen Lennon, LCSW

The Power of Our Thoughts

It is amazing the power and capabilities our thoughts have in relation to our moods, emotions, behaviors, reactions, and interactions with other people. One positive or negative thought has the power to significantly improve or worsen a situation or our reaction to it. Most often our thoughts are such an automatic process or response that we fail to see the impact they actually have on us. If we take the time to identify and acknowledge our thoughts, we would see just how much they truly influence our everyday life, well-being, interactions with others, and happiness.

Imagine that you are spending time with friends or a significant other, have plans for the time together, and then something goes wrong. There are two ways you can think or react to the situation: one, by getting upset and having negative thoughts about what is going wrong. Or two, by having a more positive outlook and trying to make the best of the situation. In the first scenario, your negative thoughts and reactions to something going wrong will most likely make you more upset or angry, and probably ruin the time with your friends or significant other. In the second scenario, your positive thoughts can help to overcome the issue of something going wrong, see the positive aspects of the situation and let you continue to enjoy the time with your friends or significant other. In both cases, the situation is exactly the same but the thoughts and reactions inevitably determine if the experience is positive or negative.

Our thoughts also play a significant role in our moods, self-esteem, and mental health. When we have a positive thought about ourselves or some aspect of our personality, we typically feel good about who we are and our self-esteem remains intact. When we have a negative thought about ourselves or an aspect of our personality, we will feel worse about ourselves and our self-esteem hurts. One negative thought can put us in a bad mood or funk, then when another negative thought occurs, it makes us feel worse, and the downward cycle will continue until we are able to stop or change the thoughts. These negative thought patterns are also more significant when we are feeling depressed, anxious, lonely, or rejected.

There is good news: you can change the way you think! With a few steps, practice, and consistency, you can make great positive changes in the way you think and react. The first step is to monitor your thoughts and notice when they become negative. At this step, you just want to identify them. Don’t judge the thoughts or try to change them, just notice and acknowledge what you are thinking. Once you have been able to identify the thoughts, the second step is to try to figure out what may be triggering them and the impact they are having on you and the situation. If you notice patterns or trends, you can then move on to the third step in which you work on negating the negative thought when it happens or replacing it with a more positive one. Changing the way we think is not an easy process and it takes a lot of time and effort. It can be a difficult process to start alone or seem overwhelming, but that is where therapy can come in. With a therapist trained in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and/or Mindfulness, you can work together to help you change your negative thought patterns and processes into more positive and beneficial ones.

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