Have you ever been on a sailboat? If you have then you know that for a sailboat to move, you need wind. You need wind and without it the sailboat won’t really go anywhere.
Now that you’re thinking about that sailboat, the wind and the rustle, the creak of wood, I’m going to ask you to change gears for a minute.
I’d like you to think about your feelings. I’d like you to think about how your feelings work. Just like a sailboat needs wind to move, do your feelings need something to exist?
Well, the answer to that question is yes!
In order for you to feel something you have to be thinking something. We may not always be aware of what we are thinking about, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not thinking. Accepting this may help.
Let’s go back to the sailboat for a minute. If you are sitting in a sailboat and there are gale force winds you can be sure your boat is going to be moving pretty fast. Because as I’ve indicated, wind is what propels or moves a sailboat. However, what if you could learn how to snap your fingers and eliminate wind in an instant? Imagine there is strong wind pushing your boat along swiftly, then you snap your finger and the wind just stops. What happens to your sailboat?
In actuality, what would happen to your sailboat is that if the wind stopped in an instant the boat would still be moving pretty fast. That’s physics. There is velocity and momentum and energy that will still be at play. The trick isn’t then to stop the wind, but instead to keep the wind from coming back. After some time has passed, the boat will eventually stop. A lot of that depends on how fast it was going to begin with.
Our emotions work almost the same way. Our feelings need something to exist. Our feelings need thoughts, and if these thoughts are positive then we feel good. Yet if our thoughts are negative, then we feel bad. Stated another way, our thoughts are to our feelings what the wind is to a sailboat. Our thoughts are the oxygen to a flame; the gas to an engine. If we eliminate negative thoughts our negative feelings of sadness or anxiety simply can’t exist.
I would like to suggest three strategies the reader can implement in order to begin to disrupt the flow of negative thinking.
Being More In Tune With Your Thoughts
For many people being more aware of how you think takes practice. I suggest “checking in” with your thoughts any time you are driving in your car or going for a walk. A simple question to ask yourself is, “Where are my thoughts right now?” Routine check ins will give you greater insight into negative thought patterns that may be persistent.
Tracking Negative Situations
Begin to catalog events that happen to you that create negative reactions. You first write down the event or “what happened” and then you list the automatic thoughts that accompanied this event and then the subsequent feelings. There is a bigger step to this exercise though and this bigger step includes writing down alternative, more positive, thoughts to this event while considering for a moment how differently your feeling would be if this alternative thought was your automatic thought. This strategy is called cognitive restructuring.
Disrupting Negative Thoughts
The last tip I would like to offer is to simply prompt yourself three times a day to consider your idealized self. In order to accomplish this, I am suggesting that you choose three positive words of who you want to be and set up an alert system using your phone or some type of reminder that will trigger you into a positive mindset.
If you would like to gain the necessary skills to become more self-aware of how impactful negative thoughts may be on your daily life, and also learn how to disrupt and change these negative thoughts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Arbol Professional Counseling. We can help.
Eduardo Juarez, MA, LPC is a Licensed Therapist and the Executive Director at Arbol Professional Counseling, LLC and specializes in treating adolescents, adults, and couples with issues and concerns not limited to anxiety, depression, and chronic health/disability.