You Are What You Think

Reviewed Feb 25, 2017

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Summary

  • Your inner thoughts are closely tied to your moods.
  • You can change how you feel by changing your negative self-talk.
  • You can curb negative thoughts by noticing patterns and prompts.

What you are thinking at any given moment affects how you feel emotionally and physically.

This theory is the basis behind cognitive-behavioral therapy and the power-of-positive-thinking self-help movement.

You can change how you feel

The good news: You can change how you feel by challenging the negative self-talk that runs through your mind. According to the authors of Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life: “Hundreds of studies over the last 25 years have proved that this simple insight can be applied to relieve a large variety of problems.”

Real and imagined events yield emotional response

The mind doesn’t distinguish between a real event and an imagined one in terms of the emotional reaction and the corresponding energy it produces:

  • If you mentally re-live an embarrassing situation, you will be flooded with the same emotions and physical reactions you had during the real event.
  • If you dwell on an anger-producing memory, you’ll be flooded with stressful physical and emotional reactions. Your blood pressure will go up, your heart will race, your muscles will tense, and you may feel like lashing out, according to psychologist and anger expert Steven Stosny, PhD. 

Fortunately, the “you are what you think” process works in a positive way as well. When you think about something uplifting, you’ll get a boost from endorphins. These (feel-good brain chemicals are released when you experience something pleasant.

It makes sense to learn how to capitalize on those thoughts that work for us and minimize those that work against us.

Curb negative thoughts

First, notice your thoughts. If you’re thinking about something upsetting or telling yourself something negative like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m old or ugly,” make note of it in a nonjudgmental way. Then ask yourself how those thoughts made you feel.

Conversely, if you’re thinking something positive like “I can’t wait to go on my trip” or “I did a great job on that,” take note of your physical and emotional response connected with those thoughts.

Pick a specified time period—a few days or a week—and keep a journal of your thoughts and self-talk. After you get in the habit of noticing your thoughts, look for patterns. Ask yourself:

  • When do you tend to have negative or worrisome thoughts? Are you at home, at work, or commuting to work? When do you tend to have positive thoughts?
  • What prompted the negative train of thoughts? Was it an activity or a specific person? Did you see someone you don’t like? If so, do you realize that you’re giving that person tremendous power to influence what you’re thinking and in turn how you feel?
  • Are these negative or anxiety-producing thoughts helping you solve a problem, or are you just spinning your wheels imagining worst-case scenarios or re-living old hurts?

Try to replace negative responses with positive thoughts. Develop a go-to list of pick-me-up images and self-talk. You can use these as a quick replacement for a sudden bombardment of negativity.

By becoming more aware of your thoughts, you’ll begin to notice the effect they have. You’ll also gain insight into the events, people, or things that launched a specific train of thought.

Take note of your daydreams

According to daydream researcher Eric Klinger, PhD, the human mind spends approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of its time in a mind wandering or daydreaming state. Because we spend so much time lost in our inner world of thoughts and imaginings, it’s worth taking note of how these fleeting fantasies make you feel.

Not all daydreams are positive. For example, people daydream about anything and everything from winning the lottery to losing someone they love.  

Personal coach Lauren Zander says she first gives clients the task of recognizing and understanding their daydreams. “What you imagine has everything to do with how you feel, and even what you do next,” she says.

It’s important to get in touch with the inner thoughts. That’s the first step in feeling better. The more a person can “hear and see what they imagine, the more they can fix, dismantle, solve, and dissolve,” she says.

Resource

Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers by Amy Fries. Capital Books, 2009. 

By Amy Fries
Source: National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, www.nacbt.org; “Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought,” Malia F. Mason, PhD, et al., Science, Jan. 19, 2007.; Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers by Amy Fries. Capital Books, 2009.; Daydreaming: Using Waking Fantasy and Imagery for Self-Knowledge and Creativity by Eric Klinger, PhD. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990.; It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind—Change Your Health by Mark Pettus, MD, FACP. Capital Books, 2006.; Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. New Harbinger Publications, 2007.

