Thursday, December 14

Think Better, Live Better

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Think Better, Live Better

The unpredictability of life can be stressful in today’s fast paced society. Here are some ways to reduce stress and anxiety through correcting thinking errors.

Not keeping up with the world now, are you?

There was a time when keeping pace with the world was fun. You would wake up in the morning and over breakfast, read the events of the previous day. If you found something interesting you could cut it and file it away for the record.

When a person is unable to control their negative thoughts, anxiety and stress levels elevate and can lead to weight gain, decreased productivity, and poor judgment. Reducing stress and anxiety through the use of thought correction skills will help eliminate “stinking thinking”.

Black and White Thinking:

Black and white thinking occurs when an individual judges a person or situation exclusively on a binary. Using terms like ‘always’, ‘every’, or ‘never’ to describe a poor work performance is an example of black and white thinking, and to reduce it, one must realize that few aspects of life are absolute. More often than not, people, situations, and outcomes fall on a gradation spectrum – nothing is all bad or good.

Reduce back and white thinking by using reality testing to challenge cognitions; is it a fact that the words “always” or “never” apply to the situation, or would modified terms, such as “sometimes’ or “occasionally” be more appropriate? Change thoughts to reflect the facts about the situation.

Overgeneralizing:

Overgeneralizing is a form of rumination from which many individuals (especially those with obsessive compulsive/personality disorder) suffer. It occurs when a wide generalization from an isolated case is made, and followed by a never-ending pattern of defeat. An example of overgeneralization would be: “The teacher yelled at me, which means that he doesn’t like me, and no teacher will ever like me.”

Reduce overgeneralization by reflecting on a situation, and then clearly articulating only what occurred. If the mind begins jumping to conclusions, use thought stopping techniques such as deep breathing, imagining a stop sign, saying the word “stop” forcefully out loud, or using a negative reinforcement like popping a rubber band on the wrist to break rumination patterns.

Making Assumptions or “Mind Reading”

Making assumptions (or mind reading) occurs when one person believes that they know what another person is thinking and makes decisions or judgments based on their belief, without asking the other for clarification. Assumptions are justified internally by a person’s projections, and can lead to the creation of perceptions about the other that have no grounding in reality. Making assumptions are one of the primary causes of interpersonal conflict.

Reduce mind reading by having the courage to ask the other person direct questions about their thoughts. Doing so reduces all speculation and reduces the chances for misunderstanding. Fact checking is another option to use if the other is not available for clarification.

Using Feelings as Reasoning Criteria:

Making decisions based on feelings as opposed to objective reality can lead to undesired outcomes. An example of emotional reasoning would be to tell a spouse “I hate you and want a divorce” while in the heat of an argument, even though the statement is not true. Some decisions made based on feelings can be corrected after the fact, while others cannot.

Reduce the chances of making feelings based decisions by allowing a “cool off” period of at least twenty four hours before making a decision. This allows adequate time to put space between the situation, and feelings about the situation so that it can be reviewed from a more objective perspective. Emotional reasoning can further avoided by tempering feelings with rational thought before making a decision. Use facts to clarify the situation, and then make a rational and reality-based decision.

The Power of Thoughts

Thoughts, feelings, and behaviors have a reciprocal relationship in the human mind: if one is negative, it may cause the others to be as well. Negative behaviors are likely to manifest into negative consequences, which act as barriers to self-actualization. In order to prevent negative spiraling, it is important to keep thoughts based in reality. An individual has a better chance of successfully managing life challenges if they are not handicapped by impaired thought processes that prevent them from seeing the facts. Learning to manage thinking errors may be challenging at first, but gaining the ability to accurately perceive reality is well worth the effort.

Take one of the thoughts you saw earlier running around your head. Focus on it and be aware of how you feel. Does it feel good? How you are feeling about your thoughts brings about more experiences that accommodate your feelings.

It makes sense to make wise choices where thoughts are concerned. When you can choose a thought that feels good, even if it’s only a little bit better that what you were already feeling, this thought leads to a better feeling thought. In this way you can work your way up the good feeling ladder and experience joy and bliss.

The more you choose your thoughts based on how they feel and how you really want to feel, the easier good thoughts become. You are establishing a habit of feel good thoughts. Now you are on a roll. The more good feeling thoughts you think, the better you feel and the better the experiences feel. It snowballs in no time at all.

Now, how do you feel? Better? Good.

Think Better Feel Better Live Better. It’s your choice!

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