What Influences My Feelings?

Sometimes we think outward things influence our inward feelings.  For instance we may feel a person “made” us feel a certain way or a vacation “made” us relax.  The truth is our feelings are not directly influenced by external sources but there is a step in between that is important to take note of and acknowledge.

Our beliefs or perceptions about what is happening is the missing link between what happens and what we feel about it. Often we may feel more than one or two feelings about a situation but they have become so automatic and so fast that we don’t even realize what is happening.  For instance say we are introduced to someone that is not making eye contact with us.  At first we may think the individual is rude.  Then we may think the person is shy.  Then maybe we decide the person has something in his or her eye.  That is three things we have thought in just a minute’s time that may dramatically affect how we will choose to feel about the person or moment.

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Often we will confuse or mix our thoughts for our feelings or vice versa.  Someone might say I think I’m anxious.  When what they mean is I think they won’t like like me and so I feel anxious.  Or maybe you will hear I think my girlfriend hates me right now.  When what they mean is I think my girlfriend hates the gift and so maybe she is unhappy with me right now.  We will blend two consecutive thoughts, 1. I think with 2. I’m anxious.  They are two seperate things.  A thought then comes a feeling.  It just happens so fast that we mash them altogether.

There are unhelpful thinking styles that we need to practice avoiding.  When we have faulty expectations of ourselves or others, when we overestimate the chances of something bad happening, or when we focus on the negative aspects of something those are unhelpful things we are thinking.  These thoughts can easily become habits and may take some practice to change our thinking style.  To change from unhelpful thinking to helpful thinking focusing on the positive aspects is the best way to transform our minds.  It takes practice for sure but it is doable.

Unhelpful thoughts lead to distressing emotions.  So to change those emotions work your way backwards.  Ask yourself what you are thinking.  Am I thinking of something that is overly negative?  Am I being too harsh or over-criticizing?  Am I focusing on the negative aspects of something?  Then see how you are connecting them to your feelings.  It helps to ask find out questions of yourself to see how those beliefs are connected to the upset feelings you are having.  This is the best way to find out how you are processing your thoughts and turning them into blended ideas about your feelings.

It is a great idea to then challenge your thoughts by asking why you are thinking a certain way.  What would someone else think?  What other ways are there to look at this? What other explanations might there be?  Thinking of other ways to look at a situation may help you come to a more truthful way of seeing something.  Revising your thoughts is the best way to reach a more positive conclusion.

Replacing your unhelpful thought with a helpful thought will help you reach an idea that will likely improve your mood.  Your feelings will start to reflect your helpful thinking and you won’t feel so negative and down.  The helpful thinking is almost always more positive and closer to the truth as things are rarely as negative as we feel in the beginning.  So all around the thoughts we think will be more positive and the feelings we feel will be more positive.

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