Summary

  • Your inner thoughts are closely tied to your moods.
  • You can change how you feel by changing your negative self-talk.
  • You can curb negative thoughts by noticing patterns and prompts.

What you are thinking at any given moment affects how you feel emotionally and physically.

This theory is the basis behind cognitive-behavioral therapy and the power-of-positive-thinking self-help movement.

You can change how you feel

The good news: You can change how you feel by challenging the negative self-talk that runs through your mind. According to the authors of Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life: “Hundreds of studies over the last 25 years have proved that this simple insight can be applied to relieve a large variety of problems.”

Real and imagined events yield emotional response

The mind doesn’t distinguish between a real event and an imagined one in terms of the emotional reaction and the corresponding energy it produces:

  • If you mentally re-live an embarrassing situation, you will be flooded with the same emotions and physical reactions you had during the real event.
  • If you dwell on an anger-producing memory, you’ll be flooded with stressful physical and emotional reactions. Your blood pressure will go up, your heart will race, your muscles will tense, and you may feel like lashing out, according to psychologist and anger expert Steven Stosny, PhD. 

Fortunately, the “you are what you think” process works in a positive way as well. When you think about something uplifting, you’ll get a boost from endorphins. These (feel-good brain chemicals are released when you experience something pleasant.

It makes sense to learn how to capitalize on those thoughts that work for us and minimize those that work against us.

Curb negative thoughts

First, notice your thoughts. If you’re thinking about something upsetting or telling yourself something negative like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m old or ugly,” make note of it in a nonjudgmental way. Then ask yourself how those thoughts made you feel.

Conversely, if you’re thinking something positive like “I can’t wait to go on my trip” or “I did a great job on that,” take note of your physical and emotional response connected with those thoughts.

Pick a specified time period—a few days or a week—and keep a journal of your thoughts and self-talk. After you get in the habit of noticing your thoughts, look for patterns. Ask yourself:

  • When do you tend to have negative or worrisome thoughts? Are you at home, at work, or commuting to work? When do you tend to have positive thoughts?
  • What prompted the negative train of thoughts? Was it an activity or a specific person? Did you see someone you don’t like? If so, do you realize that you’re giving that person tremendous power to influence what you’re thinking and in turn how you feel?
  • Are these negative or anxiety-producing thoughts helping you solve a problem, or are you just spinning your wheels imagining worst-case scenarios or re-living old hurts?

Try to replace negative responses with positive thoughts. Develop a go-to list of pick-me-up images and self-talk. You can use these as a quick replacement for a sudden bombardment of negativity.

By becoming more aware of your thoughts, you’ll begin to notice the effect they have. You’ll also gain insight into the events, people, or things that launched a specific train of thought.

Take note of your daydreams

According to daydream researcher Eric Klinger, PhD, the human mind spends approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of its time in a mind wandering or daydreaming state. Because we spend so much time lost in our inner world of thoughts and imaginings, it’s worth taking note of how these fleeting fantasies make you feel.

Not all daydreams are positive. For example, people daydream about anything and everything from winning the lottery to losing someone they love.  

Personal coach Lauren Zander says she first gives clients the task of recognizing and understanding their daydreams. “What you imagine has everything to do with how you feel, and even what you do next,” she says.

It’s important to get in touch with the inner thoughts. That’s the first step in feeling better. The more a person can “hear and see what they imagine, the more they can fix, dismantle, solve, and dissolve,” she says.

Resource

Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers by Amy Fries. Capital Books, 2009. 

By Amy Fries
Source: National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, www.nacbt.org; “Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought,” Malia F. Mason, PhD, et al., Science, Jan. 19, 2007.; Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers by Amy Fries. Capital Books, 2009.; Daydreaming: Using Waking Fantasy and Imagery for Self-Knowledge and Creativity by Eric Klinger, PhD. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990.; It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind—Change Your Health by Mark Pettus, MD, FACP. Capital Books, 2006.; Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. New Harbinger Publications, 2007.

