How to Change How You Feel

One of the first steps to mastering your mindset is to understand how your brain processes your thoughts and feelings and how that affects your actions and behaviour.  

I sometimes joke with my clients that I don’t always care about how they “feel” … which is a strange thing for a therapist to say.  However, I make this joke, because what I really care about is how they are thinking, it’s their thoughts that are actually controlling their feelings.  So in order for me to help them change how they are feeling, I need them to understand how they are thinking.

So, if you want to change the way you feel about something you need to learn how to change how you are thinking.  Look at the diagram below, notice that the flow is a downward progression, with feelings in a soft fluffy cloud in the middle.  

We tend to put our focus on how we feelbut that is not where the key to change is located, the way to change how you feel is to adjust your focus to how you are thinking!

Let’s say for example you are feelingsad.  If you adjust your focus off how you are feeling and listen to your thoughts what you will hear are thought fragments of “my life sucks”, “my job sucks”, “I wish I had”, “life is hard”, “I can’t do anything right”.  If you are feelingsad then your actions and behaviour will reflect that.  Your interactions during the day will repressed, heavy, unmotivated and your productivity and motivation will be low. Clearly this will just reinforce your feelings of sadness, and the above cycle will continue in a loop.

Imagine you are sitting at a light on a side street, you look in your rear-view mirror and see an approaching car.  You begin to realize that they are not slowing down, you think “yup, they are not going to stop, they are going to hit me”, followed by the thump of them hitting your bumper.  Now your thoughts will determine what comes next:

Scenario 1:
You Think: 

  • dammit, stupid person, how could they not see the light?
  • Can’t believe how many stupid drivers there are out there
  • Everything bad happens to me
  • Idiot ruined my damn day
  • I’m not paying a cent for this they were clearly wrong, they better be ready to pay!

You Feel:

  • Pissed off, irritated, angry, frustrated

Your Actions are:

  • Get out car slamming the door, stomp over to other driver, present in an angry and aggressive way and in an angry voice state something accusatory and confrontational.
  • Spend the rest of the day telling everyone you meet how stupid drivers are and how you are suffering because of their idiotic driving.  
  • Yup, your day is ruined.

Scenario 2:
You Think: 

  • dammit, this sucks
  • well, at least it happened at slow speed
  • glad I saw it coming and was prepared, that would have been scary if I didn’t
  • I can think of 3 times yesterday alone I was distracted when I was driving, so I know this can happen.
  • If today is day I have a car accident, I will SO take this, glad this happened before I hit the highway.
  • Going to be a pain in my butt to get this fixed but at least I won’t have to pay for it.

You Feel:

  • Irritated, grateful, forgiving, understanding, and calm

Your Actions are:

  • Get out walk over to the other driver, ask them if they are ok.  Exchange insurance information and phone numbers. Calmly and somewhat friendly.
  • Spend the rest of the day telling everyone how you got hit from behind at stop light and how grateful you are that it was only a fender bender.  
  • Rest of your day is fine.

Understanding this loop is the first step in learning how to control your thoughts so you can begin to control how you feel and how you interact in situations and in your life. Once you can recognize this cycle then you want to start using The 5 Thingsto learn how to change how you are thinkingso you can take control of your life!

If you have not already done so check out  5 Magical Things article here:

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