The link between thoughts and feelings (DW#481)

Over the last little while, we have been talking about the link between emotion and motion – in other words how taking action can change your feelings. 

This week, let’s explore how we can sometimes get to the very source of negative emotions to prevent them rather than changing them once they appear.

Before I explain this further, let’s do a quick exercise. 

Imagine that your family is rushing to get out of the house in the morning and you are trying to do several things at once: get ready for work, make sure the children have everything they need for the day, feed them breakfast and connect with your spouse about the evening plans. It is one of those days and everyone is running a bit late. 

Get the picture?

Now, just as everyone is about to bolt from the breakfast table and get into the car/bus/bicycle, your six-year-old spills the entire box of cereal on the floor. Oooops. Now everyone will be late for sure.

What is your reaction? 

Do you think: "There he goes again. Clumsy little fellow. I keep telling him to be careful but he NEVER EVER listens. He dawdled while getting up from bed and now because of his carelessness he will make us all late. GRRRRRRR". 

Now just rate your irritation from 0 (being completely calm) to 10 (blinding rage). Where are you at?

Most parents would say somewhere around 4-7. 

Now take a breath and think some different thoughts: "Oh poor baby. He was trying hard to get ready on time and lost control of the cereal box. Accidents happen. He is learning to do things by himself and this takes time. He is a good kid". 

Where is your anger now on the same scale?

If you are like most people, it is way down – around 1 or 2 – that is mildly irritated or exasperated. 

What changed? The situation is exactly the same but your feelings in response to your thoughts and your self talk are likely to be vastly different. 

Try this exercise the next time you find yourself feeling upset. Consciously take a breath and practice thinking helpful and supportive thoughts. You may discover that by changing your thoughts you change the underlying feeling. 

This week we will inshallah explore our thinking patterns and how we can begin to shift our emotions by changing our thoughts. 

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