The Connection between Thoughts and Emotions
Thoughts involve our ideas, beliefs, and opinions about ourselves and the world around us. Thoughts form based on our genetics and life experiences, and they are mostly under our conscious control, which means that we can choose to control and change them.
Emotions represent the flow of experience of feelings caused by something external (an upsetting conversation with your partner) or something internal (your disturbing thoughts or memories). Emotions help us adapt to life situations (grief helps us adapt to a loss) and communicate our inner world to others (we use facial expressions and other forms of non-verbal communication to express emotions).
A relationship between thoughts and emotions is substantial and complex – our thoughts and feelings profoundly influence one another. For example, if you are in a gloomy mood, you may notice that many of your thoughts are sad, negative, and have to do with hopelessness or worthlessness. In this case, your negative mood or emotions trigger certain types of thoughts. Once the negative thinking floods your mind, the negative mood gets even worse.
And vice versa, if you have negative thoughts, they will most likely fuel your lousy mood. Moreover, these negative thoughts can provoke anxiety or keep you locked into a depressed mood.
Studies that examined the link between depression and suicide have found that hopelessness can be a more reliable predictor of suicidal intention than the depression itself. Hopelessness is a cognitive component of the depressive syndrome and involves negative expectations from the future. These negative beliefs can have a strong correlation with suicide. These findings suggest that therapeutic approaches focused on relieving hopelessness may be successful in preventing suicide.
Change How You Feel by Changing How You Think
It is essential to understand the complicated reciprocal relationship between thoughts and emotions to tackle negative thinking patterns that contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression.
One of the ways to change your negative emotions is to shift your attention. Choose to focus on more positive thoughts or aspects of a particular situation.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for Negative Thinking Patterns
CBT has proven that changing your thinking patterns and behavior can have lasting effects on your mental health and well-being. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is the most effective strategy in changing negative beliefs that contribute to anxiety and depression.
CBT uses strategies to stop the automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and strengthen awareness of attentional control and overcome selective attention.
As a treatment for anxiety and depression, CBT often involves learning to recognize negative thinking patterns and think more flexibly. Changing how you think can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Mental training strategies such as mindfulness can help you feel calmer, more resilient, and focused on the present. Studies show that mindfulness exercise may alter the brain’s neural pathways, helping you become more aware of your thoughts and become more resilient to stress.
Studies show that journaling (a habit of writing down your thoughts) can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Writing can help you label and clarify your feelings and thoughts, identify negative thinking patterns and find new creative solutions.
Labeling your thoughts activates your emotional regulation. Research shows that a specific region in our right prefrontal cortex becomes more active when you intentionally try to manage your emotions by suppressing or interpreting the event differently.
These are a few tools and strategies. When you are ready to see what is possible for you feel free to book a time to chat.