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How do Thoughts Impact Emotions?

Thought Series Part 2

Welcome back to my January Thought Series!

In my last post, we started on the first step towards eliminating your ANTs (automatic negative thoughts):

Step 1: Identifying Your Automatic Negative Thoughts (“ANTs”)

It's not too late to join in if you missed it! Click HERE to get up to speed.

Thoughts and Emotions

Today we are going to take the next step, which involves identifying the emotions that come up when you have ANTs. Why do we need to do this? Because thoughts and emotions are closely connected. What have emotions got to do with thoughts? Quite a bit, actually. Our thoughts influence our emotions to a huge extent.

It can be very helpful to identify all the ways in which an ANT affects us. Seeing the extent of the negative implications of having ANTs can help keep us motivated to eliminate them. It's also pretty enlightening to see how much one simple thought can affect us. We are going to start by looking at how our thoughts affect our emotions. Later on we will look at how our thoughts affect our physiology and our behaviours.

Step 2: Identifying the Emotions that Arise When You Have an ANT

If you read Monday's post you will have been collecting your ANTs and writing them down so that you have a record of at least your most common ones. I am now going to ask you to choose an ANT that you frequently have and that you would like to work with throughout this series. Start with something simple. Here are some examples:

  • "I'm not good enough."

  • "I'm not smart enough."

  • "Things are just going to keep getting worse."

  • "I'm never going to be able to afford to buy a home."

  • "I'm going to be alone forever."

  • "I'm never going to feel like myself again."

Have you chosen one? Good. For the purposes of my blog I am going to choose "I'm going to be alone forever," as the example I use throughout.

Now here is your task: ask yourself, "How do I feel when I have the thought that I’m going to be alone forever (or whatever other ANT you chose for this exercise)?"

Identify all the emotions that you are feeling. Are you sad, anxious, angry, despairing, discouraged? What feelings are coming up? List them all.

If I were to have the thought, "I'm going to be alone forever," I would feel sad and defeated.

Go through as many of your ANTs as you like (the more the better!) and ask yourself how you feel when you have the thought.

I encourage you to write down the emotions that you feel for each ANT either underneath or next to the thought. Even better, you can use a separate sheet of paper or cue card for each ANT, as we will continue to add information under each one you are working with. Some of my clients even like to use their cell phones to keep track of this information.

In summary, each of your cue cards or pages will look like something like this so far:

ANT: I am going to be alone forever.

EMOTION: Sad, defeated.

When we are finished this Series, you will have some really good reference notes and reminders to help you stay away from your ANTs.

If you are on the fence about committing to this exercise, I understand. It seems like a big task, changing your thoughts. If you are routinely torturing yourself by beating yourself up, judging and criticizing yourself, chances are you’re going to be feeling some pretty unsettling emotions. Chances are also that those thoughts you beat yourself up with are not necessarily true and you’re unnecessarilly putting yourself through the emotional ringer. Imagine the relief you would feel if you didn’t have to ride that crazy emotional roller coaster you've created for yourself. You can feel that relief simply by following the simple steps I'm providing you.

See you next week for Step 3!

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