Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors: It’s All Connected

This post is Part 1 in a 4-part blog series on changing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

One popular kind of counseling is called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). It’s based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all connected and influence one another. For example, if we are feeling sad or depressed, we might have thoughts like we aren’t worth much of anything, and we might do behaviors like stay in bed all day. On the other hand, if we are feeling happy or excited, we might have thoughts like the future is bright, and we might do behaviors like call a friend or go see a movie.

Track Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors

Sometimes it can be helpful to keep track of our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, especially if we are feeling down and want to feel happier. Sometimes when I’m feeling down, I might not have an explanation for it. That happened to me a couple weeks ago. I was feeling sad, but I wasn’t sure why.

If we can pause and identify our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, we might learn important information that could help us moving forward. For example, some of the thoughts I experienced that went along with my feeling sad were thinking that I was alone and out of step with most of my friends (most of whom are married and have their own families). The behaviors that went along with my feeling sad were staying in my apartment, not initiating with my friends, and not picking up the phone when someone called me.

Example of Tracking

So if I were keeping track of my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I might write down the following:

Time: Saturday night

Thought: I’m alone. I’m out of step with my friends.

Feeling: Sadness

Behavior: Isolating. Not calling friends. Not picking up the phone.

As I continue to track my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, I can begin to get more information about what thoughts and behaviors are associated with each of my feelings. What’s going on when I’m feeling Sad? Angry? Scared? Happy? Excited? Tender?

Getting this information is the first step toward making a change.

Action Step: Stop three times during your day today and write down your thought, feeling, and behavior. Try to do this once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and once in the evening. Did you learn anything about yourself? What thoughts and behaviors are associated with each of your feelings?

Click here to read Part 2: 5 Steps to Change Your Thoughts

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13 Responses to Thoughts, Feelings, and Behaviors: It’s All Connected

  1. Dixon August 24, 2015 at 11:28 am #

    I agree with what you presented in general but the most important part of the process was omitted — that is the part that the “heart” plays in producing the thoughts. Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

    • Kent blake June 26, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

      Dixon, I too am a Christian. I asked a good friend of mine, dedicated Christian and outstanding clinical psychologist what the heart was referring to in scripture and he felt it was the origin of our thoughts. I have scriptures which support that but I am at work and don’t have them with me. However they are in Wrights book, How to Think.

  2. Joshua Hook August 28, 2015 at 2:37 pm #

    Interesting thought Dixon. I have some thoughts, but I want to preface this by admitting that I’m not a theologian, I haven’t studied this passage in its original language, etc. But my sense of this passage is that when Jesus talks about the ‘heart’ he is referring to what is on the inside of us (which from a psychological perspective could include thoughts, feelings, behavioral intentions, etc.). So my sense is that he uses the word ‘heart’ more broadly here, not just to refer to feelings or emotions. The reason I think this is the context of the passage seems to be about Jesus confronting the Pharisees, who are focused on the outside (e.g., hand-washing, etc.) but not the inside (e.g., motivations, love, justice, etc.).

    That said, I do think that feelings can influence our thoughts and behaviors, although as someone who was trained in CBT, I generally think about the causal direction the other way (i.e., thoughts and behaviors leading to feelings). But that’s definitely not the only way to think about it.

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  4. Chevanne February 10, 2018 at 4:32 am #

    Nice

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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