Summary

  • Your inner thoughts are closely tied to your moods.
  • You can change how you feel by changing your negative self-talk.
  • You can curb negative thoughts by noticing patterns and prompts.

What you are thinking at any given moment affects how you feel emotionally and physically.

This theory is the basis behind cognitive-behavioral therapy and the power-of-positive-thinking self-help movement.

You can change how you feel

The good news: You can change how you feel by challenging the negative self-talk that runs through your mind. According to the authors of Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life: “Hundreds of studies over the last 25 years have proved that this simple insight can be applied to relieve a large variety of problems.”

Real and imagined events yield emotional response

The mind doesn’t distinguish between a real event and an imagined one in terms of the emotional reaction and the corresponding energy it produces:

  • If you mentally re-live an embarrassing situation, you will be flooded with the same emotions and physical reactions you had during the real event.
  • If you dwell on an anger-producing memory, you’ll be flooded with stressful physical and emotional reactions. Your blood pressure will go up, your heart will race, your muscles will tense, and you may feel like lashing out, according to psychologist and anger expert Steven Stosny, PhD. 

Fortunately, the “you are what you think” process works in a positive way as well. When you think about something uplifting, you’ll get a boost from endorphins. These (feel-good brain chemicals are released when you experience something pleasant.

It makes sense to learn how to capitalize on those thoughts that work for us and minimize those that work against us.

Curb negative thoughts

First, notice your thoughts. If you’re thinking about something upsetting or telling yourself something negative like “I’m so stupid” or “I’m old or ugly,” make note of it in a nonjudgmental way. Then ask yourself how those thoughts made you feel.

Conversely, if you’re thinking something positive like “I can’t wait to go on my trip” or “I did a great job on that,” take note of your physical and emotional response connected with those thoughts.

Pick a specified time period—a few days or a week—and keep a journal of your thoughts and self-talk. After you get in the habit of noticing your thoughts, look for patterns. Ask yourself:

  • When do you tend to have negative or worrisome thoughts? Are you at home, at work, or commuting to work? When do you tend to have positive thoughts?
  • What prompted the negative train of thoughts? Was it an activity or a specific person? Did you see someone you don’t like? If so, do you realize that you’re giving that person tremendous power to influence what you’re thinking and in turn how you feel?
  • Are these negative or anxiety-producing thoughts helping you solve a problem, or are you just spinning your wheels imagining worst-case scenarios or re-living old hurts?

Try to replace negative responses with positive thoughts. Develop a go-to list of pick-me-up images and self-talk. You can use these as a quick replacement for a sudden bombardment of negativity.

By becoming more aware of your thoughts, you’ll begin to notice the effect they have. You’ll also gain insight into the events, people, or things that launched a specific train of thought.

Take note of your daydreams

According to daydream researcher Eric Klinger, PhD, the human mind spends approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of its time in a mind wandering or daydreaming state. Because we spend so much time lost in our inner world of thoughts and imaginings, it’s worth taking note of how these fleeting fantasies make you feel.

Not all daydreams are positive. For example, people daydream about anything and everything from winning the lottery to losing someone they love.  

Personal coach Lauren Zander says she first gives clients the task of recognizing and understanding their daydreams. “What you imagine has everything to do with how you feel, and even what you do next,” she says.

It’s important to get in touch with the inner thoughts. That’s the first step in feeling better. The more a person can “hear and see what they imagine, the more they can fix, dismantle, solve, and dissolve,” she says.

Resource

Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers by Amy Fries. Capital Books, 2009. 

By Amy Fries
Source: National Association of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, www.nacbt.org; “Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought,” Malia F. Mason, PhD, et al., Science, Jan. 19, 2007.; Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers by Amy Fries. Capital Books, 2009.; Daydreaming: Using Waking Fantasy and Imagery for Self-Knowledge and Creativity by Eric Klinger, PhD. Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1990.; It’s All in Your Head: Change Your Mind—Change Your Health by Mark Pettus, MD, FACP. Capital Books, 2006.; Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life by Matthew McKay, Martha Davis, and Patrick Fanning. New Harbinger Publications, 2007.

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