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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5 Magical Things

If you have ever had a session with me, you know how much I refer to the 5 Things, how important I believe these concepts are in discipling our mind and controlling the negative thought loops that turn round and round in our head.

The 5 Things are deceptively simple, easy to disregard, but their impact when mastered is powerful, allowing you to manage your emotions, control your anxiety and keep the dark thoughts at bay.

The 5 Things are Simply




Not Real 


What…..are you thinking about:

If you do not know what you are thinking about then how can you know if you agree with your thoughts?  Your brain is designed to scan for potential danger.  It’s part of our survival hardware.  Parts of our brain are always scanning our environment looking for any potential harm. What ends up happening if we are not monitoring our thoughts is that they become very negative, catastrophic and exaggerated.  

The first step to controlling your thoughts is knowing exactly what thoughts you are thinking!

Whyam I thinking this:

Once you know what your thought is, you want to ask yourself a quick question…why am I thinking this, why is this important or relevant for me to think about right now?  It is important – very important – for you to realize this is not meant to be a psychoanalytical assessment but rather “is this thought worthy of my time”. Sometimes, well maybe often, our brains are bored and are just worrying for the sake of worrying.  Like a bored dog chewing the couch leg, if our brain is not being stimulated it can start “chewing” on worry.  So, if you are thinking about obscure or outlandish events perhaps you just need to redirect your brain to something more relevant. If you have decided your thought is worthy of your time, then you continue…

Real….is this true:

I love this step. I love reminding myself…just because I think it, doesn’t mean it’s true.  Right! We tell ourselves all sorts of outlandish lies, we believe our own insecurities and paranoia without ever questioning the legitimacy of the thought.  Do NOT allow your brain to lie to you…check your thought and check your specific word choice.  

Not Realis this untrue:

No matter how negative or self-deprecating our thought might be, we need to check in and counter the reality of our thought.  This step is really important for thoughts that begin with “I always” or “I never”. I am not sure what exactly you are thinking, but I am sure that “always” and “never” are NOT true!

Dowhat am I going to do about it:

One of the most important steps.  No matter how bad things might be, no matter how real that bad thing is…once we focus on the “do” our stress is greatly reduced. Without this step we become “Chicken Little”, running around in a dramatic circle, wringing our hands and crying “the sky is falling” …. OK so if your sky is falling what exactly are you going to do about it???  That is what we need to focus on, that is where we gain our personal power back. By focusing and directing our thoughts on action we drastically reduce the emotional funnel of stress that can overwhelm us.

So, now you know what the 5 Things are, you need to use them.  As many times a day as you can (you may want to set an alarm on your phone to help you remember), every time you feel negative emotions calling you, pause, and run through the 5 Things.  Wait. Stop. Hold on. What Am I thinking? Why? Is that Real? Is that Not Real? Ok, What am I going to DO about that?

If you want more help learning this technique, feel free to book an appointment with me and we can review your specific thoughts and overcome any blocks you may be having….