How are thoughts, feelings, and behaviors connected? According to the Beck Institute something called The Cognitive Triad consists of our thoughts of self, our thoughts of the world around us, and our beliefs about the future. (Check out a good definition by AlleyDog.) While Beck was originally focused on depression the concept transfers to all areas of life. The type of thoughts we have related to each of these areas can modulate our feelings and drive our behavior. Because inaccurate thinking can lead to increased stress levels, it’s a good idea to take a look at your thinking from time to time. Often when we are feeling stressed there is something out of balance.
While all thoughts and behavior are not problematic, if we get caught up in negative self talk about ourselves and the world around us our stress levels can rise often causing low mood states. Which leads to more stress.
Getting good at identifying where our thinking is inaccurate can actually decrease the amount of stress we feel. Because thoughts and behaviors influence one another, looking at behaviors can help us identify problems that can increase our stress.
Consider your behavior the last time you felt a high amount of stress.
- Did you ignore the issues adding to your stress?
- Did you tackle the problems directly?
Each of those choices leads to a decidedly different outcome.
Identifying the types of behaviors you tend to engage in can help you to better manage your stress because it gives you a target for change.
Similarly we can look at our thinking.
How accurate are your thoughts during stressful times? Getting caught up in cycles of thinking that are unhelpful and inaccurate tend to increase stress levels.
Some of the common distorted thinking patterns are:
- Minimization: downplaying positive events
- Overgeneralization: Making a sweeping conclusion based on a single piece of evidence.
- Personalization: Attributing negative thoughts or situations solely to oneself.
- Magnification: Exaggerating the significance of a single undesirable event.
- Selective abstraction: drawing conclusions based on just one of many elements of a situation.
- Arbitrary inference: drawing conclusions from insufficient or no evidence.
Learning to challenge these types of distorted thinking patterns can help to decrease your stress.
A few questions that can help you challenge your thoughts and create more accurate thinking are:
- If my best friend or family member had this thought what would I tell them?
- Do I think about this differently when I am not stressed?
- Would this thought stand up in a court of law?
- Is there any evidence that shows this thought is not true?
- How is this line of thinking helping me?
What about feelings?
Feelings change when we change our thoughts and behaviors. Consider that feelings are neither right nor wrong, good or bad, it’s the behavior that tend to cause the problems. Start tuning into your feelings and see what they can tell you about what is going on inside yourself. Correcting distorted thoughts can help you feel more and stress less.
Give it a try and see what you think!
Check out the information in the first couple of posts: 5 minute stress management and effective stress management makes you a better you.
Thanks for dropping by and have a great day–Lynda